If you haven’t already read or seen The Princess Bride, please do so immediately. I can wait. No really, you don’t want me to spoil anything for you. It’s that good. It’s stay-up-late-reading-under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight good. It’s answer-uh-huh-to-a-string-of-questions-before-the-person-you’re-talking-to-gets-mad-that-your-attention-is-elsewhere-good. It’s everyone-on-the-train-is-staring-at-you-because-you-are-laughing-out-loud good. It’s so good that even though it was published in the seventies, my large city library has no available copies. They’re all checked out.
Technically, this is an adult book, but I believe it has a lot of appeal for teens, advanced middle school readers or even as a read aloud. It really has everything. As Goldman himself advertises,
“Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions. Miracles.”
The only sections that may be slightly less appealing to a younger audience are the parts where Goldman talks directly to the reader, especially the first chapter, but I think that high school age readers will appreciate those as well. If you were using this as a read aloud, you could skip or edit this section for the little ones, just be sure to read it yourself!
Great for: Lovers of adventure and humor. The movie version was a huge hit, and the book is even better; and for those of you who love quoting the movie – never fear, Goldman was responsible for the screenplay of his own book, so almost all your favorite lines will still be here.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Despite William Goldman’s front cover claim that this is a “hot” fairy tale, it’s pretty tame. You have a few kisses, including the kiss that blew away the five great kisses since 1642 B.C. There’s one reference to building a bed for two. Buttercup’s breasts are mentioned twice. Farm boy is shirtless in one scene. A starlet is described as top-heavy. The prince and princess kiss on the cheek.
Profanity – “bitch” twice, “hell” three times, “shit”, “Jesus”, “ass”, “feculence” and “spick”
Death, Violence and Gore –
Animal – A R.O.U.S. (Rodent of Unusual Size) wanders out of the fire swamp to die. A few are stabbed, and the live ones eat the dead. Humperdinck strangles an orangutan with his bare hands. A wild dog is tortured and killed (the torture is sucking the life out of him, so not particularly graphic, just may be disturbing to some). A snake and 7 king bats are killed.
Human – You would not have the most quotable line of the movie “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die,” if Inigo’s father had not been murdered. We are witnesses to his murder in the book, as well as the injury to Inigo’s face that caused his scars. Fezzik’s parents are killed by plague. When a character is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts he offers “you can chop off my head then and there.” An R.O.U.S. bites a character. The wound festers. There is discussion of the possibility that the snow sand goes on forever stripping your flesh from your bones. A skeleton is found in the snow sand. There are countless threats of killing, including plans for murder. Buttercup is dragged by her hair. A few characters die, though fair warning is given – if you ask me, I’ll tell you who, but I wasn’t about to ruin it for everyone. A character is warned that being in the water might result in being mutilated by sharks. For my money though, the most gory scene is one where Inigo is injured in a duel and has to cover a wound to his stomach. There is talk of him pushing his hand into his insides and not thinking about what he’s touching.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – In the beginning section, Goldman says that he “stayed in and got bombed” when his book didn’t do well. Ulcers are treated with coffee dolloped with brandy. A character is given wine and brandy to recover from injury. Inigo is either a drunkard or alcoholic, and is shown very drunk several times.
Frightening or Intense Things – The princess is kidnapped and her life is threatened. During the kidnapping attempt, she is often in danger and at a few points nearly dies. The whole attempted rescue from the kidnapping is also relatively tense especially the part in the fire swamp, where the characters face R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size), snow sand, and sudden bursts of flame. The book includes torture of both animals and humans and this may be disturbing to some.