The princess bride, p.36
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       The Princess Bride, p.36

           William Goldman
 

  And then, from behind them, there came a sound more strange than any they had come across before, a disembodied sound, as if a corpse were talking, and the sound boomed out at them:

  "We have the body."

  Inigo whirled, then cried out in the night. And Westley, in despair, was so surprised at Inigo's sound he whirled, and he too cried out in the night.

  Something was moving toward them out of the darkness.

  They both squinted to make sure. Their eyes did not deceive.

  Fezzik was moving toward them out of the darkness.

  At least something that looked like Fezzik was coming toward them. But his eyes were bright, and his pace was quick, and his voice--they had neither ever heard a voice like it. So deep, thunderous, and measured. And the accent was something they had also never heard before. Not until they finally reached America. (Or, more accurately, when the ones left alive got there.)

  "Fezzik," Inigo said. "This is not the time."

  "We have the body," Fezzik said again. "We have a fine strapping child inside. She has been kept waiting far too long."

  Now the giant knelt beside the still woman, gestured for Westley to move, put his ear to her, clapped his hands sharply. "You," he said, pointing at Inigo, "bring me soap and water to disinfect my hands."

  "Where did he hear that word?" Westley asked.

  "I don't know, but I think I better do it," Inigo said, hurrying to the fire.

  And now Fezzik pointed to the great sword. "Sterilize it in the fire."

  "Why?" Inigo said, bringing Fezzik the soap and towel.

  "To make the cut."

  "No," Westley said. "I will not let him give you the sword."

  And now the voice took on a power more frightening than ever. "This child is a putterer. That is what we call those that linger too long. But this child is more than that--she is in backward. And the umbilical cord is tightening around her throat. Now, if you wish to live your life alone, keep the sword. If you wish a child and wife, do what I tell you."

  "Be at your best," Westley said, and he nodded for Inigo to hand the great sword to the giant.

  Fezzik marched it to the fire, sizzled the point red, returned to the lady, knelt. "The umbilical cord is very tight now. There is little breath left now. There is little time." And for a moment Fezzik closed his eyes, breathed deep. Then he moved.

  And his great hands were so soft, the giant fingers so skilled, and as Westley and Inigo stared, Fezzik's hands did his bidding, and the sword touched Buttercup's skin, and then there was the cut, long but precise, and then there was blood but Fezzik's eyes only blazed more deeply and his fingers waltzed, and he reached inside and gently took her out, took the child out, a girl, Buttercup was wrong, it was a girl, and here at last she came, pink and white like a candy stick--

  --here came Waverly....

  4. Fezzik Falling

  SHE WAS CONSIDERABLY below him at the start, twisting and spinning from momentum and wind. Fezzik had never seen the world like this, from this high, fifteen thousand feet with nothing below to break the fall, nothing, but at the far end rock formations.

  He called after her but, of course, she could not hear. He stared after her but, of course, he was not gaining. There are scientific laws explaining that bodies fall at the same speed no matter how different the size. But the makers of the laws had never tried explaining Fezzik, because his feet, so useless at finding holds on sheer mountainsides, were unmatched at flutter-kicking in falling air. He cupped his fingers so his hands were perfect hollow mitts and then he set to work, swinging his arms and fluttering his feet so that if you tried to watch them, you couldn't and then Fezzik strained still more--

  --and the distance between them began to close. From a hundred feet to half, then half again and when he was that close Fezzik called out to her, his word--

  "Keeeeed!"

  She heard and stared up and when he had her eyes Fezzik made her favorite silly face--the one where his tongue touched the tip of his nose--and she saw it, of course, and then, of course, she laughed out loud with joy.

  Because now she knew what all this was, just another of their glorious games that always ended so happily....

  FROM THE START, they were different. Sometimes when she was very little and dozing and Fezzik was helping Buttercup he would say, "She has to tinkle," and Buttercup would answer, "No, she doesn't, she's just..." and then she would stop before she got to "fine" because Waverly had blinked awake soaking wet, and Buttercup would look at Fezzik in those moments with such a look of wonder.

  Or sometimes Waverly and Buttercup would be playing happily, Fezzik watching, always there, watching so close, and Buttercup would say, "Fezzik, why do you look so sad?" and Fezzik would say, "I hate it when she's sick," and that night, a fever would come.

  He knew when she was hungry, or tired, he knew why she was smiling. And when crankiness was just around the corner.

  Which made him, in Buttercup's mind, the perfect baby-sitter, since how could you improve on a sitter who knew what was going to happen? So Fezzik looked after her constantly and when she dozed he would sit between Waverly and the sun, which was why, when she started to talk, she called him "Shade"--because he was that, her shade in those earliest days.

  Later, when she learned games, she had but to blink in his direction and he knew, not that she wanted to play, but which game. Westley agreed with Buttercup that although, yes, theirs was an unusual nurse-child relationship, it was a blessing, since it provided her with time to heal and recover, and better yet, time for them to be together. So Fezzik and Waverly learned from each other and enjoyed each other. Occasional spats, of course, but that comes, as Buttercup explained to him one day, with mothering.

  "Can Waverly come play in the whirlpool with me?" Fezzik would ask constantly.

  Buttercup would hesitate. "It gets her overtired, Fezzik."

  "Please, please, please."

  Buttercup would give in, of course, and off they would go, stopping first for the clothespin, then into the water, Waverly sitting securely on his head, his hands gripping her feet, and whoosh. It was truly magical, watching them, as Inigo and her parents did often. Because Fezzik, having conquered the whirlpool, had befriended it. He would kick up to speed, then swim into the whirl and let it carry them around, with Waverly shrieking and Fezzik keeping balance as they rode the water together, their favorite game, which always ended so happily....

  FEZZIK WAS CLOSE enough to reach out now, so he did, brought the child into his arms, made another face, took her fears away. "Shade," she said, so happy.

  Three thousand feet now.

  Next he pulled her close to him.

  Two thousand.

  He knew as the rocks flew up toward him that he could never save himself. But if he could bundle her next to his body, if he could lie flat in the air and bring her into his arms so his mighty back took the initial assault, there was a good chance she would be shaken, yes, shaken terribly.

  But she might live.

  He made his body flat against the wind. He pulled her to him with all his sweet strength. "Keed," he whispered finally, "if you ever need shade, think of me."

  One final silly face.

  One blessed responding laugh.

  Fezzik closed his eyes then, thinking only this: thank God I was a giant after all....

  ***

  Willy was quiet when I finished. He gathered up his baseball and his Frisbee, hit the elevator button. Dinnertime coming up and I had to get him home. He didn't speak again 'til we were on the street. 'No way Fezzik dies, I don't care what the chapter's called.'

  I nodded. We walked in silence, and you know how Fezzik could tell what was going on with Waverly? Well, I can do that with Willy, at least on my good days, and I knew this great question was coming. 'Grandpa?' he said finally.

  Do you think I love that? You remember how much money Westley was going to get when he decided to leave Buttercup after she tormented him once too often about the boys
in the village? That's how much. 'Speak into the microphone,' I said, making my hand one.

  'Okay--that thing that invaded Fezzik? Here's what I don't get: how did it know to invade him right then? I mean, if it came a day earlier, it would have just had to wait around inside him for twenty-four hours feeling stupid.'

  I told him I doubted that question had ever been asked on Planet Earth before.

  Jason and Peggy were waiting at the door. 'It was good, Dad,' Willy said. 'It played around with time a lot.'

  'We really need another novelist in the family,' Jason said, and I laughed and hugged everybody, started back home. It was a gorgeous spring evening so I let the park win me for a while, just walked in silence, thinking.

  First thing that has to be said: Morgenstern hasn't lost a whole lot off his fastball. This is clearly a different piece of work from The Princess Bride, but he was a much older man when he wrote it.

  And since maybe this is the end of my involvement, a couple of closing thoughts.

  Like Willy, I don't believe Fezzik is going to die here. My money is on Morgenstern saving him. He saved him from Humperdinck's arrow with the holocaust cloak, he'll come up with something.

  The Unexplained Inigo Fragment. What was that? Couldn't he have given us a couple of hints at least as to why? Will it all make sense later?

  Who was the madman on the mountain? Was he born without skin? How did he get Waverly? Was he the kidnapper or just a member of a gang? And if he was just a member, who was his boss?

  And who did invade Fezzik?

  A beautiful young couple passed me then. She was pregnant out to here and I wished her a Waverly. And I realized something, and this is it:

  We've traveled a long way, you and I, from when Buttercup was only among the twenty most beautiful women on earth (because of her potential), riding Horse and taunting the Farm Boy, and Inigo and Fezzik were brought in to kill her. You've written letters, kept in touch, you'll never know how much I appreciate that. I was on the beach at Malibu once, years back, and I saw this young guy with his arm around his girl and they were both wearing T-shirts that said WESTLEY NEVER DIES.

  Loved that.

  And you know what? I like these four. Buttercup and Westley, Fezzik and Inigo. They've all suffered, been punished, no silver spoons for this bunch. And I can just feel these terrible forces gathering against them. I just know it's going to get worse for them than it's ever been. Will they all even live? 'Death of the heart,' the subtitle says. Whose death? And even more important maybe, whose heart? Morgenstern has never given them an easy shot at happiness.

  This time I sure hope he lets them get there....

  Florin City/New York City

  April 16, 1998

  Reading Group Guide

  QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

  In the introduction to the thirtieth-anniversary edition, Goldman claims that he adapted The Princess Bride from a book originally written by the great Florinese writer S. Morgenstern. Throughout the rest of the novel, Goldman sustains two narratives: the tale of The Princess Bride and the story of his own involvement with it. How do Goldman's comments about Morgenstern, the publishing process, and the entertainment industry in general affect your reading of his novel?

  Just before she reaches sixteen, Buttercup is the envy of all the village girls. Word of her beauty reaches Count Rugen, who pays a visit to her family. What makes Buttercup discover she is in love with the farm boy she has taunted? What tone does Goldman use to describe her confession of love and Westley's response? How does this compare with traditional episodes of fairy-tale love?

  Why does Prince Humperdinck build his Zoo of Death? What is significant about the fifth level? How would you characterize the Prince's brand of sadism--and the sadism of Count Rugen and his life-sucking Machine? How are these elements of sadism and evil necessary to the universe of a fairy tale?

  In the early part of the story Buttercup's kidnappers are known only as the Spaniard, the Turk, and the Sicilian. But as each of these men prepares to battle the man in black, the reader learns the kidnapper's name, his history, and how he became part of "the most effective criminal organization in the civilized world." How does this affect your reading of the subsequent battle scenes? With whom do your sympathies lie?

  Discuss the story Westley tells about the Dread Pirate Roberts. How does this tale within the tale influence your interest in Westley? Is he still the same farm boy from the beginning of the book?

  During the scenes in which Westley is tortured and then killed by Count Rugen and his Machine, does Goldman maintain a consistent tone, or does it shift depending on whether he is describing macabre events?

  In the first chapter of Buttercup's Baby, why does Piccoli want Inigo to train his mind instead of his body in preparation for meeting the six-fingered man? What did you learn about Inigo in these passages that you didn't know before?

  Also in Buttercup's Baby, how does Fezzik attempt to save Waverly's life as they fall through the air? What does this action, along with the name Waverly calls him, reveal about Fezzik's character?

  Consider the romantic relationships that Goldman describes throughout the novel (Goldman and Helen, Westley and Buttercup, Miracle Max and Valerie). How does Goldman portray the women in his novel? Does this say something about his views of romance and marriage--or is it all part of a joke?

  What surprised you most about the end of the book? Do you agree with what Goldman says about endings and about the fairness of life? Why or why not?

  In addition to writing the novel The Princess Bride, Goldman also wrote the screenplay for the 1987 film adaptation directed by Rob Reiner. How does Goldman describe his experiences in both publishing and Hollywood? How does the book compare to the film? What plot changes do you notice, and why do you think they were made?

  The Princess Bride was originally published in the 1970s. Does it reflect the trends of this time period, or does the original publication date seem surprising? What is its place in American literary history? How is the book also timeless?

  How should The Princess Bride ultimately be categorized: Satire? Adventure? Romance? Fantasy? Is the title ironic? Does it imply a tame love story or a more traditional piece of children's literature?

  Footnotes

  *I've been writing since Eisenhower's been president and I think this is my first asterisk. I feel giddy. The purpose of this is to announce that time has marched on. If you don't want to wait to read the reunion scene, you no longer have to. Just go to the Internet and log on to: www.PrincessBrideBook.com. You'll see it right on your very own computer screen.

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  William Goldman, The Princess Bride

  (Series: # )

 

 


 

 
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