The Princess Bride (1974)

Believe it or not, this is the cover of the first paperback edition of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (1974). The hardcover first edition has a nice scene of a countryside and a castle, but this painting by Ted Coconis…is not that! I would love to read the brief he got. The front and back cover illustrations of the 1977 edition by Norman Green are much more in line with the actual story (though the tagline of “A Hot Fairy Tale,” is not, at least to my reading). I also included the 1992 paperback in blue because of the maps. They both have fold-out maps, but the blue one’s map is referred to as “inferior” which is true, but also amusing. Whatever the quality, the map is great. I love a fold-out map and this is one of the best I have encountered.

The novel (written but the same guy who wrote the Marathon Man, of all things) is essentially the same as the film, to an almost unnerving degree. There are bits that have more (more background for Fezzik, more nightmares for Buttercup), the biggest being Inigo and Fezzik’s descent into the Zoo of Death to retrieve the body of the Man in Black. Mostly, it is nearly impossible to separate the fairy tale portion of the book from the film. It even does the “Mawidge” gag. I will say that in the book, more characters sound like Jewish people from New York City (I always thought Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max was a sore thumb in the film, but it turns out he is actually a tonal hold-out).

The main difference is the frame. Goldman is the sick kid, but the discovers that when his father read the original book to him, he left out all the boring parts, so this is presented as his edit, “the good stuff version” that will hopefully appeal to his own (fictional) son. Like the film, Goldman butts into the narrative (in red text in the original paperback) to offer meta-commentary about the book, the publishing world and his own (fictional) hapless life. Its…weird. But good!

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