Rereadings: The Princess Bride

February 19, 2010 at 12:00 am 4 comments

The Princess Bride is one of those books which is so wholly tied up with its film adaptation that it is well-nigh impossible to separate the two. Like most people, the first time I read the book I saw the movie first and then secondarily turned to the book after loving the movie. (I love that there was a brief time in between the book’s publication [1973] and the film’s release [1987] when you could go about the process of making The Princess Bride‘s acquaintance by reading first and then, much later, viewing. Wonders never cease!)

Unlike most people, however, when I first read the book, I was somehow able to completely separate the two in my mind. I still have no idea how I accomplished this, but I suspect it was helpful that I had only seen the movie once when I first read the book and was as yet unaware of how much of a cultural milestone it was and is. I just knew my parents liked it and that I liked it and thus my natural reaction to this affection was to immediately find and read the book version.

In rereading The Princess Bride, I was simultaneously pleased to note that it hadn’t changed a bit and was still as funny as ever and disappointed to realize I had since been tainted by the film version and could only see the film’s version of each character and scene in the novel. This didn’t necessarily make for bad reading, but it did make for different reading. However much I loved the wit and humor of the book on its own (and if you think the movie is funny, think again; the book is improbably even funnier and more random than the film), in rereading it all I could hear was Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, and Wallace Shawn with dashes of Cary Elwes. Since I do love the film version so much, this wasn’t necessarily a deal-breaker on enjoying the rereading, but it was a little disheartening.

I find that as I get older this often becomes the case. Harry Potter is currently on the fence as Rupert Grint starts to interfere with the Ron in my head and Little Women is a lost cause: Jo March pretty much is Winona Ryder at this point. I’m not sure if this is unequivocally bad, but I’m sure it is different and slightly worrisome.

As we’ve discussed here at LT in the past, often there are things that film can do better than books (and visa versa), but I’m starting to fret about what film is doing to books and reading itself, particularly with the recent glut of books being pillaged and “revamped” by Hollywood. Currently, there is a film version of Atlas Shrugged in the works which really makes one wonder if any book is safe. (And since Salinger’s demise, one can only assume a Catcher in the Rye film is not too far distant.)

So I guess my query today as I pondered my rereading of The Princess Bride is thus: Are all these film versions ruining reading or are they just providing another way to engage? After all, without The Princess Bride movie, I may never have sought out the book at all. On the other hand, the movie clearly changed the way I read the book and, in my opinion, cut down on my own personal creativity and vision of the book. Clearly, I’m divided and not particularly coherent in my thoughts on the matter of film vs. book, but sound off below about which side you come down on or if there should even be sides in this particular debate.


Entry filed under: Fantasy, Musings and Essays, Rereadings. Tags: , , , , , .

Discussion Post: A Tale of Two Cities Weekly Geeks: MIA

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. KT  |  February 19, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Here’s hoping SOMEONE realizes that filming The Catcher in the Rye is just impossible. So much of that book is in Holden’s head that it would either have to involve a near-constant voice-over, or would have to be done Ferris Bueller-style. Either way would pretty much suck, naturally.

    I have nothing against films of books, in general. They’re a different medium for getting one’s message across, and a wonderfully-done film adaptation of a book can provide an excellent way for people to get more engaged in reading. This is anecdotal, but I have a co-worker whose son hated reading because he had a learning disorder that made it difficult. Once he saw the Harry Potter movies, he decided he wanted to read the books, and now he’s gone up something like four reading levels in a year. Amazing.

    But what I HATE is when you can tell a book was written basically to be adapted into a film. Films have limitations that books don’t have to deal with (the difficulty with inner monologue cited above is just one example), and there’s no reason to make a book film-able besides the rather obvious profit angle. And on the same note, I hate when producers take a book that should be unfilmable and try to make it fit the big screen.

    All that said, I may have to reread The Princess Bride! It’s been a long time, but I’m glad to see you enjoyed it as much now as you did then :)

    • 2. Kim  |  February 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm

      I want to reread it now too! Do you know Lauren hates the Princess Bride and thought it was stupid? And Dana had no idea who Scarlett O’Hara was? All this came out over the course of five minutes. I almost had a heart attack five times over. Gone With the Wind is only THE BEST LOVE STORY OF ALL TIME. Ahhh!

  • 3. Kim  |  February 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I can see your point, but I think it actually makes rereading them better. You can visualize the characters more clearly in your mind, and have a more vivid picture of what’s going on. I do hate it when the characters in the movie look nothing the way you think they should though, and in that case, it -does- ruin the book. But like for Harry Potter, all the characters are pretty much exactly the way I envisioned them, so I think rereading the series is actually better now. =]

    • 4. KT  |  February 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm

      Yeah, I agree with the excellent Harry Potter casting! Inkheart, however, was sadly miscast, which put a little bit of a damper on future rereads for me.


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