So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but The Princess Bride is, like, my most favorite book ever. I have read it more times than I can count, ever since I was about 13 years old and discovered that my favorite movie was based on a book. As I am now 34, this means I’ve read this book dozens of times over, *gasp,* twenty years. I read my first copy to pieces (that drop in the bathtub did not help), then I treated myself to the shiny new hardback 25th anniversary edition when it came out and have read it to a nice wrinkle. This year, I decided to treat myself to the 3oth anniversary edition because AH! New material! Sweet!
I started reading it for the Once Upon a Time challenge and found myself blissfully happy to be in the company of Westley, Buttercup, Fezzik(!), Inigo, and Miracle Max. Then something inconceivable happened.
INCONCEIVABLE, I tell you.
I found I had a problem with the narrative. No, a character. One character, in particular.
And this is probably where I should tell you not to read any further if you haven’t read the book. You have been spoiler warned.
At first, I was all, “It’s okay, it will get better. You love this book. It’s going to be fine.”
Then I was all, “Yes, it’s a problem, but it is small. Nothing to get worked up over.”
By the end, I was fretting.
Enough to cause a lifetime of wrinkles and you will have to read the book to get that reference.
My problem? My Problem?! My problem is Buttercup. Yes, she is beautiful and doesn’t really seem to know or care. Yes, she loves her Horse. And I keep telling myself this is satire, but she’s just so…so…dumb! Goldman constantly dumbs her down. And the way the men, ALL the men (except maybe Fezzik) (still love me some Fezzik) treat her like complete crap. And yes, I know it’s satire! BUT, and I mean BUT, why didn’t he give her one redeeming moment? The moment when it is completely apparent that it’s satire, that we are not to think of Buttercup as this BEAUTIFUL, perfect breasted, true loved, yet stupid, do-what-ever-you-say cow and can think for herself? And is actually kind of smart? Beyond what she learned in Royalty School? Because her only defining moment? Is using her fake Queen powers (because she’s not really Queen, is she) to order some men to let them by as they escape.
“And I,” Buttercup said. “I,” she repeated, standing up in the saddle, a creature of infinite beauty and eyes that were starting to grow frightening, “I,” she said for the third and last time, “am the QUEEEEEEEEEEEEN.”
There was no doubting her sincerity. Or power. Or capability for vengeance. She stared imperiously across the Brute Squad.
Buttercup shrugged, “I’ve been going to royality school three years now; something had to rub off.
Not exactly my idea of a great defining moment.
And it’s not like Goldman doesn’t try, but he struggles:
“you were already more beautiful than anything I dared to dream. In our years apart, my imaginings did their best to improve on you perfection. At night, your face was forever behind my eyes. And now I see that that vision who kept me company in my loneliness was a hag compared to the beauty now before me.” –Westley
Enough about my beauty.” Buttercup said. “Everybody always talks about how beautiful I am. I’ve got a mind, Westley. Talk about that.”
I honestly got to the point where if one more character pointed out how beautiful Buttercup is, I was going to scream. And that whole, I’ve got a mind part? I never really saw evidence of her actually using it, except to act confused!
And I still hate the way the men treated her. And yes, I know it’s satire. But this?
“Woman,” Westley roared, “you are the property of the Dread Pirate Roberts and you … do … what … you’re … told!”
No. Just… no. That is not okay, not even in satire.
OMG, is this because I’ve gotten older? And (perhaps) smarter myself, that this bothered me?
And it is still bothering me. It’s bothering me a lot. Because this is supposed to be, still, my favorite book in all the world and I want to read it again. Perhaps I need to read it again, right away, and look for what I need from this book, which is…. somewhere Buttercup becomes more than what she is. And I’m so afraid it’s not there. I’m so afraid it’s not there and oh my goodness, I’m about to cry over this, I am so distraught.
OR, by having Buttercup struggle to make the men notice that she DOES have some brains, is THAT where Goldman is trying to “say something?” Oh please, let that be IT! Yes, surely that IS it.
Someone help me. Any thoughts? Have you read The Princess Bride and been bothered by these same things? Should they be bothering me?