Twisting Tales: Exploring the Magic of ‘The Princess Bride’

Fractured fairytales have become a staple of mainstream media. Let’s explore how William Goldman’s classic 1973 novel stood the test of time!

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Cary Elwes and Robin Wright as Westley and Buttercup

In the realm of storytelling, the allure of fairytales lies in their ability to transport us to worlds of enchantment, where heroes triumph over adversity and love conquers all. Yet, amid these well-worn narratives, emerged a unique literary approach known as fractured fairytales. Among them, The Princess Bride stands as an enduring classic, its brilliance illuminated by the artful deconstruction of traditional fairytales. In this article, we delve into the enchanting world of fractured fairytales and explore how The Princess Bride continues to captivate audiences, defying the passage of time.

Fractured Fairytales: A New Chapter in Storytelling

Fractured fairytales have been present in literature and storytelling for centuries, but the term “fractured fairytales” as a genre classification gained prominence in the 20th century. Fractured fairytales are a subversive take on the familiar tropes and conventions of traditional fairytales. These narratives embrace innovation and reinvention, using humor, satire, and unconventional plot twists to reshape the stories we know so well.

Fairy from Rocky and Bullwinkle fractured fairytale segment

The term became popular in the mid-20th century with the rise of animated television shows and films. Jay Ward’s animated series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which aired in the 1950s and 1960s, is often credited with popularizing the term “fractured fairytales.” These segments featured humorous and satirical retellings of classic fairytales, bringing a new level of creativity and subversion to the genre.

Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl cover with fairytale creatures

In literature, authors like Roald Dahl began reimagining fairytales in unconventional ways in the mid-20th century as well. His collection Revolting Rhymes, published in 1982, is a prime example of how fairytales can be fractured to create humorous and unexpected outcomes. Since then, fractured fairytales have continued to evolve and gain popularity, with authors and storytellers finding innovative ways to subvert traditional narratives while maintaining the core elements that make fairytales so enduring.

The Princess Bride’s Story Structure

Goldman’s novel is uniquely written through a narrative technique that blends fiction with metafiction, creating a layered storytelling experience. The book presents itself as an abridged version of a fictional novel written by S. Morgenstern, which is in turn presented as an abridgment by the narrator, William Goldman. This nested structure adds an extra dimension to the story, blurring the lines between reality and fiction.

Fred Savage as the grandson and Peter Falk as grandfather

Goldman frequently interrupts the narrative with commentary, personal anecdotes, and explanations about his editing choices, giving the impression of a storyteller sharing his thoughts directly with the reader. This metafictional approach invites readers into Goldman’s thought process, creating a sense of intimacy and engagement that is unusual in traditional storytelling.

Wallace Shawn, Many Patinkin, and Andre the Giant in film

Additionally, the book’s tone is a blend of humor, satire, and genuine emotion. It seamlessly transitions from comedic moments, such as the amusing asides about the challenges of abridging the story, to sincere and touching scenes of love and adventure. This lighthearted approach contrasts with the often serious and moralistic tone of classic fairytales. The humor and references are typically modern, making them stand out in a traditional fairytale setting.

The Princess Bride: Subverting Expectations

Goldman’s novel masterfully exemplifies the power of fractured fairytales. The novel, infused with wit and whimsy, brings to life characters that subvert the roles we’ve come to anticipate. Princess Buttercup is not merely a damsel in distress, but a woman of resilience and resourcefulness whose actions drive most of the plot. Westley, the hero, is not an invincible knight but a man whose strength lies in his intelligence and unwavering love.

Cary Elwes and Robin Wright in Princess Bride

The novel also delves into the complexities of love. It undermines popular fairytale themes of “perfect love” by portraying love as something that can be messy, challenging, and filled with obstacles. The relationship between Westley and Buttercup isn’t without its complications, and their journey highlights the idea that love requires effort, sacrifice, and compromise. For the average reader, this complexity has garnered more interest in their relationship compared to their fairytale counterparts.

Christopher Guest as Count Rugen

Additionally, the antagonists in the story, such as Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen, are multi-dimensional and not solely defined by their evil intentions. Humperdinck’s pursuit of power is driven not solely by wickedness, but also by insecurities and societal pressures, making him a more nuanced character.

Similarly, Count Rugen’s sadistic tendencies are underscored by his scientific curiosity, unveiling a disturbing blend of intellect and malevolence. These intricate portrayals humanize the villains, infusing a sense of realism that engages readers on a deeper level. As a result, the story not only challenges conventional notions of good and evil but prompts reflection on the complexities of human nature itself.

Conclusion: The Enduring Enchantment

The Princess Bride endures as a classic not only because of its inventive narrative style but also because of its ability to capture the very essence of storytelling itself. Fractured fairytales, with their knack for reshaping conventions, invite us to view the familiar through fresh eyes, breathing new life into age-old stories. In the case of Goldman’s classic tale, this artistic innovation has secured its place as a beloved tale that continues to enchant and inspire, reminding us that the magic of storytelling knows no bounds.

For some more chilling retellings of classic fairytales, click here!