An interesting satiric novel, but with some swearing, moral problems, and strange spiritual content.
Writing in such a way as to make it sound like Goldman is only abridging the "original" story by the fictional S. Morgenstern, the author tells the comedic story of true love in the land of Floren. The main character is the beautiful Buttercup, who falls in love with the farmhand Westley. It would appear, however, that they are never to be together, for Westley's ship is taken by pirates as he sails for the New World and Buttercup becomes engaged to the hunt-obsessed Prince Humperdinck.
Westley is willing to go through anything to save Buttercup; she, on the other hand, takes longer to return the same selfless affection. She is a spoiled brat through the first part of the book, only showing morals at about the mid point of the book. However, as mentioned above, Westley is the book's "knight in shining armor" and shows good virtues.
Humperdinck represents The Princess Bride's scheming, conniving bad guy who is incapable of love and cares for nothing but killing anything worthy of his prowess.
[Spoiler Warning for Parents]
Unlike the end of the movie version, the book presents a moral issue. After her "marriage" to Humperdinck (in which neither of them say "I do"), Westley tells Buttercup, who is begging his forgiveness:
"Widows happen all the time."
However, he does not, in fact, kill Humperdinck. That part is left to the imagination of the reader. And, while one could still say what the Westley of the movie says (That they were not married because they didn't say "I do"), the book still presents a large moral problem there.
Odd, to say the least. Goldman purposefully shakes up Bible stories ("...best [case of jealousy] since David of Galilee coveted his neighbor Saul's cactus.") for laughs. Theological non sequitors are expressed by both Inigo, the sword-flashing Spaniard, and Westley: "There was a God, he [Inigo] knew that; and therefore the man in black [Westley] had to be down there." At the same time, there is a general acceptance of Evolution which turns up once or twice. Buttercup says that hell would be a lark if Westley were with her.
There is one good theological conversation that briefly passes between Buttercup and Westley near the end. Westley says he prayed to the Lord of Ultimate Affection that he would have strength, and apparently He answered; Buttercup replies by saying that she didn't know there was such a Person; Westley returns, "Neither did I, but if such a Person doesn't exist, I don't think I want to either."
While being tortured, Westley manages to avoid any pain by taking is mind away and thinking deeply on other things. At one point, Inigo and Fezzik (the slow-witted giant) visit a Miracle Man in order to get him to revive a dead person.
The most macabre of the events is a scene in which Westley is tortured, but even that isn't terribly graphic. There is another scene in which Inigo is stabbed in the stomach and he covers the wound with his fist, also a pretty gruesome scene. Inigo thinks over in his head the history of how his father was murdered; Fezzik used to be a champion boxer. A torture machine is tried out on a dog, the result being a horrific, scream-like howl. Buttercup is nearly murdered and later attempts suicide.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Inigo drowns his sorrows in brandy for six months after he is left jobless. A poison powder is employed through wine. The Miracle Man uses a "miracle pill" to revive someone.
In his introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition, [married] Goldman ogles a young lady; the only reason, it seems, that he doesn't go further is because she walks off before he gets the chance. In Goldman's introduction to "Buttercup's Baby", he states that his son became a sex therapist.
At the start of the book, Goldman lists off the most beautiful women in the world who were living at different stages in Buttercup's life. One of these is a scullery maid who attracted the eye of her married master, and the wife, being jealous, made sure that the maid was not beautiful for much longer. Buttercup first realizes her infatuation with Westley when the farm is visited by the Count and his wife, and the Count's wife pays a little too much attention to the farmboy. The Count himself gives Buttercup the eye as well, and Buttercup imagines that Westley returns the Countess' "affection". Of course, it's all in her head and has no evidence in real life.
[Spoiler Warning for Parents]
In his one-chapter sequel tacked on to the end of the book, "Buttercup's Baby", Westley and Buttercup consummate their relationship and have a child.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
"S***" is used in one of the parts where Goldman references the time when, fictionally, his father read him the story. Christ's name is also taken in vain in the same section. God's name is used as an exclamation several times by Prince Humperdinck and at least once by Westley.
In the sequel "Buttercup's Baby", "p***" is used and so is a bleeped out "s***" (all in Goldman's comments, not in the actual story itself).
"The Princess Bride" is an interesting satiric novel making fun of its own storyline and the author's own comments. It has a unique style and becomes more amusing once the reader is certain that it was in fact Goldman and not the fictional Morgenstern who wrote the book.
However, the book raises several moral issues: one is of Inigo's hunt for revenge. Because the man killed his father, is he therefore right in spending his life in an attempt to find and destroy that man? The second is outlined in the "Morality" box. Other problems are mentioned above, specifically the profane language and the odd spiritual content. Though its tagline is "Juvenile Fiction," a lot of the content suggests that this book is not for children.
All in all, the movie is more enjoyable and presents much less problems than does the book. Though definitely hysterical in parts, readers have to take care where they tread throughout this narrative: the dreaded Rodents of Unusual Size might get them.