The REAL _Princess Bride_

A colleague (working on an "interdisciplinary" MA, which apparently means she gets to write about the history of books that she enjoys reading...) recently made a breakthrough in the study of S. Morganstern's Princess Bride. William Goldman's version of the book (or perhaps the screenplay he based on it) is probably the version you're familiar with, but the original is much longer, much more politically serious, and much less entertaining.
That said, Morganstern's text is the original, and is thus a hot topic among book historians at the moment. There's an entire conference on the subject at Harvard this year. (My friend won't be presenting because they didn't accept her thesis--it's a bit controversial...)
It turns out that (according to my friend) a (now anonymous) Guilderian author wrote the "original story." Morganstern's book is itself a copy!

The Guilderian story is actually something of an historical account of a Guilderian princess (her name translates roughly to "Buttercup") who was married to Humperdinck as part of an alliance with Florin. The Florinese didn't honour their part of the deal (something to do with tariffs and the manufacture of weaponry), and within three years the whole continent was embroiled in the war. Morganstern, working for the Florinese court, was basically putting a PR spin on the whole thing--Humperdinck had been outsted by a competing dynasty (led, no surprise, by a prince named Westley) by that time, so they were trying to make the new regime more popular at the expense of the Guilderians and the Humperdincks.

So, this is the thesis I wish I had written. The Guilderian MS is pretty hard to read, but the illumination is beautiful--and makes Morganstern's version look like what it really is, a rip-off made by a political opportunist.

My friend is trying to study the way Morganstern writes "over" Buttercup's "voice" in the original text. She's speculating that the original author was probably a woman; I disagree (women writers in court--and this was definitely a book for the court--are almost unheard of in Guilderian lit of that period.) There's even speculation that the author was Buttercup herself... that's the part that got my friend shunned from the conference.

I almost like Morganstern's writing better as a spin doctor trying to cover up the real story. The extended passages on Florinese culture and the presence of Inigo's account make more sense this way.

There's some speculation that ol' Willy's Richard III is partly based on the Original Guilderian story. The War of the Roses was happening at roughly the same time as the Guilder/Florin conflict, and there are enough parallels between Richard and Humperdinck in the Guilder text to make it almost work.

I'm not convinced (yet), but my friend has really gone off the deep end for this hypothetical Guilderian female writer. I think she's got a pdf version of her first paper floating around, if anyone wants to read it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sure -- why not? see if "your friend" would send me a copy...