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An Unlikely Trio: A friendship forged by a gentle giant, a vengeful Spaniard and a masked pirate
By Hannah P.
A comradeship between Fezzik the giant, Inigo Montoya, and Westley the “man in black” is an integral part of the story of “The Princess Bride.” Their partnership saves Westley from death, helps Inigo achieve his quest, and results in the defeat of the villains by setting the finale in motion.
The story begins with the murder of Inigo’s father Domingo Montoya, when Inigo was just 11 years old. A skilled sword-maker, Domingo was given a special assignment by someone Inigo knew only as the “six-fingered man.” Domingo created a masterpiece of a sword for the six-fingered man. But when the man returned to claim the sword he offered only a tenth of his originally promised price. When Domingo refused the offer, the six-fingered man killed him on the spot. To avenge his father’s murder, the young Inigo challenged the six-fingered man to a duel. Despite Inigo’s subsequent failure the man let Inigo live, but left his face scarred as a reminder of that dark day. Afterwards Inigo devoted his life to a quest for revenge against the six-fingered man, learning the art of swordsmanship and becoming a master in the field. But for years Inigo could not find the man he sought, and out of despair became a penniless drunk. Hired for his expertise in fencing by a man named Vizzini, Inigo became able to pay off his debts, and met a man who became his true friend and ally. This man was Fezzik, a giant from Greenland who had once enjoyed great fame for his wrestling skills. A gentle giant, Inigo and he became friends while under Vizzini’s employment. They often enjoyed swapping rhymes, sometimes just to irritate their cantankerous boss who did not share their sense of humor. In addition to fighting abilities and gift for rhyme, Inigo and Fezzik shared sense of fair play and didn’t like to kill opponents with giving them a sporting chance.
Wanting to wage war on Florin’s enemy, the country of Guilder, Prince Humperdink of Florin hires Vizzini to kidnap and murder his fiancée, the Princess Buttercup. Because she is a favorite of his citizens, Humperdink knows that her death will incite the people to action. He instructs Vizzini to murder her in Guilder, pinning the crime on warriors from Guilder by the careful staging of evidence. Inigo and Fezzik aid Vizzini in kidnapping the princess, but when they discover Vizzini’s plan to kill Buttercup they strongly protest. Both men object to the murder of the innocent girl, but Vizzini coerces them into corporation. However, Inigo and Fezzik’s shared code of ethics helps them later on when they are faced with a great opponent who turns out to be a great ally, a mysterious masked man in black.
This mysterious stranger is Westley, who used to be a farm hand on Buttercup’s farm. While working there, the two fell in love, but Westley didn’t have any money to marry her. He set off to seek his fortune, but while at sea was captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Westley almost lost his life, but managed to befriend the pirate captain. After years of servitude, Westley had taken over the name and the business upon Roberts’ retirement. Returning to Florin for Buttercup, he had learned of her engagement to Prince Humperdink and her subsequent kidnapping. Determined to rescue her, he followed Vizzini, Inigo and Fezzik to the shores of Guilder.
Inigo and Fezzik meet Westley (the man in black) in separate battles. Because Westley is on Buttercup’s trail, Inigo is told by Vizzini to kill Westley in a duel. Inigo is a skilled swordsman, but meets his match in Westley. The man in black defeats Inigo but lets him live out of a deep respect for Inigo’s humanity and skill.
When Vizzini believes that the man in black has killed Inigo, he makes Fezzik take his turn and try to defeat the masked stranger. Vizzini advises Fezzik to finish Westley off quickly by taking advantage of a position of stealth. But Fezzik decides instead to be sportsmanlike and gives Westley a sporting chance with a fair fight. No weapons are used in their hand-to-hand combat, but Westley manages to defeat Fezzik anyway. Westley is impressed with Fezzik’s benevolence, and just as he had done with Inigo, lets the giant live after his defeat.
Westley displays compassion and discernment in his battles, letting his charitable opponents live while letting the cruel ones seal their own fate. After leaving Fezzik, Westley is left to face Vizzini. In this conniving but clever man Westley sees none of the charity or humanity of his two former opponents and is forced to add a deadly element to the confrontation. Westley defeats Vizzini in a battle of wits involving two glasses of poisoned wine, and Vizzini dies as a result. Having relieved Buttercup of her captors, the pair tries to flee but Humperdink and his men arrive in Guilder and pursue them. Westley and Buttercup make their way through the perils of the Fire Swamp, but are captured on the other side. Buttercup is taken back to the castle and Westley is thrown into the Pit of Despair.
While Westley endures terrible tortures at the hand of Prince Humperdink his right hand man, Count Rugen, Inigo returns to his hopeless, drunken ways. Residing in the place Vizzini had found him, the thieves’ forest in Florin, Inigo wastes away until the king’s men and a brute squad clear the thieves’ forest in preparation for the Prince’s wedding. Inigo is nearly captured along with the other forest inhabitants, but is rescued by Fezzik, who is a member of the brute squad. Fezzik cares for his friend, nursing him back to health. But when Fezzik informs Inigo of the existence of the evil Count Rugen, the six-fingered man who killed Inigo’s father, Inigo’s mind returns once again to thoughts of revenge. Fezzik is wary of Inigo’s lust for retribution, but decides to aid him despite his misgivings. Since Inigo and Fezzik aren’t good strategists, and Vizzini’s death leaves them without a planner for their castle attack, Inigo decides to seek out the “man in black.” Inigo realizes that Westley had outthought Vizzini, the man Inigo had depended on before for devising cunning plans. Inigo believes that the man in black surpasses Vizzini in intelligence, and desires him to arrange his planned castle assault. Inigo and Fezzik leave to find him, and when they do they discover that Prince Humperdink and Count Rugen have already killed him. But after a bit of entreaty a miracle man is prevailed upon to make a miracle pill to revive Westley.
As soon as Westley is brought back to life, Inigo informs him of Buttercup’s imminent marriage to Humperdink and asks for Westley’s help in breaking into the castle. At first, Westley is unsure that he will be able to come up with a plan but as luck would have it, the items necessary for a castle onslaught are already on hand. Using a wheelbarrow, a holocaust cloak and Fezzik himself, the trio is able to frighten away the sixty guards surrounding the castle gate. After making their way into the castle, Inigo and Westley are able to confront their respective enemies. During these separate confrontations the difference in Westley and Inigo’s tactics is evident. Inigo has been on a revenge mission for twenty years and does not hesitate to murder Rugen when given the chance. Westley on the other hand is determined to let Prince Humperdink live, certain that a life lived in cowardice and villainy is punishment enough.
After this turn of events, Inigo wonders what to do with his life, since his quest for revenge is over. Because Westley can finally be with Buttercup, he offers Inigo the title and duties of the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Inigo, Westley and Buttercup escape the castle by jumping through her bedroom window. Waiting below to catch them is Fezzik, who had secured a means of escape while both Inigo and Westley had been facing their respective enemies. Inigo commends his friend for his help and foresight, and the four friends ride to safety far from the castle and their enemies.
Without the partnership between Inigo, Fezzik and Westley, “The Princess Bride” couldn’t have had the ending it does. Inigo couldn’t have succeeded in his mission without his friends’ help, and Westley couldn’t have rescued Buttercup while still in the clutches of the villains. Despite the difference in the character’s personalities, tactics, and motivations, these three men were able to help one another achieve their goals. And I believe one can safely assume that this friendship continued long after the story’s conclusion.
(Formerly published in the Costume Chronicles - http://www.costumechronicles.com/ - )