- Gender and Relationships
As You Wish: The romance of The Princess Bride
By Hannah P.
My favorite promotional tagline for the movie “The Princess Bride” sums up the story very well: she gets kidnapped, he gets killed, but it all turns out okay. Westley and Buttercup’s love is a perfect storybook romance. He is a handsome farm hand and she is a beautiful young mistress of the house, and their love grows from mere glances and few words. However the bond created between the two is strong enough to withstand years of separation and difficult trials.
While working as a farm hand for Buttercup, Westley falls deeply in love with her. He doesn’t speak to her except when she asks him to do something, and even then he only obeys with the words “as you wish.” His affection remains unspoken, and his silent manner keeps her from discovering his feelings for a while. But in time Buttercup comes to realize Westley’s love for her, and she soon discovers that she loves him in return… They are both prepared to wait for their happiness. Westley is willing to go and seek his fortune in order to have something to offer Buttercup. In turn Buttercup is willing to be patient and wait for him to come back. They have faith in each other, and remain loyal to one another throughout their separation.
When Westley leaves to seek his fortune, he promises Buttercup that he will return for her. But he is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts on his journey across the sea, a man famous for never letting captives live. Upon learning of this event, Buttercup shuts herself up in her house and vows never to love again. She dies inside, and no longer takes pleasure in life. When the prince of Florin chooses her for his bride, she remains emotionless and insipid. She doesn’t care for castle life or her future husband and finds her only enjoyment in rides across the countryside.
Westley’s life after his capture by the Dread Pirate Roberts is filled with adventure. His life is spared when he pleads with Roberts, talking at length about Buttercup and his love for her. Intrigued by the story, Roberts takes Westley as a cabin boy, and the two eventually become friends. When the pirate retires he passes the ship and the name onto Westley, and Westley is left a prosperous man, and able to pursue Buttercup once again. However, when he returns he discovers that Buttercup has been kidnapped by a band of men hired by Prince Humperdink. The prince had planned on using her to achieve his design of waging war on Guilder, a country across the sea that is Florin’s sworn enemy. Westley follows the boat Buttercup’s abductors use as they sail to Guilder. He nearly overtakes them, but his plans are thwarted while following them up the Cliffs of Insanity. After the abductors make it to the top, they cut Westley’s climbing rope and he only manages to avoid a plunge to his death by clinging to the cliff face. After a struggle to reach the top of the cliffs, Westley has to face Buttercup’s abductors. He manages to defeat all three, beating them with skills acquired during his captivity, fencing, wrestling and cunning mixed with his own natural intellect.
After rescuing Buttercup, Westley doesn’t reveal himself to her immediately. In the guise of the Dread Pirate Roberts he is able to test her and proceeds to taunt and mock her. He is hurt by his belief that she has been unfaithful to him by engaging herself to Humperdink during his absence. He also tests her feelings towards himself by relating to her the story of his capture by the Dread Pirate Roberts. During their war of words, Buttercup proves her love for Westley. She had never been faithless, she had only become engaged to Humperdink because the law of the land gave him the right to choose whom he married; she had had no choice in the matter. Still believing him to be the Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup pushes Westley down the side of a hill when the sound of the prince’s horses distracts him. Westley then reveals himself by shouting “as you wish,” the phrase he used to say to Buttercup when they were on her farm. Buttercup realizes who he is and throws herself down the hill after him. At the bottom they share a sweet reunion where Westley renews his promise to always come for Buttercup. Sadly, their reunion is cut short when they are forced to flee to the Fire Swamp to evade the prince’s men.
Once Westley and Buttercup enter the Fire Swamp, the true test of their endurance begins. Inside the swamp they battle flame spurts, lightening sand and Rodents of Unusual Size. Throughout these trials Westley proves his mettle, repeatedly rescuing Buttercup from the swamp’s dangers with little regard to the wounds he sustains. But on the other side of the swamp lies an even greater peril. Once Westley and Buttercup emerge from the Fire Swamp, injured and a bit worse for wear, they confront separation once again in the form of Prince Humperdink and his men. Buttercup recognizes the danger and tries to save Westley from the prince by making a compromise. She offers to return with Humperdink if he will promise not to harm Westley and return him to his ship, but the prince’s subsequent promise is a trick. Instead of honoring their bargain, Humperdink brings Westley back to Florin and throws him into the Pit of Despair. In this pit the prince’s right hand man, Count Rugen, takes pleasure in torturing Westley to death.
Buttercup arrives back at Florin castle unscathed and oblivious to Westley’s peril, but knowing that she has once again lost the love of her life makes her miserable and gives her nightmares. When these nightmares grow worse with each passing night, Buttercup finally decides to take a stand for herself. She approaches the prince with her dilemma, threatening to take her own life if he continues to put her threw such torment and heartache. Prince Humperdink then offers his own compromise, promising to send for Westley but saying that if Westley refuses to accept Buttercup, she will marry Humperdink as planned in ten days. Buttercup agrees to the arrangement, but once again the promises Humperdink make to her prove to be lies. Buttercup realizes this on the day of the wedding, but believes Westley will come for her despite Prince Humperdink’s trickery. On this occasion she makes another stand for herself, defending her love for Westley and acknowledging Humperdink’s deception. Though she cannot stop the wedding, Buttercup remains firm in her belief that Westley will come for her. The marriage ceremony proceeds as planned, but a disturbance outside prompts Humperdink to hurry through the service and skip the vows altogether. The ceremony ends without Westley’s arrival and Buttercup is heartbroken. She retires to her bedroom intending to kill herself, but finds Westley waiting for her. He is weak, fatigued, and has no strength due to Humperdink and Rugen’s tortures. In fact, Humperdink and Count Rugen had almost succeeded in killing Westley, and he had been removed from the Pit of Despair mostly dead. However, through the efforts of two allies and a miracle pill Westley’s life had been restored. These allies, Inigo Montoya and Fezzik the giant, had been two of Buttercup’s hired abductors whose lives Westley had spared. With their help, Westley had concocted a plan to rescue Buttercup and the three had broken into the castle. Their actions had caused the disturbance that had rushed the royal wedding ceremony. Therefore, Westley had indirectly saved Buttercup from her marriage to Humperdink.
When Humperdink enters Buttercup’s bedroom and finds Westley and Buttercup together, Westley gets the opportunity to make his own stand against Humperdink. After a harsh exchange of words, Westley disarms the prince with a display of strength despite his physical weakness. Then he and Buttercup escape the castle through her bedroom window, with some help from Fezzik waiting below. Along with their friends, Westley and Buttercup ride to freedom where the couple finally receives their happy ending.
Westley and Buttercup’s love story is filled with difficulty and many trials. Their happiness must be fought for, but the couple does this wholeheartedly. It may be a fairytale romance but the qualities of courage, determination, compassion and enduring love displayed by the characters are admirable and worth emulating. It shows that the things in the important things in life are worth fighting for. Our lives don’t always have happy endings but like Westley and Buttercup in the finale of the movie, Christians have something to look forward to. The end of the story isn’t truly the end; there is something desirable, significant and beautiful waiting for us at the conclusion of our journey. The struggles and trials that we suffer are worth enduring in anticipation of the reward we can receive at the close of it all.
(This article was published previously in the Costume Chronicles - www.costumechronicles.com)