The Princess Bride's bizarrely NSFW cover from the 1970s

Illustration for article titled The Princess Bride's bizarrely NSFW cover from the 1970s

Chances are you're familiar with The Princess Bride movie, but way fewer people have read author William Goldman's book. Let me just say that it takes a strikingly different tone than the movie.

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Instead of a kindly grandfather narrating the story to his sick grandson, the book is framed by a writer editing and rewriting the text of Goldman's pseudonym S. Morgenstern. There are plenty of asides in which the writer talks about how long Morgenstern rambled on about the etiquette training that Buttercup received and about various techniques used by miracle men, and how he had to cut that out of the story because it dragged down the narrative.

The goofy, fun fantasy scenes are still included, but they include cynical asides about Fezzik's wrestling career and Inigo's descent into drunkenness, and the fates of the other women who, like Buttercup, were for a short time the most beautiful women in the world.

Most of all, it's different because — in between the passages about editing Morgenstern's work and passages which are supposedly the work itself — it reveals the problems in the writer's life (and in life in general). It talks about falling out of love with your spouse, and how you can love your kids, while also knowing that you'll never like or even respect them. It ends on a more uncertain note than the movie, reflecting that life isn't fun, easy, or fair, but it's better than death. In short, absolutely nothing in the book is reflective of this cover.

I can only assume it's Buttercup wearing the eagle as a headdress. Who is the upside-down red lady with the boobs? It's anyone's guess. I don't recall there being that many skulls in The Princess Bride. And I don't know why people are praying as silhouettes. The cover is the work of Ted Coconis, an accomplished artist whose work was perhaps meant to draw people in than accurately represent the spirit of the text. Looking at the image, all I can think is, "Oh no, Buttercup! Not the shrieking eels!"

Via Caustic Cover Critic.

DISCUSSION

I'll say in passing, that covers often have little or nothing to do with the contents. Paperback reprints (like this one) were designed to catch the eye of a commuter walking by a newstand rack, in hopes they would say "whooo, what is this?", and go buy. They also changed (at least for successful books) a lot.

I remember when I was in jr high school in the 70s (yes, I am old), that I was reading a Poul Anderson SF novel at lunch, but I had to make a hand made jacket to cover it, because I was afraid the lurid cover with a naked girl on it would get my in trouble (sadly, the naked girl had nothing to do with the contents).

FWIW, the first edition (I have a copy) has an image of a castle on a hill, with a modern skyscraper visible behind it.