“This is true love…do you think this happens every day?”
William Goldman, The Princess Bride
What is true love? If you asked the characters in William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, you would probably receive the following answers:
Miracle Max: “True love is the greatest thing in the world.”
Westley: “Death cannot stop true love.”
Buttercup: “Westley and I are joined by the bond of love and you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords.”
Prince Humperdink: “You truly love each other and so might have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance.”
There are few movies that have more to say about the topic of true love than The Princess Bride. The story—which is told from the perspective of a grandfather reading a book to his young grandson—centered on two lovers, Buttercup and Westley, who become separated when Westley must travel across the sea. Throughout the movie they encounter almost endless obstacles in their attempts to be reunited, yet through it all they never stop believing that true love will guide them back.
I fell in love with The Princess Bride when I was twelve-years-old when I got the DVD as a birthday present from my grandparents. My best friend and I watched the movie together over and over again! I still know almost every single line of the script by heart and yet, through all the years that I have loved this movie, I have been trying figure out what it actually means when they talk about true love. Is true love something that happens in real life? If so, what is it? How can someone actually find it?
To be honest, when I first saw the movie as an awkward middle-schooler, I didn’t pay much attention to all the “kissing parts.” I could barely imagine having a boyfriend at that age—much less think about true love—so I was much more interested in the scenes with piracy and fencing. But when I got to high school and began experiencing the highs and lows of teenage crushes and relationships, I started thinking a lot more about the details of the love story.
My feelings about dating, love, and marriage got a lot more complicated when I hit adulthood. I still loved the movie wholeheartedly as a young adult, but I had started to question some of the story’s underlying messages about love. To me, the relationship between Westley and Buttercup now seemed rather superficial. Moreover, at that time I was generally skeptical of everything that happened in movie love stories: love at first sight, happily ever afters, finding the one person in the world who will always make you happy. If all of these concepts were just invented by Hollywood to sell movies, why would I think that true love was any different?
And yet, maybe because I had loved the The Princess Bride so much since I was little, I still believed deep down that true love was a real. I dreamed of experiencing love someday that was complete and powerful and so worthwhile that I would sacrifice anything else in my life for it. Despite all my skepticism, I still wanted my own great, epic love story.
Little did I know that my real life would soon begin to imitate my favorite movie.
I was eighteen when I met the man who would eventually become my husband. We did not fall in love at first sight. In fact, we didn’t get around to dating each other until years later, right before he moved away from our college. Thanks to student loans and a bad economy, the boy I loved had to leave me and go literally across the ocean to seek his fortune, and I had no idea when, or if, he would return.
With all the long distance and financial woes there were seemingly endless challenges to my dating relationship with my husband. We knew that what we had was special and worth hanging on to, but we had to fight hard and for a long time to stay together. Our love story became epic, intense, adventurous, and life changing. Without realizing it, I had stumbled into something that looked an awful lot like my childhood imaginations of true love.
It was during the some of the hardest points of our relationship that I finally figured out what it is that makes the love story of The Princess Bride so unique. The Princess Bride isn’t a story about two people trying to figure out if what they are experiencing is true love; it’s the story of two people deciding that their love is true and fighting to keep it that way despite incredible odds. True love isn’t something that just happens out of nowhere. It is something that you must create and fight for.
In the end, my love never actually did come back for me from across the sea. Instead, I went across the ocean myself to join him. It wasn’t necessarily the same as the love story that I had imagined growing up, but our life together has so far been the most incredible and worthwhile journey.
So, I do believe that true love is real. I believe that true love is when you find a person that you know you would make any sacrifice for and they feel the same way about you. Westley was right when he said true love doesn’t happen every day. But it does happen, and although it isn’t easy, true love is definitely worth fighting for.