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Chapters Two, Three and Four—"The Groom," "The Courtship," and "The Preparations"—together cover fewer than fifteen pages. This is because, as William Goldman explains, they are primarily composed of the boring stuff that his father skipped when reading aloud. He says that they consist of bitter satires of Florinese history that are of no interest to anyone other than Florinese historians. Thus, these three chapters are his first major excisions.
In "The Groom," (after pages and pages of Florinese royal history so kindly cut out for us by William Goldman) we meet Prince Humperdinck, the ruler-in-line to the throne of Florin. The prince's greatest love is hunting, and he builds in the forest-covered grounds of his kingdom a five-level structure that he calls, "The Zoo of Death." Inside this, he keeps all and any fierce, fast, or frightening animals for his hunting purposes. One afternoon while Humperdinck is in the process of killing a giant orangutan, his sidekick and confidante, Count Rugen," comes to inform him that his father, the king, is about to die. The prince is upset because this means he has to get married.
In Chapter Three, "The Courtship," we meet the dying, mumbling King Lotharon and his wife, Bella, a kind and loving woman whom Prince Humperdinck affectionately calls his E.S., short for Evil Stepmother. Through a tedious dialogue (Bella has to translate for the king, whose mumbles nobody else can understand), they all conclude that Humperdinck must make an alliance with Guilder, the country across the sea, by marrying their princess, Noreena. Here, William Goldman enters the text to inform us that he has excised the many dozens of pages describing the packing and subsequent unpacking of Noreena's glorious hat collection. At the grand feast when the proposal ought to have taken place, the narrator gives a second-by-second account of the events that transformed the evening from a quite peaceful one into one in which Florin and Guilder were almost at war. The climactic moment is a wind that blows in and sweeps away Princess Noreena's hat, revealing a hairless head. Since Humperdinck demands to marry a beautiful wife and therefore cannot possibly marry a bald woman, Count Rugen takes him to find Buttercup, who agrees to marry him only after he threatens to kill her if she refuses. She assures him that he would never love him, since she had loved already and lost, and he seems pleased with this agreement.
Chapter Four, "The Preparations," is omitted entirely. William Goldman, in a single page, tells us that he himself had never known that this chapter existed, let alone that it was the longest chapter of the book. Apparently, the chapter consists solely of a satire on Florinese royal wedding preparations, doctors, and princess training, and for narrative purposes it is all entirely useless, so William Goldman decides to skip over it, to Chapter Five.
These short chapters serve to further our belief that William Goldman is, in fact, abridging someone else's book. The chapters further convince us that there are world scholars who care deeply about the historical rituals of this country of Florin, even if Goldman is not one of them. There is something undeniably funny about planning to reprint a book and then slicing out its longest chapter, and William does this without thinking twice. After all, he believes that his audience should be as entertained as he was as a child, and not fully educated on the royal politics of the day. The crux of these pages is a basic mockery of significant rituals and important people, once again illustrating that while this is a fairy tale of sorts, it is not in any way conventional in its romances.
The ritual of marriage becomes a great source of humor when Prince Humperdincks's great regret at his father's dying is that he now will have to find a wife. Then we laugh at how quickly the relations between nations turn from camaraderie to almost-war simply through the uncovering of Noreena's bald head. The final element of irony in the prince's wife-selection process is when Count Rugen suggests Buttercup as an option, warning the prince that she is a commoner and cannot hunt, to which Humperdinck responds, "I don't care if she can't spell." We learn any beautiful wife will serve his purposes, so long as he is admired by his people and is free to hunt as much as he pleases. He is treated as if he were a small boy—impetuous and very specific in the things he must have.
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