Almost everyone who knows me has had to suffer through me talking about Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. The short version: all hero stories share common elements, character types, and motifs; these elements are present in mythology, religion, and in movies today.

For example, have you ever noticed in cinematic hero stories that it’s always “two guys and a girl”? Harry, Ron, and Hermione; Luke, Han, and Leia; Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity; hell: Bo, Luke, and Daisy. There’s usually an “old man as mentor”: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Professor Dumbledore, Uncle Ben. There is the death of a father. There is a gift of magical assistance. And so on, and so on.

I’ve been wondering for a long time now how “The Princess Bride” fits into the Campbell analysis. I have recently realized that the real hero of “The Princess Bride” is not Westley; it is, in fact, Inigo Montoya.

To illustrate, let’s compare the characters of “Star Wars” to those of “The Princess Bride”:

Character Type              Star Wars       Princess Bride
--------------------------  --------------  --------------
The Pirate                  Han             Westley
The Swordsman               Luke            Inigo
The Girl                    Leia            Buttercup
The main villain            Darth Vader     Count Rugen
His overseer                The Emperor     Humperdinck
Whose father gets killed?   Luke's          Inigo's
Who does the killing?       Darth Vader     Count Rugen
Who avenges his father?     Luke            Inigo
Who gets the girl?          Han             Westley

The one whose father is killed, learns swordplay, seeks out his father’s murderer, and confronts him as part of a final attack: that is the hero. That means Luke/Inigo are the heroes, and Han/Westley are the pirate characters who get the girl in the end. Westley is central to the plot, and the main story is about Westley and Buttercup, but Westley is not the hero; Inigo is.

Here’s another fun bit: for the final attack, it is the pirate who plans it, but it is the swordsman who must confront the villain.

Plot Element                Star Wars       Princess Bride
--------------------------  --------------  --------------
The target                  Death Star 2    The castle
Attack planned by           Han Solo        Westley
Villain killed by           Luke            Inigo

Once again, the hero appears to be Inigo, not Westley.

I know, it’s heresy. But still.