Billy is the actual narrator of the book, and is the main character in the book's prologue.
In the 1987 film adaptation, he was portrayed by Fred Savage.
The Princess Bride
In the book, Billy is born in 1931 in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Highland Park, a northern suburb of Chicago, the only child of a barber.
Billy's father was a Florinese immigrant who wanted to become a lawyer, immigrating to America at the age of 16; while on the boat, he met his future wife, but gambled all his money in the states, eventually working as a barber in Highland Park's least successful barbershop. One night, after work was finished, he fell asleep in the patient's chair and died.
Billy hated school, especially reading, but loved sports. In particular, he idolized Stan Hack of the Chicago Cubs, whom he had seen at a game once. He also loved Bronko Nagurski of the Chicago Bears. From grades 3-5, Billy's teacher at Highland Park Grammar School was Antonia Roginski, who would frequently hold meetings with Billy's mother, frequently asking the question "What are we going to do about Billy?", a question which haunted Billy for the first ten years of his life.
On November 14, 1941, Billy tried to use his Zenith to tune into the Northwestern vs. Notre Dame game, but his mother told him twice that the game was the next day. Eventually, Billy became delirious with pnuemonia, and spent ten days in the hospital and a month at home. The first night home, his father came in with The Princess Bride, a book written after World War I by Florinese writer S. Morgenstern and published by Harcourt, Brace & Company. Billy was at first skeptical of the book, but gradually became captivated by the book.
The impact the book left on Billy was intense, as Billy grew to love reading and writing, while his arithmetic grades got worse. Billy frequented the books of Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, James Fenimore Cooper - specifically Deerstalker and The Leatherstocking Tales - Alexandre Dumas - specifically The Three Musketeers - and Victor Hugo - specifically The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Billy left Chicago in 1947, moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near Central Park in New York City, and became a writer, publishing his first book, The Temple of Gold, in 1957. After writing a letter to his old teacher, he got reminded of the book his father read to him, and promised that if he ever had a son, he would read it to him. At some point, Billy joined the United States Army and served in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He became part of the publishing company Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. He married a child psychiatrist named Helen, and in December 1962, their son Jason was born.
In December 1972, Billy was at the Beverly Hills Hotel when he got flashbacks of the book his father read to him as a kid, and decided to give it to his son Jason on his tenth birthday. In California, Billy was working on the script for The Stepford Wives, an adaptation of the Ira Levin novel. Billy briefly flirted with a young girl named Sandy Sterling, and called Abromowitz's, a bookshop on Fourth Avenue, who had the book both in Florinese and English. When he returned to New York two weeks later, he was disappointed that his son had only gotten to the first chapter before giving, but after actually reading the book for the first time, Billy understood why: the book was about monarchial decline in Western civilization rather than just an adventure tale. By 1973, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich released the abridged version of the book.
In the film, the boy isn't given a name, and instead of his father reading the book to him, it's his grandfather. His home is also changed to Evanston, Illinois.
The grandson is first seen sick with a fever, playing the game Hardball on his Commodore 64 from his bed. His mother enters the room and tells him that his grandfather is coming to visit. The grandson is not pleased, as his grandfather often pinches his cheeks, which he does when he enters the boy's bedroom.
The grandfather presents the grandson with a present, which turns out being a book. The grandson is skeptical at first, thinking it's a "kissing book", but gradually becomes captivated as the story progresses. By the end of the book, when Westley and Buttercup are about to kiss, the grandson has become so invested in the story that he doesn't mind the kissing scenes anymore.
When the grandfather finishes the book, the grandson asks if he can read it to him again tomorrow, to which the grandfather replies, "As you wish", a quote used by Westley in the book.
- Although the narrator is supposed to be William Goldman, there are a few fictionalized details in literary Goldman's life:
- Literary Goldman says he is an only child: Goldman was actually the second son of the family.
- Literary Goldman's family is Florenese: Goldman's real-life family was Jewish.
- Literary Goldman's father is an illiterate immigrant barber who operates the number two chair in Highland Park's least successful barbershop, and dies sleeping in the chair after hours: Goldman's actual father, Maurice Clarence Goldman, was a successful stockbroker in Chicago who lost all his money and turned to alcoholism. Maurice committed suicide in 1947, when William was 16.
- Literary Goldman married a child psychiatrist and had a son named Jason: Goldman actually married a former Nieman Marcus model and had two daughters named Jenny and Susanna.
- Goldman in the book mentions a real-life story: Goldman had just gotten discharged from the Army when a fellow soldier of his invited him to watch a screening of Gunga Din. Goldman dressed into his army uniform and snuck back into Fort Sheridan to watch the film.
- In the book, Goldman idol-worships Stan Hack, third baseman for the Chicago Cubs (whom he even claims smiled directly at him several times during a ballgame), and also loves Bronko Nagurski of the Chicago Bears.
- Goldman's obsession with Chicago sports extends into the film: the boy wears a Chicago Bears jersey with Walter Peyton's number, has posters of three separate Chicago Bears players (William "The Fridge" Perry, Jim McMahon, and Walter Peyton), and a Chicago Bears banner hangs over his bed.
- In the book, Billy says that he loved action/adventure films, especially if they included Alan Ladd, Errol Flynn, and John Wayne. Billy goes on to say that Gunga Din is his favorite adventure film.
- In real life, Gunga Din actually was Goldman's favorite film.
- In the book, Billy lives in Highland Park, Illinois; in the film, he lives in Evanston, Illinois.
- When Billy returns home to New York, the dinner consists of boned rib roast (which Billy mistook for pot roast), mashed potatoes, gravy, and creamed spinach: Billy mentions that he is a rare-meat person and has a lech for creamed spinach.
- Billy mentions in passing that he loves eating porterhouse steak at Peter Luger's and cheese enchiladas at El Parador's.