The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us About Buddhism and Relationships

An engagingly contemporary approach to Buddhism―through the lens of an iconic film and its memorable characters
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Dharma of The Princess Bride by Ethan Nichtern

“Nichtern is indisputably a good writer. His prose often flows with the aphoristic ease of Alain de Botton or Adam Phillips . . .  a delightful book. It’s a need-to-read for fans of The Princess Bride, and, sure, anyone who’s into Buddhism will dig it, too.”
-The Los Angeles Review of Books

“Nichtern’s book defies easy categorization. Part memoir, part Buddhist treatise and part cultural criticism, its pitch is that The Princess Bride is something more than a lighthearted sendup of the fairy tale genre—if viewed through the right lens, it is also a trove of timeless wisdom.”
—David GellesThe New York Times

“Ethan Nichtern has written a book filled with important insights, humility, and wonderful humor. A rare combination.”
Christopher Guest aka The Six-Fingered Man

“How could I not read this book!”
Mandy Patinkin aka Inigo Montoya

“The Dharma of the Princess Bride is a glorious book: a romp through popular culture and the ways its stories shape us, and a wise, pragmatic toolkit for creating meaningful relationships with friends, in romance, and with family. Reading it is like a warmhearted friend taking your hand and helping you figure out how to live.”
Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Love

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“In this accessible and often inspiring new book, Buddhist studies teacher and author Nichtern (The Road Home: A Contemporary Exploration of the Buddhist Path, 2015, etc.) applies a contemporary understanding of Buddhist practices to the core foundations of friendships, romantic attractions, and family bonds, relaying how and why meaningful companionship can be essential when undertaking a path toward spiritual self-discovery….Yet even for readers who may be unfamiliar with the film or are not die-hard fans compelled to rewatch multiple times, the strength of Nichtern’s Buddhist insights and overall content extend well beyond the film’s connection….A generous and instructive book on working through relationships, with much to recommend for readers, whether they are fans of The Princess Bride or not.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Nichtern’s deconstruction of [The Princess Bride] skillfully and clearly teases out well-defined lessons–his ruminations on friendship through the relationship of Fezzik and Inigo Montoya are a highlight . . . For those who seek meaning, love, and values, even in unorthodox places, this unusual work will come as a pleasant surprise.”
Publishers Weekly
“Examples from both the film and the author’s personal life add warmth to this study of relationships and Buddhist philosophy. Fans of the movie will want to see it again armed with Nichtern’s insights.”


“This powerful book inspired me to start meditating again. If I had read it before getting into a miserable relationship with someone who LOVED The Princess Bride, I’d probably like the movie, too.”
Duncan Trussell, Host, The Duncan Trussell Family Hour

“In his most personal book to date, Ethan Nichtern brings 2600 years of Buddhist wisdom to bear on the topics of love, friendship, and relationships through a pop-culture lens that is simply irresistible. Want to show up for the people in your life in a way that is meaningful? Read this book. Smart, accessible, and funny.”
Lodro Rinzler, author of Love Hurts and The Buddha Walks into a Bar

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Humorous yet spiritually rigorous in the tradition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and The Tao of Pooh, drawing from pop culture and from personal experience, The Dharma of “The Princess Bride teaches us how to understand and navigate our most important personal relationships from a twenty-first-century Buddhist perspective.

Friendship. Romance. Family. These are the three areas Ethan Nichtern delves into, taking as departure points the indelible characters―Westley, Fezzik, Vizzini, Count Rugen, Princess Buttercup, and others from Rob Reiner’s perennially popular film―as he also draws lessons from his own life and his work as a meditation teacher. Nichtern devotes the first section of the book to exploring the dynamics of friendship. Why do people become friends? What can we learn from the sufferings of Inigo Montoya and Fezzik? Next, he leads us through all the phases of illusion and disillusion we encounter in our romantic pursuits, providing a healthy dose of lightheartedness along the way by sharing his own Princess Buttercup List and the vicissitudes of his dating life as he ponders how we idealize and objectify romantic love. Finally, Nichtern draws upon the demands of his own family history and the film’s character the Grandson to explore the dynamics of “the last frontier of awakening,” a reference to his teacher Chogyam Trungpa’s claim that it’s possible to be enlightened everywhere except around your family.

With The Dharma of “The Princess Bride” in hand, we can set out on the path to contemporary Buddhist enlightenment with the most important relationships in our lives.

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