Fezzik from the Princess Bride: His Development > Chapter 1 - A Study in Psychosocial Development

Fezzik from the Princess Bride:A Study in Psychosocial Development

Presented by
Lance J. Parks, LCSW

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At the end of this course the healthcare practitioner will:

1. Be able to explain some of the basic principles of development

2. Be able to psychosocial information in the assessment of clients.

3. Have a new understanding of Fezzik, the Giant.

I. Introduction

The purpose of this course is to trace the entertaining development of Fezzik, a fictional character based on the movie, "The Princess Bride" which was based on the novel, The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973), which Goldman calls the "good parts version" of the novel with the same name by S. Morgenstern [Do you understand now? Anyway, get the book; you'll love it].We will look at Fezzik's development in regards to physical maturation, cognitive development, psychosocial developmental tasks, and interpersonal relationships.

II. Physical Maturation

Fezzik's physical maturation is the most fascinating aspect of his development. Fezzik was the son of a Turkish mother and father, born sometime in the middle ages.Goldman states that "Turkish women are famous for the size of their babies," and Fezzik did not diminish their reputation. Normal babies weigh between 5 1/2 to 9 1/2 pounds at birth (Specht and Craig, 1982) and lose three to four ounces immediately after. This weight usually takes a good week to gain it back (Goldman, 1973).

According to Specht and Craig the genetic characteristics of height involves several gene or gene pairs that combine additively to create larger or smaller people with larger or smaller limbs (1982). For Fezzik, all of the genes must have added up perfectly to form largeness.At birth, Fezzik weighed fifteen pounds, large even for a Turkish baby. Fezzik did not lose weight either. Rather, Fezzik gained a full pound in his first afternoon.

Normal children double their birth weight at four months and triple it after one year (Specht and Craig, 1982). At a year old Fezzik weighed 85 pounds and looked like a young boy, except he was a little hairy. To continue with the information on Fezzik's physical growth, while in kindergarten he was the size of a normal man, and Goldman states that at nine he looked like he was twenty, but he was very clumsy and would fall down a lot. Fezzik was very aware of this clumsiness and that he was physically different than others. He continued to grow when at twenty he was estimated to be over seven feet tall and over four hundred pounds. All this growth can be based on genetics, it would appear. Even Fezzik seemed to understand this at one point saying, "I can't help being strong; it's not my fault. I don't even exercise."

In looking at the possible effects of Fezzik's physical maturation in his development, Leventhal and Dawson give us these insights:

"A child's general physical appearance is often the initial and most obvious basis for the development of environmental responses to him or her. For the child emerging into the social world outside the family, responses to physical appearance may have substantial impact on other aspects of development (1982, p.33).


"Both clinical experience and some harder data attest to the fact that there can be a certain amount of psychological cost associated in childhood with being noticeably tall or short or slim or heavy. Children at the extremes of the distribution of the physical growth curve seem to show up disproportionately in psychiatric facilities (p. 36)."

This directs us to Fezzik's development in other areas, all of which were more than likely affected by his size. The first of these areas is cognitive development.

III. Cognitive Maturation

Using Piaget's stages of cognitive development and other concepts from cognitive theory we can trace some of Fezzik's development.The big thing to remember in this task is Fezzik's age, and accordingly, is there any normal development that has gone awry, or is it age appropriate (Wenar, 1982) ?.

It would appear that Fezzik's sensorimotor schemes developed rather normally. This, I believe ties in to one of the risks Fezzik faced in his development; that of people expecting too much, too soon. This expectation could pressure him to move on or develop faster than he was capable, thus never fully completing the previous stage of development.Because of the information given about him later, it is assumed that he made it through the sensorimotor stage effectively. This means, among other things, that he was able to establish object permanence; that an object can exist independent of him (Specht and Craig, 1982)

At this stage Fezzik would also be able to somewhat organize and control his environment. His environment at this stage would also provide him with a good amount of environmental stimuli. This stimulus, which mainly comes from the primary caretaker at this stage, appears to have been abundant by the fact that Fezzik?s parents were stated as caring for him very much (Specht and Craig, 1982).

As far as the Pre-operational stage it would appear that this is where Fezzik may have gotten stuck. He appears to have been able to accomplish some of the schemes necessary; imitation, symbolic play and language (Specht and Craig, 1982). He liked to play rhyme games, either out loud with others or just in his own head by himself. He would do this even when others were angry with him.

At the age of five, Fezzik expressed symptoms of solicitudophobia (fear of being alone) (Thomlinson, 1984) when he told his parents that his vision of hell is to be alone. This might not be terribly abnormal for his age, but, he carried this fear with him throughout his life.

Since cognitive development is based on having correct thoughts on what is observed, Fezzik was definitely in danger in what he thought about others. In kindergarten, which is all the school Fezzik went to, Fezzik was as large as a grown man. At first the other children were afraid of Fezzik. As they found out that Fezzik was extremely passive, they would call him a bully and hit him over and over. Fezzik would just stand there until he would finally run home crying. He was then taken out of school, trained how to fight by his parents for three years, and then fought professionally for many years to come.

Because of this Fezzik may have seen the world as hostile and become overly aggressive toward other individuals. This combined with the postulate of Adler that when an individual has an exaggerated, intensified, unresolved, feeling of inferiority, he may have a "striving to express power over the environment, a goal of dominance over his fellows" (Adler, 1946, p.70). These circumstances would create high risk for Fezzik to develop an anti-social conduct disorder.

So Fezzik's cognitive development appears to have been limited.He appeared to have only one thing going for him in his environment, his parents, but even they pulled him out of school and made him fight against his will to make money. This will be addressed further in Fezzik's psychosocial development.

IV. Psychosocial Development Tasks

In the fact that Fezzik?s parents loved him and cared for him it would appear that he was able to develop a sense of trust in them. However, his fear of being alone may have seeds in this period of time. Maybe he mistrusted his parents, that they might abandon him.It would seem that he was able to handle some of the tasks of autonomy by exploring and mastering his environment, displaying initiative in that he was great at controlling his impulses, and developed a high moral standard. This was evident in that he insisted on the principle of sportsmanship when he fought.

The next stages are where Fezzik was at a higher risk of developing some psychopathology.He did not look at his stature as an advantage, but a disadvantage, because it made him different.Because of this attitude Fezzik struggled with inferiority. As mentioned, his parents took him out of school, and against his wishes, taught him how to fight.Fezzik's learning how to fight seemed to have two effects:The first was a sense of role confusion. He was placed in the role of the principle breadwinner for the family.He was nine years old and told to fight men. At the time of the first fight, when he refused to go into the ring, his parents threatened him that they would leave him alone forever if he did not fight.This could have caused a regression to struggling with his trust.Eventually fighting professionally became Fezzik's identity, especially after his parents died and he joined the circus to fight groups of men at a time. This he did in his adolescence.

So Fezzik struggled in the development of his psychosocial tasks. He was for the most part normal, although he never let go of his fear of being alone (Erickson's theoretical information for this section found in Corey, 1977).

V. Interpersonal Relationships

Fezzik created a strong attachment to his parents which would suggest the ability to form good, loving relationships with others.The care taking of Fezzik appeared to be consistently and sensitively administered. He and his parents had a loving and trusting relationship until at the age of about six. At this time his parents showed a great insensitivity to Fezzik's feelings.They became selfish and abused their parental love by manipulating Fezzik as a tool to make money.This may have caused a contamination of the bond because of anxiety and possible anger (Wenar, 1982).

Also, according to Wenar, excessive self-control can be a risk.Fezzik would appear to have the excessiveness in that he would not defend himself against physical harm.This may have been a sign of neurosis (Wenar, 1982).

Fezzik's relations with his peers suffered greatly.Since peer relationships are based on similarities, Fezzik was out of luck.This lack of friendship could inhibit his transition from egocentrism to sharing, mutuality, and concern for the other party.

At fifteen Fezzik experienced a rupture in his attachment bond when his parents died.Fezzik's social relationships then became those in the circus. This was "the time of his adolescence and groups at his time of development is the bridge to the future. This group also gave Fezzik a sense of belonging after his parents died. Then the circus fired him while they were in Greenland. His bridge to the future was severed, he knew nobody, and faced his greatest life time fear; he was all alone. Fezzik would be at a definite risk of suicide at such a time (Wenar, 1982).

Fezzik's social relationships put him at a high risk for psychopathology.His attachment bonds and social relationships combined to form this risk.

VI. Conclusion

Fezzik's physical size contributed to all other parts of his development.He was at a high risk level to pathologies.He suffered some setbacks but was able to accomplish a lot considering them.A lot of this might be attributed to the initial attachment formed with his parents who may have given him the foundation to carry through the rest of his trials.


Adler, Alfred. Understanding Human Nature. New York: Greenberg, 1946.

Corey, Gerald. Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy.Monterey: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1977.

Goldman, William. The Princess Bride. New York: Ballantine, 1973.

Leventhal, Bennett L., and Kenneth Dawson. "Middle Childhood: Normality as Integration and Interaction," in Offer, D., and M. Sabshin (Eds.). Normality and the Life Cycle. New York: Basic

Books, 1984. (2nd ed.)

Specht, R., & Craig, G. Human Development: A Social Work Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982?

Thomlison, Ray J. "Phobic Disorders," in F.J. Turner (Ed.) Adult Psychopathology: A Social Work Perspective. New York: The Free Press, 1984.

Wenar C. Psychopathology from Infancy through Adolescence: A Developmental Approach. New York: Random House, 1982.

The Author

Lance Parks, LCSW, besides being a fan of the movie and the book, The Princess Bride, has a rich and diverse history of educational, clinical, training and administrative experience. Mr. Parks is a certified Group Home Administrator in the state of California and serves as an Associate Director and Licensed Clinical Social Worker at a residential placement facility for adolescents ages 13-18.Mr. Parks' counseling experience includes the following populations and settings: HIV positive inmates at CIM in Chino, California, outpatient Spanish speaking clinic, private psychiatric hospital, skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes), private family counseling clinic, and adolescent residential placement.

In addition, Mr. Parks has helped plan, develop and/or present training programs and conferences for the following personnel: group home staff, state certified group home administrators, probation officers, social workers, mental health personnel, LCSWs and MFTs. Since 1999 Mr. Parks has served on the continuing education committee, residential care committee and juvenile justice committee for a statewide association of private nonprofit child and family serving agencies.

Mr. Parks received his Bachelor of Science in Family Sciences with a minor in Spanish from Brigham Young University, and his Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California. ____________________________________________________________________________________
1. According to Specht and Craig normal babies weigh between 5 1/2 and 9 1/2 lbs at birth and immediately lose:

a. About 2 ounces
b. Between 3 and 4 ounces
c. Between 5 and 6 ounces
d. Babies do not lose weight after birth

2.A child's __________ is often the initial and most obvious basis for the development of environmental responses to him or her.

a. amount of crying
b. smile
c. general physical appearance
d. foot size

3.Fezzik gaining "object permanence" means he was able to establish that:

a. some objects are too big to move.
b. he doesn't have to move if he doesn't want to.
c. an object can exist independent of him.

4.Fezzik's fear of being alone is referred to as:

a. solicitudophobia
b. alonephobia
c. greenlandophobia
d. isolophobia

5.Healthy cognitive development is manifested by:

a. eating nutritious food.
b. an ability to play sports.
c. having correct thoughts on what is observed

6. Because Fezzik's parents loved him and cared for him when he was young, he was able to develop a sense of:

a. trust
b. fear
c. aptitude
d. fighting ability
e. physical strength

7. As he grew into latency age, Fezzik faced the risk of some psychopathology as a result of:

a. role confustion
b. being insecure about his size
c. being taken away from school socialization
d. threats of abandonment from his parents
e. All of the above

8.According to Wenar, Fezzik may have been somewhat neurotic because of his excessive self-control manifested by:

a. failure to defend himself against physical harm
b. refraining from eating for long periods of time
c. ability to bite his tongue in arguments

9.Fezzik had few peer relationships because such relationships are based on shared similarities, and Fezzik was not too similar to his peers.

a. True
b. False

10.Fezzik's size was an advantage in his psychosocial development

a. True
b. False
c. Arguments could be made for either side
Fezzik from the Princess Bride: His Development > Chapter 1 - A Study in Psychosocial Development
Page Last Modified On: May 14, 2016, 04:16 PM