A thought struck me the other day and I felt like it’s interesting enough, or perhaps funny enough, to be worth writing down. It is entirely possible that someone else has already thought of this but I’ve never heard of it, so here we go:
The characters of Sue from the Johnny Cash song A Boy Named Sue, and Inigo Montoya from the film The Princess Bride are incredibly similar. First, they have both been wronged in some way and in both cases the wrongdoing is strongly linked to their respective fathers. The boy named Sue gets teased for his name, supposedly because it is “girly”, and therefor hates his father who gave him that name just before leaving him and his mother. In the case of Inigo Montoya, his father was killed by a man called Count Rugen, who refused to pay for a sword that Inigo’s father had made, and he naturally hates that man.
Second, both of them vow to seek vengeance on the person who did them wrong. Inigo devotes his life to avenge his dead father while Sue makes “a vow to the moon and stars [to] search the honky-tonks and bars and kill that man who gave [him ]that awful name.” Third, both Inigo and Sue become accomplished fighters during their quest for vengeance. Inigo trains for ten years and eventually becomes the greatest swordsman of his generation, not counting the hero Westley that is. Sue on the other hand becomes more of a bar brawler, or as he puts it “My fist got hard and my wits got keen”. Forth, both of them nearly get defeated by their adversary. In the case of Inigo Montoya, he chases after Count Rugen who suddenly throws a knife at him, nearly killing him. As for Sue, he has “fought tougher men but [he] really can’t remember when” and he only defeats his father by being faster at drawing his gun.
Finally, and this is the thing that really makes these characters similar, when they confront the person who did them wrong, both Sue and Inigo introduce themselves in a more or less polite way, including their name and their grievance with that person, before declaring their intent to kill them. Inigo actually has a well thought out line that he plans to deliver to Count Rugen right before exacting his vengeance. He reveals it quite early in the film in a dialogue between him and Westley. Then, close to the end of the film, he finally comes face to face with Count Rugen and utters the words “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You Killed my father. Prepare to Die.” Thanks to that set up, it becomes a powerful moment in an otherwise lighthearted film. Because of several more repetitions during their fight, the phrase sticks in the mind of viewers as a kind of catchphrase for the character.
The boy named Sue is a bit less eloquent in his choice of words, it’s seems like more of a spur of the moment thing, but follows the same kind of pattern. When he finally finds his father in an old saloon in Gatlinburg, Sue walks up to him where he sits and says “My name is ‘Sue!’ How do you do!? Now you gonna die!” Really, this more or less just the twentieth century version of Inigo’s phrase with some minor changes for context. Personally I really like Inigo’s catchphrase, partially because it fits his character so well, and partially because it’s so ingrained in our pop cultural heritage. That said, there is a certain kind of flair, a sort of linguistic finesse, in the way that “My name is ‘Sue’!” is both an introduction and an accusation.
In the end then, while Inigo Montoya and Sue are vary different characters in many ways, coming from entirely different sorts of media and inhabiting very different worlds, I think their narratives are surprisingly similar. Moreover, they use very similar ways to express themselves when confronting their adversaries. The main difference between them is that Sue, the character from the gritty country song, ends up being reconciled with his father while Inigo, the character from the lighthearted fantasy movie, kills his adversary and finally does avenge his father. This is is all probably just a series of coincidences, but to me it’s quite fascinating.