The Surprising Connection Between Samuel Beckett And Andre The Giant

Everyone loves a chance encounter between two icons, and none captures the imagination more than the story of how Nobel Prize-winning playwright Samuel Beckett happened to meet the young — though already massive — Andre Rousimoff, later known as the famous wrestler Andre the Giant.

The story, according to The Mary Sue, goes something like this: By the 1950s, Beckett had already become something of a legend in his own lifetime, thanks to the enormously positive response to his Theatre of the Absurd masterpiece Waiting for Godot. Beckett had lived in France since leaving Ireland in the 1930s, but in 1953 decided to relocate from Paris, where he'd lived since 1937, to the French countryside, with the intention of employing local craftsmen to build him a cottage.

It was during this time that Beckett supposedly met Andre. Andre's father, Boris Rousimoff, was a Belgian-born farmer with whom Beckett became friendly over a shared interest in card games. Andre was still a schoolboy at the time, but according to legend, was already too big to ride the school bus through the winding roads of rural France. As a favor to his new friend, Beckett agreed to give Andre regular lifts to school in his truck, where they bonded over long discussions about the game of cricket.

Beckett and Andre: strange truth, or rural myth?

The most detailed account we have of this strange meeting comes from a very unexpected source, the British actor Cary Elwes. Elwes starred alongside Andre in the 1987 movie The Princess Bride, in which he played Wesley, and Andre portrayed Fezzik. In a video clip included in the extras to the DVD release of the movie, Elwes tells most of the details of the story that have entered into popular consciousness, including the supposed bonding between Andre and Beckett, and the colossal size of the future wrestler at the time.

According to Snopes, however, the story has been somewhat embellished. Beckett did indeed drive the young Andre to school — which is remarkable in itself — but it wasn't solely because of the young man's enormous frame. There wasn't, in fact, any school bus. Rather, the children would walk the two-kilometer path to school, and if Beckett happened to be passing, he would give a ride to kids who were heading in the same direction — not only Andre, but anybody.

The legend has inspired books, short films, and TV shows over the years, and although many of these versions have included a healthy dose of creative license, they also pleasingly include an element of truth.