In The Princess Bride (1987), Westley says Rodents of Unusual Size don't exist to his princess.

Princess: Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.s?

Westley: Rodents of Unusual Size?

l don't think they exist

Actually Westley saw one Rodent of Unusual Size even before the princess asked him.

Then why does Westley says Rodents of Unusual Size don't exist?

  • Are you sure he saw one? The only one I remember seeing before the one that attacks him is the one that walks past while they're both down in the quicksand. – Rand al'Thor Feb 15 '17 at 0:18
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    Though I believe John's answer is spot-on, I wonder how this scene plays out in the book? Perhaps that may provide an alternate explanation. – Iszi Feb 15 '17 at 16:11

He says this to keep the Princess calm and moving forward -- which is their best chance of surviving. He is concerned she might do something irrational like go back or take off in some random direction. He knows that just maybe they will be left alone, and his ploy will succeed. If not, then he has no control over it anyway, and will have to deal with it at that time.

He has also grown into his role as the Dread Pirate. He pulls that role off because it suits him naturally. What would the pirate do? He would down play it and essentially write if off as something to not be concerned about.

Also, it makes for good comedy. He says they don't exist, and then he is wrestling with one of them. I remember heartily laughing at this one.

It's a White Lie.

He knows they exist, as you said, he's just seen one, but he lies to Buttercup to make her feel safer.

Wikipedia Definition:

White lies are minor lies which could be considered harmless, or even beneficial, in the long term. White lies are also considered to be used for greater good. White lies are often used to shield someone from a hurtful or emotionally damaging truth, especially when not knowing the truth is completely harmless.

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    Would the downvoter care to comment? – Paulie_D Feb 13 '17 at 11:45
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    Not the downvoter, but how is it "harmless" to leave someone unprepared for a very real, life-threatening hazard? – Mason Wheeler Feb 13 '17 at 22:07
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    I just quoted the definition. the especially part may not apply here. He's just being re-assuring. – Paulie_D Feb 13 '17 at 22:14

The ROUS that he saw before was much smaller than the one that attacks right after he says the quoted line. So he sees a largish, but not dangerous rodent and assumes that the tales of the deadly ROUSes are exaggerated.

I'm pretty sure this is the first one he sees:

Wesley sighting ROUSes over Buttercup's shoulder

Compare the size of the ROUS above (perhaps a baby?) with the diameter of the tree branch. Unless that's a a huge log, that's not an unusually large rodent.

Note that the full size one that attacks is about as big as a man:

Wesley wrestling with an ROUS

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    Or, to be precise, is exactly the size of a man in a ROUS suit :) – Jack Aidley Feb 14 '17 at 14:22
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    The earlier one wasn't a baby - it was just a Rodent of Somewhat-Unusual Size. – Omegacron Feb 15 '17 at 18:40
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    This answer needs more hand-drawn red circles in MS Paint. I am not 100% sure where the ROUSes are :-) – user9311 Feb 16 '17 at 3:25

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