Elias wrote a great essay about Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. It’s an exceptional piece of analytic writing. Enjoy!
Stardust is the story of two worlds, magical and non-magical, that are aware of each other. Despite this, they still don’t coexist together. They keep separate from each other for several reasons, maybe the magical world is too dangerous for the normal, maybe they work in different ways or simply they just don’t know much about the other.
The book tells the story about a young boy name Tristran, on the quest for love. But Tristran is not like the other boys. Tristran was born differently than anyone in both worlds. His father crossed the boundaries of what’s normal, during one of the faerie markets, in which the worlds get together, only for one day every nine years. In this market Tristran was conceived, and even though Tristran was born in the Faerie world, his mother sends him to his father in the normal world.
Tristran grew up in a very normal way, he was just a simple shop boy. But when Tristran finds himself promising his love, Victoria, that he will go on a quest for a fallen star as proof of his love, he’s going to discover that in the magical world, things aren’t always what they look like. His star is not just a star, but a young lady, who Tristan, upon discovering this, still wants to take to his love. On the way back home, Tristran and the star find themselves going through adventures together.
As in many fairytales, in the magical world there are witches, princes and princesses and different magical creatures. But in “Stardust” Neil Gaiman presents something different, reading through the book one will notice that the story is twisted, uncommon and darker that other typical fairytales.
In the first place we have the Stomhold Kingdom and the way that their Lord is chosen:
“Privately the eighty-first lord had hoped that by the time his end came upon him, six of the seven young lords at Stormhold would be dead, and but one still alive. That one would be the eighty-second Lord of Stormhold and Master of the High Crags; it was, after all, how he had attained his own title several hundred years before” (Pag 58)
While in other stories one has to draw a sword out of a rock or maybe just be the firstborn, Neil Gaiman presents such an odd way of choosing a leader.From my point of view, this makes some sense; a leader needs to have some determination, drive and maybe some coldness for making good decisions.
In “Stardust” there are many magical creatures, among them is a beautiful white unicorn, an animal traditionally seen as a powerful source of magic and treated as a sacred creature, but here the evil witch doesn’t treat it as such:
“She walked around the coach and opened the door. The head of the dead unicorn, her dagger still in its cold eye-socket, flopped down as she did so.” (Pag 175)
“The witch-queen reached down and pulled her knife from out of the beast’s eye-socket. She sliced across its throat. Blood began to ooze, too slowly, from the gash she had made. She walked back to the carriage and returned with her cleaver. Then she began to hack at the unicorn’s neck, until she had separated it from the body, and the severed head tumbled into the rock hollow, now filling with dark red puddle of brackish blood” (Pag 175-176)
The mere fact that she killed the unicorn makes the book different, and its’ death is described as much more graphic, bloody and dark. That’s what Neil Gaiman tries to do. He wants to give us a good fairy tale story, but for a different audience, a much more grown-up audience.
Furthermore, the way that “Stardust” ends is definitely not the “kids’” ending. They didn’t lived “Happily ever after”; it’s more like “Till death do us part”:
“Tristran and Yvaine were happy together. Not forever-after, for Time, the thief eventually takes all things into his dusty storehouse, but they were happy, as all things go, for a long while”
In my opinion, it’s a very sad ending for Yvaine and it’s described in a very subtle way, even though she did live a very happy life with Tristran and they were happy, at the end, he had to die as a normal human being that he was, and she’s left alone as an immortal being. In some parts this resembles reality, because sometimes we lose things we love, and not everything in life is happiness or sadness, there cannot be one without the other. And maybe sometimes we need a little sadness in our lives to appreciate the happiness that we have in it.
Ultimately, “Stardust” is a great fairy tale story, but not the typical kids’ fairy tale. Neil Gaiman suggests that these types of stories can be enjoyed by older people too, and he makes his point by adding a twist; killing and blood and a unique ending.