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Literature / Stardust

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Stardust is a modern Fairy Tale written by Neil Gaiman. The main plot centers around Tristran Thorn, a young man with a mysterious ancestry who wants nothing more than to win the heart of his beloved Victoria. When he grandly declares that he'd even give her that star in the sky that just fell, she challenges him to do just that in return for anything he wants from her.

The fallen star turns out to be a girl named Yvaine who isn't too keen on becoming Tristran's prize possession. The star's dislike of him becomes the least of Tristran's problems as he learns that he isn't the only one who wants the star, and that some of them have far more malicious designs on her, all in the name of beauty, power, and/or fame. Needless to say, the road back home is quite a long and eventful one, and that's before the Reveals begin coming to light...


Stardust was originally published in four parts by DC Comics, lavishly illustrated by Charles Vess, before being collected into book form. It has also subsequently been published in a standard novel format without the illustrations.

In 2007, it was adapted into a movie. In 2016, it had an Audio Adaptation for BBC Radio 4.

If you're looking for the bizarre Golden Age superhero comic, go here

Stardust contains examples of:

  • Abduction Is Love: Tristran starts out trying to force Yvaine to come back to England with him to show her to Victoria, then the two subsequently fall in love.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The eldest of the Lilim. Played straight, as in quite a few of Gaiman's works. Played with in The Movie (imagine the scene in the castle of the witches, after Lamia's sisters die, and how the film would have ended if she truly were regretting it).
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  • Another Dimension: Faerie
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Tristran and Yvaine
  • Beardness Protection Program: Inverted: Primus shaves his beard hoping that it'll make Septimus hesitate before killing him. We never get to learn whether or not it would have worked.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Stormholds really need some therapy.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Septimus" is obviously from the Latin for "7", but happens to also be close to the Greek for "poisonous".
  • Bittersweet Ending: The book could have had a Happily Ever After ending, but decides to explore what happens AFTER Happily Ever After. To quote The Sandman, "If you go on long enough, all stories end in death."
  • Cain and Abel: The customary method of royal succession is that the last prince to survive free-for-all fratricide among his brothers becomes the heir.-
  • Came from the Sky: Yvaine
  • Cool Sword: One that is made of glass.
  • Curse Escape Clause: The Curse Escape Clause for the witch's slave (actually Princess Una, the lost Princess of Stormhold and Tristran's mother) is that she will be free "when the moon loses her daughter, if it is in a week when two Mondays come together." These events both happen: the former is Yvaine giving her heart to Tristran, and the latter is that Mr. Monday and Victoria get married, creating a second Monday.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Yvaine and Victoria both go through it.
  • Departure Means Death: If Tristran had taken Yvaine out of Faerie, she would have turned into a meteorite. Yvaine knew this and was prepared to step over the wall near the end of the book if Tristran didn't return her feelings and was still in love with Victoria Forester.
  • Engagement Challenge: Tristran's quest to find a star for Victoria. Its deconstruction is one of the plot points when Tristran realizes who he loves more.
  • Exact Words: Victoria promises Tristran anything he desires, if he'll bring back a star for her. At the end of the book, he reminds her of this, and then goes on to say that what he desires is that she marry Robert Monday and be happy.
  • Expospeak Gag: "There is a proverbial saying chiefly concerned with warning against too closely calculating the numerical value of unhatched chicks."
  • The Fair Folk: Stormhold is just a kingdom within the Land of Faerie.
  • False Soulmate: Victoria to Tristran.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale
  • Gate Guardian: The town of Wall appoints two of its citizens to watch the hole into Faerie to make sure none of the locals gets curious and wanders across.
  • Gender Bender: The goatherd chap gets this treatment.
  • Good Princess, Evil Queen: The villains are the Lilim, witches who were formerly queens of a powerful magical nation (the text refers to them as witch-queens). In the present, they rely on stars to keep them young and beautiful. In contrast, Lady Una is Faerie's sole princess, and unlike the Lilim and her seven murderous brothers, she is kind, good-hearted, and supportive of her long-lost son.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Tristran, to an egregious degree. He has one human ear and one pointy one.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The Three Lilim.
  • The Hedge of Thorns: Literally it's a wall, not a hedge, but displays many features of this trope.
  • Heroic Bastard: Tristran, whose parents only knew each other for a single night. However, legitimacy doesn't seem to matter in the succession to Stormhold.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Lilim's final attempt to capture Yvaine fails because of the charm the Lilim placed on Ditchwater Sal which made it impossible for Sal to notice Yvaine's presence.
  • I Gave My Word: One witch gives her word not to harm another, and keeps it — but nevertheless manages to cause her considerable inconvenience.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: All the sons of the late king... for not killing each other fast enough.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: When Tristran finds the star, her eyes are raw and red with weeping.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Stars and humans. They can't have offspring.
    • Faeries and humans. They can have offspring, Tristran himself being an example.
  • I Owe You My Life: Much to Yvaine's chagrin.
  • Irony: There's a lot in the book.
  • Klingon Promotion: How the princes try to gain the their father's request.
  • Knife Nut: The Witch Queen loves to stab people to death. Even Unicorns.
  • Land of Faerie: The setting of most of the story.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Two witches competing for the star meet on the road and have a conversation, at the end of which one magically handicaps her competitor and wipes her memory of the encounter.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Trapped with what is basically the most powerful witch ever and with no method of fighting back, Tristran uses the candle wax rapid traveling trick using a lace from his jerkin as the candle's wick; however the resulting candle is so small that he has to stick his hand in the fire to get it lit. His hand never recovers enough to actually be useful again.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: Subverted.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Tristran's mother to the princes of Stormhold.
  • Loser Gets the Girl: Tommy Forester.
  • MacGuffin Turned Human: Yvaine is the fallen star that the potential heirs to the throne, the witch trio, and the protagonist all need to retrieve. Of course, we know she's a star right from her introduction, and so does everybody else. The hero was a little slow on the uptake.
  • Magic Fire: The fires created by witches will burn with different colors than normal due to their magic.
  • Master Poisoner: Septimus, whom the text notes is "one of Nature's poisoners".
  • May–December Romance: Robert Monday and Victoria Forester. This is actually foreshadowed and played with early on, but quickly buried beneath the main plot.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Yvaine and Tristran.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Magic is treated very casually, even by Tristran. In fact, he inherited the family talent for locating things quite strongly himself and has no issue using candlewax and a nursery rhyme to pseudo teleport.
  • Nature Tinkling: The short man is implied to have pooped on a tree, then Tristran urinates on it.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Several characters are described going about their business.
  • No Man of Woman Born: Tristran's mother is to be released when the moon loses her daughter, if it happens in a week where two Mondays come together. What fulfills the conditions is that a star (a daughter of the moon) gave her heart entirely to Tristran the week Mr. Monday and Victoria Forester got married. The chain breaks at the moment that this happens. It is hinted that Tristran's conception and birth was part of a Gambit Roulette to achieve this end.
  • No Name Given: The witch-queens. Their names were lost when Carnadine sank beneath the sea, though the eldest uses the alias Morwanneg, which means "wave of the sea".
  • No Ontological Inertia: Billy turns back into a goat after being headbutted by the unicorn.
  • Numerical Theme Naming: The children of the Lord of Stormhold, Primus, Secundus, ... and so on.
  • Nursery Rhyme: Nursery rhymes contain great secrets. One character jeers at the way ordinary people recite them to babies.
  • The Obstructive Love Interest: Victoria.
  • One-Night-Stand Pregnancy: Tristran was conceived when his father, Dunstan, had a one-night stand with one of the stallholders at the annual fairy market. She left baby Tristran with Dunstan the following year since her life situation was not conducive to raising a child. Dunstan went on to marry a local woman and although Tristran later finds his mother, she and his father don't get together.
  • One-Word Title: Also a Portmantitle.
  • Phosphor-Essence: Yvaine glows more brightly the happier she is. Yvaine herself is not particularly powerful; however, her heart is, and the brighter she is, the more powerful her heart is.
  • Portmantitle: A combination of "Star" and "Dust".
  • Precision F-Strike: When Yvaine falls into Stormhold and is in pain from what caused her to fall from the sky.
  • Rags to Royalty
  • Really 700 Years Old / Time Abyss: Lots of characters are much older than physically possible. The eighty-first Lord of Stormhold is supposed to be hundreds years old, Yvaine is a star, and the Lilim are just as old as the WHOLE WORLD.
  • Relationship Reboot: Tristran and Yvaine do this.
  • Road Trip Romance
  • Royal Blood: Tristran.
  • Runic Magic: Used as a method of divining the future. Primus, in particular, is noted to have the ability to read runes.
  • Sacred Hospitality: When one witch pledges to treat another as if she were her guest, the other takes it as a perfect promise.
  • Scars Are Forever: Yvaine limps after her fall from the sky, and Tristran burns his hand - and in contrast to how it usually turns out in fairy tales, both are somewhat crippled for life as a result. Either there was no cure available (which is difficult to believe, since they are in a land full of magic, and they eventually became the king and queen), or they eventually just decided to keep their handicaps.
  • Science Destroys Magic: The more civilized our world becomes, the fewer links it has to the other world.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: There are two major villains, who effectively and elegantly dispose of each other when the heroes aren't even around.
  • Shock and Awe: Although not a superpower, it is still a weapon.
  • Shout-Out: A subtle one to one of Gaiman's other works
    Then Death came in the night and whispered her secret into the ear of the eighty-second Lord of Strormhold, and he nodded his grey head and said nothing...
    Outside there was a gust of wind, and the fire flared up green and blue and white.
    Or, as Coleridge put it:
    About, about, in reel and rout
    The death-fires danced at night;
    The water, like a witch's oils,
    Burnt green, and blue and white.
  • Stay on the Path: Anyone who strays from the path through the Serewood will fall victim to murderous plants.
  • Stealth Pun: The name of the young dullard who owns the goat is Brevis. Think about what action goats are known for...
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Pretty Tristran realises his love for the most beautiful girl that he left home was shallow and meaningless when he returns.
  • Succession Crisis: The whole reason for the shitty way the princes of Stormhold treat each other. Resolved when all the princes kick the bucket and Tristran is revealed to be the son of their sister and therefore the last remaining male heir.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Tristran is asked, in his dream, to keep down the noisiness of his dream.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Septimus.
  • Technicolor Fire: One witch recognizes the fire of another, because witches' fires burn strange colors.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Babylon candles, the Castle society's hinted-at signature move.
  • Threshold Guardians: Two of 'em, hired by the town to keep folk out of the Wall.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Billy the goat, making it justified in this specific case. Enchanted into human form, it tries to headbutt a unicorn. Think about that one for a second.
  • The 'Verse: Shared with American Gods, though you'd only know it by reading Wall: A Prologue.
  • The Wall Around the World: The wall in the village of Wall.
  • When Trees Attack: Tristran gets in trouble with a hostile part of the forest early in his trip beyond the Wall.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The ending of the book: After Tristran dies of old age, Yvaine is left to live in a place far from the home to which she can never return, without the man she loves, forever.


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