Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

StardustStardust, first published in 1999, won a Mythopoeic Award and has since been made into a hit movie.


Stardust is a short novel (or novella) that covers the journeyings of Tristran Thorn. Born of a short liaison between his father, a citizen of Wall, England, and his mother, a citizen of Faerie, Tristran has never really fit in. In love with Victoria Forester, he promises to fetch her a fallen star in return for his heart’s desire.

Tristan crosses the wall into Faerie and becomes part of a race to find the fallen star. Other star-seekers include the Lilim, a witch coven that needs a star’s heart to become young again, and the Stormhold family, which must find the star to retrieve the Power of Stormhold. Tristran finds the star and is surprised to find that she is a person. The pairs sets off together, and along the way, Tristan comes to find his heart’s desire.

I really liked this book. I must add, though, that my enjoyment of it was somewhat curtailed by the fact that I saw the movie first. The movie closely followed the events of the book and so there was little, at first, in the book to add to surprise me. That being said, the book is well worth the read for Gaiman’s descriptions and the subtle use of fairy tales to inform the story. The writing is superb, as illustrated by one of my favorite lines:

“The squirrel has not yet found the acorn that will grow into the oak that will be cut to form the cradle of the babe who will grow to slay me.”

Touted as a fairy tale for adults, this book definitely delivers. Fairy tales and myths and characters are used to give the story a history and timelessness that would have been difficult to otherwise convey. The ending diverges substantially from the movie version and lends a simplicity I thought more befitting to the story.

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman [rating:4]

Other Reviews:
Reading Adventures
Trish’s Reading Nook
Just a (Reading) Fool
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Blue Archipelago
Books Love Me


What traditional fairy tales and nursery rhymes does Stardust reference, and how do they affect the story?


My own knowledge of fairy tales and nursery rhymes is somewhat limited to those exploited by Disney. However, I could tell throughout my reading of this book that a richer knowledge of such things would enhance the experience. Bits of two nursery rhymes are quoted in Stardust:

How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again.
Yes, if your feet are nimble and light,
You can get there by candlelight.

The Lion beat the Unicorn all about the town.
He beat him once
He beat him twice
With all his might and main
He beat him three times over
His power to maintain

Each rhyme helps Tristran figure out a puzzle or understand an element of Faerie. I think stories of all kinds play a similar role in our lives. Stories allow us to examine our fears and to admire the bravery of others, to seeks solutions to complicated problems and to empathize with others. Familiarity with stories of all kinds will help us along the path of life to our heart’s desires. Perhaps this theory explains, in some part, my love of reading. How did your knowledge of fairy tales inform your reading of this book?