Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Gaiman: Stardust—No Fairies Allowed!

Whimsically Wonderful

There is always room for whimsy, and no one does it better than Neil Gaiman. Stardust, a fairy tale set in a relatively modern day—"Mr. Charles Dickens was serializing his novel Oliver Twist; Mr. Draper had just taken the first photograph of the moon, freezing her pale face on cold paper; Mr. Morse had recently announced a way of transmitting messages down metal wires."—charts the path of a young man off to find his heart's desire in the world, starting with the strangely-unused meadow beyond the town wall.

Although it is perfectly good meadowland, none of the villagers has ever grazed animals on the meadow on the other side of the wall. Nor have they used it for growing crops.... Instead, for hundreds, perhaps for thousands of years, they have posted guards on each side of the opening on the wall, and done their best to put it out of their minds.

The reason, it becomes apparent, is that the land beyond the wall is fairyland, a Grimm place where finding one's heart's desire is no simple thing. Dunstan Thorn is "eighteen, and not a romantic", but he eagerly breaches the wall and crosses that meadow. What he finds is very different from the adventure stories he has read.
Tristan sat at the top of the spire of cloud and wondered why none of the heroes of the penny dreadfuls he used to read so avidly were ever hungry. His stomach rumbled, and his hand hurt him so. Adventures are all very well in their place, he thought, but there’s a lot to be said for regular meals and freedom from pain.

Gaiman has created a very adult fairy tale, exploring some implications of magic and sorcery ignored or omitted in the kiddy tales we learned when young. And while the story does have the obligatory happy ending, it is a peculiarly Gaiman happiness.

Stardust reminded me of The Princess Bride, but without the self-conscious tongue-in-cheek flavor of that novel. "Heather" gives us a very evocative review, but the Green Man Review by Debbie Skolnik may be a spoiler.


Blogger samraat said...


4/03/2010 9:21 PM  

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