I have always wanted a Neil Gaiman book ever since we had a workshop in my beloved organization, PANTAS, in our Anti-Realism theme for the semester about his short story. Although we only do the workshop on short stories and I fancy reading novels more than short stories, I was in awe with how chilling and haunting Gaiman’s descriptions were, especially with Troll Bridge, from his Smoke and Mirrors collection, which we discussed in my Mythology class. Seriously, the story still freaks me out.
For my first Gaiman book, I bought Stardust. I am well aware of the movie and how it was well, beautiful as most of the people would say, but my nonetheless, my not too long history with movie adaptations has told me that if given a chance, always read the novel first before watching the movie adaptation.
Stardust was well, a fairy tale for the adults, such as the blurb says. Filled with adventures and rescuing. It was about a young lad named Tristan Thorn, who, smitten by a beautiful gray-eyed Victoria Forester, had promised, out of the whim, to give her a fallen star in exchange of a favor the lass will obey. As love-struck as he was, he set on a journey to retrieve the said fallen star, even if it meant leaving his town and passing the Wall that separates his town from the other world.
While reading the novel, I was reminded of Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of a Folk Tale, which is about the structures that well, folk tales follow. If you hadn’t read it, try this link and tell me of your mind was fucked as well.
Basically, the novel was just as that—a hero, driven by passion which is love, set on a journey to woo the woman of his dreams. But in Stardust, our well-loved hero found out that the star that he promised to give to Victoria, turned out to be a woman called Yvaire, and well, be the woman he ended up marrying.
As cliché and as forewarned was I by Propp’s templates, I was giddy and excited with how the characters were built.
First, Victoria was well, a bitch. The typical crush ng bayan or Queen Bee¸ who is well-aware of the attention she was getting.
Then, the hermit who shall empower our hero in his journey was a sarcastic, smart aleck man, rather than the kind, old guy who always needs some help. The hermit, or the small hairy man was met by our hero on his journey to retrieve the star and was saved by Tristan. As a reward, he was given a candle that is believed to lead him to the fallen star. The little hairy man was “charmed, enchanted, ensorcelled, and confusticated,” as the character has told Tristan about himself. He was probably the coolest and standoffish hermit I have ever encountered. Rock on, you!
Also, the star, which turned out to be a lady, was not the typical damsel in distress. Fine, Tristan found her literally in distress as she had obviously fallen from the sky and had broken her leg, but boy, was she indifferent and snobbish with him. As much as she could, she avoided getting help from Tristan and even had the guts to leave Tristan, despite her injured leg. She was a stubborn and proud star, just like most “stars” we know.
Gaiman’s description was as horrid and vivid as ever that while I was reading the part wherein the witch had slain the unicorn, I let out a small squeal and felt my heart losing a part to go for the killed unicorn.
The witch-woman howled, then; the unicorn had speared her with its horn, through the shoulder. It lifted her off the ground, triumphantly, preparing to hurl her to the ground and then, to dash her to death beneath its sharp hooves , when, impaled as she was, the witch-woman swung around and thrust the point of the longer of the rock-glass knives into the unicorn’s eye and far into its skull.
Of my long history of reading, I have always pictured the scenes in my head and the above scene seriously haunted me in my sleep.
Other than the characters and the sharp images, I also enjoyed how the dialogues were written. Such as the following:
“Well,” he said, “f’r example, if they ask where you’ve come from, you could say ‘Behind me,” and if they asked where you’re going, you’d say ‘In front of me.”
And also, some intelligent remarks:
“Sometimes I wonder if she transforms people into animals, or whether she finds the beast inside us, and frees it.”
In case you are wondering, I’d be a dog if Madame Semele will transform me. Hands down.
Of course, the mush:
They kissed for the first time then in the cold spring rain, though neither one of them knew that it was raining. Tristan’s heart pounded in his chest as it were not big enough to contain all the joy that it held. He opened his eyes as he kissed the star. Her sky-blue eyes stared back into his, and in her eyes he could see no parting from her.
Also this, which is probably the cheesiest line in the novel:
“Could it be that the heart that you seek is no longer my own?”
But my favorite sadist lines ever:
He found his hands twining, almost of their own volition, into the star’s wet hair. He wondered how it could have taken him so long to realize how much he cared for her, and he told her so, and she called him an idiot, and he declared that it was the finest thing that ever a man has been called.
I realized that I actually have immense fondness of female characters that are aloof with emotions and seemingly macho and all too cynic when it comes to love. I’m a sucker for sado-masochist love stories, where the female takes the role of the sadist, or at least, the female character shows that she has balls.
The novel was a balance of wit and mush, thus making it an adult fairy tale.
I was basically in love with the novel, but somewhere along the way, I felt that it was a little constricted and too fast paced that I was surprised in some parts, and that I had to back read to check what I missed, like when Yvanie and Tristan were suddenly all lovey gooey around each other. I mean, sure, I knew that they were bound to fall in love with each other yada yada, but still, I was surprised at their sudden well, love. One minute they were cold and civil toward each other, then they had that life threatening moment where Tristan, being the hero that he is, rescued Yvanie and she was of bound to stay with him as a rule. The next thing I know, Tristan was happy not to marry Victoria and Yvanie felt jealous when she knew Victoria getting married, and suddenly he had left his family to be with Yvaine, then they were lovers, and they were discussing kids and they were to get married. I think I missed the part where they were falling for each other.
I loved the novel. I loved the characters and the dialogues, I just felt like it was squeezed into this book where in the author could have expounded on the journey or have given more background with the other characters or something. It was beautiful, all right, but it was hmm, bitin. It was like some of the characters were just cameos, like the man in the ship, whoever was he, or the guard of the wall, and the many other characters. I was not even sure if I just wasn’t paying that much attention to what I was reading which lead me to feeling that it lacked something, but I am pretty much convinced that I had not skip a page or a chapter.
Nonetheless, all was very giddy with the ending and yeah, a fairy tale of castles and of love. Though the novel ended with the familiar “and they lived happily ever after” theme, I preferred the epilogue ending where Yvaine prevailed as a better ruler and that he outlived Tristan. It could have been kickass having it done that way, but I was a little miffed when it had to end with her still sad for having lost her love. Oh well, I just it’s just how love happens. Always the woman gets to wait.
Now, I just need to watch the movie and see how everything was justified. Or maybe I shouldn’t?