The fairy tales we grow up listening to and learning from our parents and family are usually old; centuries old, sometimes ancient; all with one thing in common: they have elements of truth in them taken from history. Every once in a while, a story will come along that seems like it is a great fairy tale like that of Hansel and Gretel; a story that has come down from history with those elements of truth, even though it has been imagined and created by a single writer and artist not too long ago. Stardust is one of those stories: a story that feels like a fairy tale to be told and taught to children of all ages, everywhere, for generations to come.
Set in the time of Queen Victoria and when Charles Dickens was serializing Oliver Twist, there is a small and quaint town called Wall. It is named so for it sits on the very boundary between our world and the world of Faerie. Naturally, there is a strong stone wall stretching across the edge of town, along this crucial boundary. There is one opening in the wall that is constantly under guard; the guard’s duty is to let no one pass from the village of Wall through this hole and across the boundary into Faerie. Except that Dunstan Thorn, a sometime guard of the wall, wishes to see this magical world and one day sneaks through the wall and into another world. He finds a market, an event that only happens every seven years at this location. There he finds a beautiful woman who has been made a slave to a witch. She gives him a gift for a single kiss.
Returning to Wall, he knows he cannot stay away from the girl who will not leave his mind, and returns that night to her. They make love under the stars and then Dustan leaves the realm of Faerie and continues his ordinary life in Wall. Nine months later, a delivery is left on his doorstep. It is a newborn baby in a basket, along with an envelope with the name TRISTRAN THORN on it. This is Dunstan’s child, and the message in the envelope for Tristran, his son, when he is old enough.
Years pass and Tristran grows into a young man living an ordinary life in Wall. There is a young girl, Victoria Forrester, who has stolen his heart with her beauty and charm. They have known each other since they were children, but Tristran has been unable to confess his love for her. Then one night, under the stars, as they picnic together, they see a bright falling star plunge into the deep lands of Faerie. Tristran promises then to go out and bring back that fallen star for Victoria, as a token of his love. Victoria allows him, thinking it a joke, and says if he is not back in seven days she will marry the man who has asked for her hand.
So begins Tristran’s adventure into the land of Faerie in search of the fallen star. Little does he know the fallen star is now a young girl who was knocked from the night sky by a jewel, an heirloom belonging to the King to Stormhold. The King lies on his deathbed with three of his seven remaining sons by his bedside. Whoever returns with the jewel will become king of Stormhold. There are also three ancient witches who saw the star fall and seek it. If they return with the human form of the star, they can sacrifice her and regain their magical powers, their youth and beauty. And so Tristran must make this long journey, against all these odds; along the way he will meet many strange people – some friends, some enemies, some willing to do anything to get the star.
Stardust is a magical story that seems to possess elements of every fairytale ever told. With the relative success of the movie that did not do the original story justice, this new and beautiful hardcover edition is an ideal addition for any Gaiman and/or Vess fan. But it is also the perfect gift for those family members wishing to tell this story to their children. Along with the wonderful layout and incredible illustrations full of color and life, this edition has unique illustrations by Vess never before seen in the development of Stardust, along with the original proposal by Gaiman and Vess with the cover art and further illustrations.
Stardust is a story you will want to have on your shelf for the rest of your life, to read it yourself on cold rainy nights, or to read it to you children and your children’s children. It is a story to be told many times over and learned by many.
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Originally written on August 17th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.