I bought a copy of Stardust a few months before the movie came out in 2007. I told myself firmly that I would not see the movie until after I had read the book. But there always seemed to be something else I needed to be reading or wanted to read so Stardust sat on my shelf as the release date for the movie came and went.
I listened to my friends gush and rave about the movie; how not since The Princess Bride had they loved a fairy tale so much. But as badly as I wanted to go and see it I resisted the temptation, standing firm by my choice to read the book first. In the end, I saw the movie first. I’m a firm believer that no matter what the book is always better. I don’t care what movie or book it is; I don’t care who wrote it or who is directing it. The book is better, hands down. In the case of Stardust I have to admit that they are both equally wonderful.
There are differences between the book and the movie, just enough that I felt as if the two don’t compete against each other for the number one spot in my heart. The movie stays true to the spirit of the book while adding a whole new element to this swashbuckling tale of adventure and true love. In my opinion there just aren’t enough stories like this one, of course if this kind of fairy tale were common place I might not love it as much as I do.
In the town of Wall, named for the wall by which it stands, a young man by the name of Tristran Thorn promises a fallen star to the town beauty in the hopes that it will capture her heart.
Of course the story really starts much earlier than that, with a fair on the borders of faerie where a man falls in love with a girl who is not quite human. The fair, held every nine years, is the only time in which the local villagers of Wall are allowed to cross the wall.
When Tristran wants to cross the wall years later he is permitted, though he does not realize why. Soon he is on his way across the magical lands of Faerie in search of the fallen star. Along the way he meets a strange little man who his father once did a good turn for; the stranger in turn helps Tristran along his way.
Once Tristran finally finds the star, who just happens to be a girl, it isn’t long before he loses her. Of course, he isn’t the only one after the star and in the end becomes the Star’s rescuer as he battles ancient witches and blood thirsty princes.
There are elements of the fantastic, the wonderful and bizarre, and Neil Gaiman touches on the fairy tales we grew up reading. Red caps are mentioned and a unicorn and lion battle it out for a crown; these are scenes from much earlier tales that trigger the part of your brain that truly believes that magic is real and happy endings do come true. As if we could ever really stop believing. Filled with talking trees, princes and princesses, magic and wonder, witches, and of course a wonderful love story, Stardust should not be missed.
There is also the element of humor, which to me smacks of Terry Pratchett who co-wrote Good Omens with Gaiman, but the humor, in the end, is purely Gaiman. An example of this is once the star has fallen to earth and he has spent the better part of a page describing the beautiful star falling, “And there was a voice, a high clear, female voice which said, “Ow,” and then, very quietly, it said “Fuck,” and then it said “Ow,” once more.” I just had to laugh as I read that, I don’t know how you couldn’t.
So read the book and see the movie, in which ever order you like. If you haven’t already read the book but loved the movie I hope it inspires you to dip into Gaiman’s unforgettable fairy tale. I’m not going to say it’s better but just as wonderful in another way.