Stardust (Gaiman novel)

novel by Neil Gaiman

Stardust: Being A Romance Within The Realm of Faerie (1998) is the second solo prose novel by Neil Gaiman. It is usually published with illustrations by Charles Vess. For quotes from the 2007 film based upon it, see Stardust (2007).

"The little folk dare anything", said his friend. "And they talks a lot of nonsense. But they talks an awful lot of sense, as well. You listen to 'em at your peril, and you ignore 'em at your peril, too".

Chapter One Million: In Which We Learn of the Village of Wall...

In Which We Learn of the Village of Wall, and of the Curious Thing That Occurs There Every Nine Years
  • There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart's Desire.
    And while that is, as beginnings go, not entirely novel (for every tale about every young man there ever was or will be could start in a similar manner) there was much about this young man and what happened to him that was unusual, although even he never knew the whole of it.
    The tale started, as many tales have started, in Wall.
    • First lines
  • Immediately to the east of Wall is a high grey rock wall, from which the town takes its name. This wall is old, built of rough, square lumps of hewn granite, and it comes from the woods and goes back to the woods once more.
    There is only one break in the wall; an opening about six feet in width, a little to the north of the village.
    Through the gap in the wall can be seen a large green meadow; beyond the meadow, a stream; and beyond the stream there are trees. From time to time shapes and figures can be seen, amongst the trees, in the distance. Huge shapes and odd shapes and small, glimmering things which flash and glitter and are gone. Although it is perfectly good meadow-land, 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.
  • Very rarely someone comes to Wall knowing what they are looking for, and these people they will sometimes allow through. There is a look in the eyes, and once seen it cannot be mistaken.
  • The guard is relaxed once every nine years, on May Day, when a fair comes to the meadow.

Chapter Two: In Which Tristran Thorn Grows to Manhood...

In Which Tristran Thorn Grows to Manhood and Makes a Rash Promise
  • By the time Victoria was seventeen, and Tristan also, she was in all probability, he was certain, the most beautiful girl in the British Isles. Tristran would have insisted on the most beautiful girl in the entire British Empire, if not the world, and boxed you, or been prepared to, had you argued with him. You would have been hard-pressed to find anyone in Wall who would have argued with him, though; she turned many heads and, in all probability, broke many hearts.
  • Every boy in the village was in love with Victoria Forester. And many a sedate gentleman, quietly married with grey in his beard, would stare at her as she walked down the street, becoming, for a few moments, a boy once more, in the spring of his years with a spring in his step.
  • Few of us now have seen the stars as folk saw them then — our cities and towns cast too much light into the night — but, from the village of Wall, the stars were laid out like worlds or like ideas, uncountable as the trees in a forest or the leaves on a tree. Tristan would stare into the darkness of the sky until he thought of nothing at all, and then he would go back to his bed, and sleep like a dead man.
  • "And if I brought you the fallen star?" asked Tristran lightly. "What would you give me? A kiss? Your hand in marriage?"
    "Anything you desire", said Victoria, amused.

Chapter Three: In Which We Encounter Several Other Persons...

In Which We Encounter Several Other Persons, Many of Them Still Alive, With an Interest in the Fate of the Fallen Star
  • A question like 'How big is Faerie?' does not admit of a simple answer.
    Faerie, after all, is not one land, one principality or dominion. Maps of Faerie are unreliable, and may not be depended upon.
    We talk of the kings and queens of Faerie as we would speak of the kings and queens of England. But Faerie is bigger than England, as it is bigger than the world (for, since the dawn of time, each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn't there has taken refuge in Faerie; so it is now, by the time that we come to write of it, a most huge place indeed, containing every manner of landscape and terrain). Here, truly, there be dragons. Also gryphons, wyverns, hippogriffs, basilisks, and hydras. There are all manner of more familiar animals as well, cats affectionate and aloof, dogs noble and cowardly, wolves and foxes, eagles and bears.

Chapter Four: "Can I Get There by Candlelight?"

  • He stared up at the stars: and it seemed to him then that they were dancers stately and graceful, performing a dance almost infinite in its complexity. He imagined he could see the very faces of the stars; pale, they were, and smiling gently, as if they had spent so much time above the world, watching the scrambling and the joy and the pain of the people below them, that they could not help being amused every time another little human believed itself the center of its world, as each of us does.
  • "The little folk dare anything", said his friend. "And they talks a lot of nonsense. But they talks an awful lot of sense, as well. You listen to 'em at your peril, and you ignore 'em at your peril, too".

Chapter Five: In Which There is Much Fighting for the Crown

  • This I say: you have stolen knowledge you did not earn, but it shall not profit you. For you shall be unable to see the star, unable to perceive it, unable to touch it, to taste it, to find it, to kill it. Even if another were to cut out its heart and give it to you, you would not know it, never know what you had in your hand. This I say. These are my words, and they are a true-speaking.

Chapter Six: What the Tree Said

  • When I was very young, somebody — maybe it was a squirrel, they talk so much, or a magpie, or maybe a fishie — told me that Pan owned all this forest. Well, not owned owned. Not like he would sell the forest to someone else, or put a wall all around it ... It's not hard to own something. Or everything. You just have to know that it's yours, and then be willing to let it go. Pan owns this forest, like that.
  • I will tell you three true things. Two of them I will tell you now, and the last is for when you need it most. You will have to judge for yourself when that will be.
  • "I am the most miserable person who ever lived", he said to the Lord Primus, when they stopped to feed the horses feedbags of damp oats.
    "You are young, and in love", said Primus. "Every young man in your position is the most miserable young man who ever lived".

Chapter Seven: "At the Sign of the Chariot"

  • Billy lowered his head and ran, headlong, at the unicorn, as if he were about to butt it with his forehead. The unicorn lowered its head also, and Billy the Innkeeper met his unfortunate end.
  • The witch-queen pulled her body from the horn, and, one hand gripping her wounded shoulder, the other holding her cleaver, she staggered to her feet.
    Her eyes scanned the room, alighting on Tristran and the star huddled by the fire. Slowly, agonizingly slowly, she lurched toward them, a cleaver in her hand and a smile upon her face.
    "The burning golden heart of a star at peace is so much finer than the flickering heart of a little frightened star", she told them, her voice oddly calm and detached, coming, as it was, from that blood-bespattered face. "But even the heart of a star who is afraid and scared is better by far than no heart at all".
  • Stand, or we die now.

Chapter Eight: Which Treats of Castles in the Air, and Other Matters

  • There is a proverbial saying chiefly concerned with warning against too closely calculating the numerical value of unhatched chicks.
  • She had a unicorn to protect her. Now I have the unicorn's head, and I will bring it back with me, for it's long enough since we had fresh ground unicorn's horn in our arts
  • "She is still in Faerie. But she is going to the Market at Wall, and that is too close to the world on the other side of the wall. Once she goes into that world, she will be lost to us".
    For they each of them knew that, were the star to cross the wall and enter the world of things as they are, she would become, in an instant, no more than a pitted lump of metallic rock that had fallen, once, from the heavens: cold and dead and of no more use to them.
  • Tristran 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.
    Still, he was alive, and the wind was in his hair, and the cloud was scudding through the sky like a galleon at full sail. Looking out over the world from above, he could never remember feeling so alive as he did at that moment. There was a skyness to the sky and a nowness to the world that he had never seen or felt or realized before.
    He understood that he was, in some way, above his problems, just as he was above the world.
  • It doesn't matter if I believe it or not, that's just the way things are.

Chapter Ten: Stardust

Have been unavoidably detained by the world.
Expect us when you see us.
  • It has occasionally been remarked upon that it is as easy to overlook something large and obvious as it is to overlook something small and niggling, and that the large things one overlooks can often cause problems.
  • I ran from him. But he found me and bound me with an obligation, which binds my kind more securely than any chain ever could.
  • I think that I am responsible for all that I have done, not you. And it is hard to regret a moment of it, although I missed soft beds from time to time, and I shall never be able to look at another dormouse in quite the same way ever again.
  • "Everything I ever thought about myself—who I was, what I am—was a lie. Or sort of. You have no idea how astonishingly liberating that feels".
  • "If you ever get to be my age", said the old woman, "you will know all there is to know about regrets, and you will know that one more, here or there, will make no difference in the long run".
  • They say that each night, when the duties of state permit, she climbs, on foot, and limps, alone, to the highest peak of the palace, where she stands for hour after hour, seeming not to notice the cold peak winds. She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars. (closing words)

Epilogue: In Which Several Endings May Be Discerned

  • Have been unavoidably detained by the world.
    Expect us when you see us.


  • First and foremost, my thanks to Charles Vess. He is the nearest thing we have today to the great Victorian fairy painters, and without his art as an inspiration none of these words would exist.
  • I owe an enormous debt to Hope Mirrlees, Lord Dunsany, James Branch Cabell and C. S. Lewis, wherever they may currently be, for showing me that fairy stories were for adults too.
  • Tori lent me a house, and I wrote the first chapter in it, and all she asked in exchange was that I make her a tree.
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