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 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 he never knew the whole of it.
So begins Stardust (Being A Romance Within the Realms of Faerie, the book describes itself), a book by Neil Gaiman (story) and Charles Vess (pictures).
As beginnings go, that is novel. It also has a certain cadence to it that is reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Roverandom, a novella about a dog that is snappish with a wizard and gets turned into a toy for its efforts and Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn (both far better books for children of all ages than those that shall not be named written by she who cannot be named).
The quest: Will the film capture the book’s ‘sunny sad’ mood?
Stardust is an old book. It was first published in the late 1990s and I read it several years ago.
A movie is out soon, however—not just any movie: this one stars Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Claire Danes—and in an effort to cash in on the fact, publisher Vertigo has put out a handsome bound volume of the book.
In some ways, Stardust isn’t a graphic novel—it is simply an old-fashioned illustrated book. It is a sunny book, however, and tells a light cheery story that is ideally read in one sitting. Like all fantasies, it involves a quest—I don’t know whether I’ve said this before, but The Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually a road movie.
Tristran Thorn, for that is the name of the young boy who wishes to gain his Heart’s Desire in Stardust, sets off looking for something, finds something far better, but doesn’t realize it till the very end. I am not going to give anything more away although the headline to this piece does.
In other hands, Stardust could have easily turned into a moral tale—not in Gaiman’s though. And so it remains a clearly amoral, sometimes funny, sometimes sad (but sunny sad), sometimes fantastic tale of a quest and a find.
I am not so sure the movie gets the sunny part because the website looks distinctly dark, although that could well have something to do with my PC not having a required plug-in.
Vess’ illustrations are there on every page of the book; sometimes, they are the only things there on entire spreads; and readers are unlikely to regret it although Gaiman’s smooth-as-small-batch-bourbon prose is never too far away.
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