Study Guide

Stardust Family

By Neil Gaiman


"I should not mind it, for it a long, long chain; but the knowledge of it irks me, and I miss my father's land." (1.187)

We really feel for the nameless slave girl (who turns out to be Lady Una) after reading this. She was stolen from her home while very young, so the witch-woman Madame Semele is the only family she's known for most of her life. And she's both physically and verbally abusive on top of that. Ugh.

Mrs. Hempstock and Mrs. Thorn sipped their tea. And so it was settled.

Dunstan Thorn was married in June to Daisy Hempstock. (1.215-216)

Aw, got to love it when your mom arranges your marriage for you. Mother knows best, right? In this case, it makes sense, since Dunstan was more or less courting Daisy before all that stuff went down at the Faerie Market. So it's not like they're total strangers or anything—their moms are just picking up the slack.

Sometimes Tristran would look up to see his mother staring at him intently, as if she were trying to tease some secret from his face. (2.7)

It must be a little odd for your mother to act like that around you. It seems like Daisy Thorn acts very distantly toward her son, and he has no idea why. Possibly he hasn't done the math that he was born just six months after his parents got married, and six months before his little sister Louisa was born. Hmmm…

He summoned his children to his bedside and they came, the living and the dead of them, and they shivered in the cold granite halls. (3.3)

The dying Lord of Stormhold wants his kids there during his last minutes of life, which is kind of nice, though it's odd how both the living and the dead show up for the occasion. And once we realize that the dead sons are dead because the living ones have killed them off in a bid for the throne, well, we're starting to think that this is a pretty dysfunctional family. Maybe Lady Una was better off with Madame Semele after all.

"Still doesn't explain […] there isn't anythin' unusual in your family, is there? […] I was thinkin' more of a grandmother who was a famous enchantress, or an uncle who was a prominent warlock, or a brace of fairies somewhere in the family tree." (4.119-121)

The hairy little man is trying to figure out why Tristran somehow knows the location of everything in Faerie. Tristran can even find stuff that he's never heard of before, provided that someone asks him where it is. As far as Tristran knows, though, his family is as ordinary as can be.

And the moon was talking to him. <em>Please</em>, whispered the moon, in a voice that reminded him a little of his mother's, <em>protect her. Protect my child. They mean her harm.</em> (6.4)

So much family stuff going on here. First, the moon is talking to Tristran, in a voice that reminds him of his mother's voice. Second, the moon is talking about her child, meaning the fallen star. And third, well, not to get ahead of ourselves, but Tristran and the star are totally going to meet up with Tristran's biological mother, and their falling in love will help free her. Yeah—lots of family stuff.

And then they were at Tristran's old home, where his sister waited for him, and there was a steaming breakfast on the stove and on the table, prepared for him, lovingly, by the woman he had always believed to be his mother. (10.104)

After his quest is done, Tristran learns the truth behind his origins: His father's wife is not actually his mother, and instead he was born to a faerie maiden and brought across the wall as an infant. His sister, at least, is still his half-sister, but he isn't at all blood-related to his mom, which helps explain why she's always been kind of cold to him.

The woman flicked her ears impatiently. "In almost eighteen years, Tristran Thorn, I have not demanded one single thing of you. And now, the first simple little request that I make—the tiniest favor that I ask of you—you say me no. Now, I ask of you, Tristran, is that any way to treat your mother?" (10.183)

Lady Una sure knows how to lay the motherly guilt on thick. Maybe she learned to guilt-trip from Madame Semele, from all those decades listening to her haranguing her customers. It does raise the question, though: What do children owe their mothers? Should they do everything their mothers ask of them?

"I hope that your sisters will not be too hard on you, when you return to them without it." (10.208)

Yvaine, talking to the witch-queen who is now incapable of cutting out her heart, learns that the witch-queen had planned to take it back and share it with her sisters. Yvaine also figures out that they're not going to be too happy when the witch-queen comes home empty-handed. Seems like every family has issues that they fight about; star-hearts are just one more thing to bicker over.

The joy of the inhabitants of Stormhold and all its dominions was raised to levels hitherto unparalleled when the Lady Una announced that, in her time away, she had given birth to a son, who, in the absence and presumed death of the last two of her brothers, was the next heir to the throne. (Epilogue.2)

Everyone loves news of a royal birth. And in effect, the residents of Stormhold are getting a two-for-one-deal here: They get Lady Una back, having probably assumed that she was dead after vanishing so long ago, and they get her son, too. Of course, Tristran is too busy traveling around and seeing Faerie to settle down right away, but who can blame him? His mom seems like a pretty capable lady.