Study Guide

Stardust Love

By Neil Gaiman


There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart's Desire. (1.1)

Here we have yet another story starting with the quest for love. This is not in and of itself unusual—a lot of stories start that way—but the particular twists and turns that this story takes are pretty unique. And we see love playing a pretty big role throughout.

He nodded, and stumbled away from her; he did not need to ask how she knew his surname; she had taken it from him along with certain other things, such as his heart, when he had kissed her. (1.153)

Dunstan falls for the nameless slave at the booth, and boy, he falls hard. It's not a case of love at first sight so much as love at first kiss, and they go on to do much more than kiss. Not that every instance of love is expressed physically, but the kind of romantic and sexual attraction between Dunstan and the slave girl seems charged enough to find an outlet of that sort.

Dunstan Thorn was married in June to Daisy Hempstock. And if the groom seemed a little distracted, well, the bride was as glowing and lovely as ever any bride had been. (1.216)

Is it a love match between Dunstan and Daisy? If Dunstan's affair with the faerie slave at the market hadn't happened, we'd be more inclined to say yes. But then, it's possible to love more than one person simultaneously, isn't it? Don't parents love their kids, no matter how many of them there are? Can't someone fall in love early in life, and later in life, without one diminishing the other? Maybe Dunstan's love for Daisy is a different kind of love than his love for the faerie girl, one that burns slower and less passionate.

Every boy in the village was in love with Victoria Forester. (2.16)

Victoria is apparently Little Miss Thing in the village of Wall. She's supposed to be beautiful and charming and witty, so what else could you want? Of course, she must have flaws somewhere in her personality, but Tristran seems blind to them. We hope that Mr. Monday isn't, since if he's going to eventually marry her, he should accept her for who she is, not just as a fantasy lover.

"What," he asked, in what he was certain were lofty and scornful tones, "would possibly make you imagine that my lady-love would have sent me on some foolish errand?" (4.40)

We hate to break it to you, Tristran, but you reek of a teenage boy who's in the throes of hormonally-influenced puppy love. The hairy little man seems to understand this, though, and he prods Tristran about who sent him on this quest.

"Because," announced Tristran, "every lover is in his heart a madman, and in his head a minstrel." (4.42)

Again Tristran is laying it on a bit thick. He seems to have absorbed every romantic notion about love out there, which he's now parroting to the hairy little man. Don't worry—he eventually learns to think for himself, and to decide what love really means to him (hint: it's not so sappy).

"And you love Mr. Monday?" said Tristran, seizing on the only thing in all this he was certain he had understood. (10.79)

By the time Tristran returns to Wall and has his heart-to-heart with Victoria, he's beginning to understand that he's not in love with her anymore (if he ever was). What comes as a shocker, though, is that she's in love with and planning to marry Mr. Monday, assuming that everything with Tristran and that oath works out. It just goes to show, love knows no age.

His father answered him as honestly as he was able to during the long walk back to the farmhouse, telling his tale as if he were recounting a story that had happened a very long time ago, to someone else. A love story. (10.103)

Dunstan's current love with his wife Daisy must be really different than the brief and passionate love he felt for the faerie slave whose name and fate he never learned. But at least he got to experience it, right? As the saying goes, <em>it is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all</em>.

Tristran stared at her in honest puzzlement. "But I have no wish to be a lord of anywhere," he told her, "or of anything, except perhaps my lady's heart." And he took the star's hand in his, and he pressed it to his breast and smiled. (10.182)

Okay, so maybe Tristran hasn't completely left his romantic streak behind. But at least he found a more reasonable person to fixate it on (if the star counts as a person). It's not like he's pining away for someone who's totally unavailable, since the star has become his traveling companion and returns his affection.

"You should have let me take it back then, for my sisters and me. We could have been young again, well into the next age of the world. Your boy will break it, or waste it, or lose it. They all do." (10.207)

Here, the witch-queen is talking about Yvaine's heart, which she would've preferred to take home with her. But alas, Yvaine has given it to Tristran. The witch-queen seems to be saying that it's not worth the bother of falling in love, since something bad always happens to end romantic relationships. We're not so sure we agree. Wouldn't it be worse to live without love your whole life?