Study Guide

Stardust Rules and Order

By Neil Gaiman

Rules and Order

The guard is relaxed once every nine years, on May Day, when a fair comes to the meadow. (1.17)

So, let's get this straight: Two men with bats guard this opening in the wall, never letting anyone through to the ordinary looking meadow on the other side. And maintaining this boundary is so important that two dudes enforce it, day and night. But it's totally fine to allow people to go through once every nine years? We're guessing there's some reason for this strict rule to be in place, but we're not exactly sure what. Plus, what's being guarded? Is it the human world or the Faerie world?

"Soon my time will be done, and you will take my remains deep into the mountain, to the Hall of Ancestors […] If you do not do this thing, you will each be cursed, and the tower of Stormhold shall tumble and fall." (3.10)

The dying Lord of Stormhold lays a binding curse upon his surviving sons—they have to do what he says, or risk the future of their home. It would seem like a common courtesy to make sure your dad is buried properly when he dies, but apparently these Stormhold people need a little more convincing than usual in order to follow the rules, especially when it comes to handling deaths in the family.

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). (3.49)

Faerie doesn't seem to follow the normal rules that govern geography. In the normal world, when land moves, it's because of an earthquake or shifting tectonic plates or whatever. In Faerie, it could be because an imaginary land needs a new home. Cartographers of Faerie must have flexible imaginations and endless patience.

"If only we knew where the truth path was […] even a serewood couldn't destroy the true path. Just hide it from us, lure us off of it […]" (4.81)

According to the hairy little man, there are rules that even predatory forests must follow. It's impossible for a serewood to actually destroy the true path that runs through the forest, though it is possible for the serewood to conceal it or use other tricks to lure travelers off of it. Huh.

"You are my guest, my dear. You swore your oath. You've tasted of my food. According to the laws of our sisterhood, there is nothing you can do to harm me." (5.86)

So says Madame Semele to the witch-queen, whom she's duped into eating a truth-telling herb. Due to the rules of hospitality, and the oath the witch-queen swore, the witch-queen is forbidden to harm Madame Semele, even though Madame Semele tricked the intel about the star out of her. But as we've seen, the witch-queen is very powerful, so she gets creative and makes it impossible for Madame Semele to use her deceptively-gained information to benefit herself. Well played, we suppose.

"You must take revenge upon your brother's killer before anything else, now. It's blood-law." (8.8)

The ghost of Secundus makes this remark to his other ghostly brothers as they observe Septimus finding Primus's corpse. If Septimus didn't have to take revenge on the witch-queen, he'd be able to go straight to the star and claim his throne. But alas, he's got to get revenge on her before he can proceed to his goal. Stupid blood-laws.

"Because," she told him, her voice taut, "now that you have saved my life, you are, by the law of my people, responsible for me, and I for you. Where you go, I must also go." (8.20)

The star is now extra annoyed at Tristran because he saved her life. The rules she lives by, as a star or star-person or whatever, dictate that her fate is bound to whoever saves her life, so now she has to follow Tristran around, like it or not. This seems like a crummy rule since she's not too fond of him (though luckily for her that changes).

"Also, I know the provenance of the topaz stone you wear upon a silver chain about your waist. Knowing this, and what manner of thing you are, I know the obligation you must be under." (10.30)

Lady Una has figured out that Yvaine is carrying the Power of Stormhold, a.k.a. that topaz stone that knocked her out of the sky quite unexpectedly. By whatever magic rules govern this kind of interaction, Yvaine is bound to carry the stone until the right person (a male from the Stormhold royal line) asks her for it. 

Lady Una nodded. "Good. And I believe that you owe me payment for my services, now my time with you is done," she said. For these things have their rules. All things have rules. (10.164)

Rules, rules, and more rules: that's how magic and servitude and all sorts of stuff in Faerie seem to work. If nothing else, it's nice to know that she wasn't stuck being a slave for decades only to be let go without any kind of payment for working her butt off for Madame Semele.

"It was my payment […] For more than sixty years of servitude. It galled her to give it to me, but rules are rules, and she would have lost her magic and more if she had not settled up." (10.188)

As Lady Una tells Tristran and Yvaine, she was paid for all her years serving Madame Semele. For whatever reason, breaking those rules would've caused Madame Semele to lose her magic and possibly suffer other nasty consequences. We're not really clear on why, but hey, rules are rules.