Study Guide

Stardust Youth

By Neil Gaiman


Tristran Thorn, at the age of seventeen, and only six months older than Victoria, was halfway between a boy and a man, and was equally uncomfortable in either role; he seemed to be composed chiefly of elbows and Adam's apples. (2.25)

Tristran sounds like he's in that adorably awkward phase that teenage boys go through as they pass from youth into adulthood. Well, sometimes it's more awkward than adorable, as it sounds like might be the case here. He'll grow into whatever he's supposed to be eventually (or, you know, over the course of the book).

And, too ignorant to be scared, too young to be awed, Tristran Thorn passed beyond the fields we know […] and into Faerie. (2.147-148)

Setting out into Faerie without knowing a thing about it could be considered dangerous or stupid, but Tristran is apparently too young to have thought of that. He's also young enough that he maybe doesn't have the right appreciation for all the wondrous things he'll encounter there.

But the youth of today were a pasty lot, with none of the get-up-and-go, none of the vigor and vim that he remembered from the days when he was young […] (3.7)

The dying lord of Stormhold isn't too pleased with kids these days, specifically his kids. Why, by the time he was twenty, he'd killed all his male siblings to ensure that he'd be the one to take the throne. And he's still got three sons living—unbelievable. What are these kids doing, sitting around and picking their noses instead of showing some initiative?

"When I return with her heart, there will be years aplenty for all of us," she said, eyeing her sisters' hairy chins and hollow eyes with disfavor. (3.92)

The witch-queen promises to return with the fallen star's heart so she and her sisters can share the youth it'll give them. Until then, the two stay-at-home Lilim are stuck being old while the witch-queen takes the last of the youth out with her into the world. It seems like the witch-queen isn't a fan of old age in general from the way she looks at her elderly sisters.

"So there's some young lady. Has she sent you here to seek your fortune? That used to be very popular. You'd get young fellers wanderin' all over, looking for the hoard of gold that some poor wyrm or ogre had taken absolute centuries to accumulate." (4.43)

When Tristran attempts to describe the wondrous beauty of Victoria Forester to the hairy little man, his interpretation is that she'd sent Tristran on a lover's errand to get rid of him. It's not actually that far off the mark. And apparently it's pretty common for young love struck fools to wander into Faerie, seeking their fortune, and stuff like that. Sounds like these young folks could've used better hobbies.

"The heart of a star, is it? […] I shall taste enough of it that my youth will come back, and my hair turn from grey to golden, and my dugs swell and soften and become firm and high." (5.84)

Turns out that Madame Semele is really excited about this star business. She, too, can't wait to be young again, to have her hair fill in and turn from grey to gold. She's also pretty excited about her breasts looking youthful once more, too. Not sure why she's so fixated on that in particular, but hey, to each her own.

"If I but had my true youth again […] why, in the dawn of the world I could transform mountains into seas and clouds into palaces. I could populate cities with the pebbles on the shingle. If I were young again […]" (6.59)

The witch-queen delivers this little monologue while she's trying to transform her cart/chariot thing into an inn. The point of this is to entice the star inside, make her comfy, and cut out her heart. But the witch-queen runs into trouble when her age makes it tough to perform the necessary magic. We're not exactly sure what the connection between youth and magic is, but it definitely exists.

"Look at you!" said the second of the Lilim. "You took the last of the youth we had saved […] From the looks of you, you've squandered most of the youth already." (8.52)

The stay-at-home Lilim aren't happy with their eldest sister when they talk via unicorn-blood-phone. It's obvious from looking at her that she's been using up youth left and right, and that there's not much of it left. We get the feeling that youth is a precious commodity, not just because it's hard to come by the heart of a fallen star, but because it's inherently valuable.

"Good day, sister. What happened to your house?" asked Madame Semele.

"Young people today. One of them thought it would be good sport to fire the house of a poor old woman who had never harmed a soul." (9.26-27)

To hear the witch-queen tell her side of things, you'd think she was this sweet old lady who had to fight off horrible young hooligans who attacked her without any reason. Um, not quite—Septimus was trying to take revenge for the murder of his brother. Then again, it's not like Septimus is an innocent young guy either; he's killed three of his brothers in his pursuit of the throne. Moral of the story? Old or young, everybody's got their faults.

"But I squandered away all the youth I took for the journey. Every act of magic lost me a little of the youth I wore, and now I am older than I have ever been." (10.199)

The witch-queen has this nice little chat with Yvaine after her heart belongs to Tristran (so there's no reason for the witch-queen to try to kill her anymore). Because the witch-queen was constantly using magic on her journey, she kept using up her youth, until there was nothing left. Though we wonder: Isn't everyone older than they've ever been? Maybe the witch-queen just isn't used to it yet.