Study Guide

Stardust Chapter 1

By Neil Gaiman

Chapter 1

In Which We Learn of the Village of Wall, and of the Curious Thing That Occurs There Every Nine Years

  • Our story starts in Wall, which is a tiny town about a night's drive from London. There is, as you might've guessed, a giant wall next to the town, giving it its name.
  • There's only one place to pass through this huge grey rock wall, and it's always guarded by two villagers at a time. This is odd, as all you can see through the break in the wall is meadows and trees, a.k.a. nothing scary or weird. But no one ever goes over there.
  • The guards only chill out once every nine years, on May Day, when a fair comes to the meadow.
  • Flash back to the Victorian era, like, literally, when Queen Victoria was on the throne, and DickensĀ was writing Oliver Twist, and stuff like that.
  • At this time, Dunstan Thorn is eighteen, an ordinary guy who works on his dad's farm.
  • Visitors are coming to Wall from all over for the Fair, and checking in at the Seventh Magpie, an inn that this dude Mr. Bromios runs.
  • This beautiful chick Bridget Comfrey works at the inn, and she provokes a fight between a local boy, Tommy, and a dark-eyed visitor, Alum Bey, who has a monkey for a pet. The fight is not lethal.
  • Our guy Dunstan has been courting Daisy Hempstock, but the relationship is pretty tame, and Daisy is wishing that Dunstan would propose already.
  • One day, Dunstan stands guard at the wall, then goes to the inn for the ale that guards get after serving a shift. He meets a gentleman from London in a black top hat who asks him for lodging, since the inn's all full.
  • Dunstan agrees to put the guy up for a few days, and takes some coins for payment, but also says that if the guy's here for the market, maybe he deals in miracles and wonder.
  • The man in the top hat promises Dunstan his Heart's Desire, saying he'll get it tomorrow. Excellent.
  • The night before the Fair, while Dunstan is sleeping in the hayloft because he's given up his bed to the top hat dude, a small hairy fellow pops in and asks for shelter. Dunstan lets him crash for the night.
  • Next day, Dunstan walks to the Fair with the man with the top hat. The man says that he'll now give Dunstan his Heart's Desire. Apparently it's also a long-lasting gift, and should benefit his firstborn child though a generation or two.
  • There are wondrous things for sale at the Fair, and Dunstan looks around for something to buy for Daisy.
  • He finds himself face-to-face with a beautiful girl working a stall. She has cat-ears and is attached to the stall with a silver chain; the man with the black top hat passes by and tells Dunstan that he's paid for his rent in full.
  • While talking (perhaps even flirting?) the shop girl tells Dunstan that she was enslaved by the witch-woman who owns the stall, and she'll get her freedom on the day when the moon loses her daughter, if that happens in a week when two Mondays come together. Huh?
  • Anyway, she offers to sell Dunstan a little white glass flower he's been looking at for a kiss, and then she tells him to come back to the stall when the moon goes down, and hoot like a little owl.
  • Dunstan gives the glass snowdrop to Daisy, but he's acting funny, like he's under a spell, so Daisy's folks have Tommy take him back outside the wall. Tommy disappears to go after Bridget, though, leaving Dunstan unguarded.
  • Dunstan slips back through around the time when the moon is setting, and he finds the shop girl there. They hook up.
  • In the weeks after the market, Tommy proposes to Bridget, and Daisy's mom visits Dunstan's mom to have tea.
  • Apparently Daisy is pining away, crushed that Dunstan isn't paying attention to her since the market. The two moms conspire to get Dunstan to marry Daisy, and it works, even though Dunstan looks pretty distracted during his own wedding.
  • For a while, things are good. Daisy's family gives the newlyweds a flock of sheep, and the daily work of caring for sheep seems to bring Dunstan back to earth.
  • Then, in the winter, the guards at the Wall hear a loud noise. It's a baby crying. Someone has pushed a basket through the wall, with a newborn in it, and written on an attached scrap of parchment are the words: "Tristran Thorn."