*** Warning: Spoilers ***
Before I start, I want to point out that Neil Gaiman not only wrote the novel for this story but he also narrated the audiobook and co-produced the movie. Yes, he is definitely a man of many talents! Good for you, Neil!
Anyhow, I think this is one of those stories where I actually liked the film adaptation better than the novel. Not to bash the novel. Not at all. The novel was fantastic, but the movie had enhancements to the story that provided more suspense, humor, and romance. Mostly the movie adhered closely to the novel but there were some small, and some large, differences:
1) The Victoria in the book is slightly different than the Victoria in the movie. In the book, she is just a little condescending to Tristan. She isn’t vain, conceited, and stuck up like she is in the movie. I thought this alteration to the story was better because it added more conflict to the love story between Tristan and Yvaine.
2) In the book, Tristan has a mother and a sister as well as a father. In the movie, it’s just him and his father. I thought this was better given the simplicity.
3) Tristan’s passage past the wall is very different in the book. Instead of using a Babylon candle, his father takes him to the wall and tells the guard to let him through. In the movie, he tries to get through but the old guy blocks him using some smooth moves with his cane, which was hilarious, and then Tristan goes home to see his dad, who explains about his mother. His dad hands him the Babylon candle and Tristan lights it and is transported right to Yvaine. This alteration not only added humor but it put the viewer right into the heart of the tale, skipping Tristan’s whole journey through faery, searching for the star and finding a small, hairy man who helps him along the way (in the novel).
4) In the novel, the Stormhold Brothers start off as just three, not four. Tertius dies in an inn making love to a prostitute who hands him a bottle of poisoned wine, given to her by Septamus. The whole movie scene with the three brothers and the bishop doesn’t happen in the book. Also, in the novel, later on Primus dies in the inn set up by the witch but he is not in a bathtub, he is approaching the table where Yvaine is sitting and the witch tells him not to bother the other guests. So, the film adaptation for this part of the story is similar, but with small time-saving changes. I like the way they did it in the movie because it saved time and removed the prostitute scene, leaving the movie open for a more general audience. Also, the movie added much more humor as the dead brothers followed them with their snarky commentary.
5) There were two major changes in the movie that made the story that much more humorous and suspenseful. This was the addition of Captain Shakespeare and his crew, and the battle at the end with the three old witches. In the book, Tristan and Yvaine do come across a flying ship with a lightning-hunting crew, but they are nothing like the goof troop you see in the movie whose dynamic was hilarious! Before I saw the film, I never in my life thought I would ever see Robert De Niro dancing around in a corset, fanning himself with feathers, so this threw me for a loop. I was laughing so hard I was crying, especially when Septamus called him twinkle toes. That was funny! =o) The fight scene at the end between Tristan, Septamus and the witches also added in more humor, but it was mostly suspenseful. The movie really does end with a bang. I saw the movie before I read the book, which was probably a mistake because I was expecting a slam-bam ending, but alas in the book it doesn’t happen. So, for me, the novel climax and denouement were a bit anti-climactic and sad (sad referring to the fate of Tristan and Yvaine). Their fate in the movie was better, I thought. If I had to choose between the two endings, it would definitely choose the movie ending.
6) There were other small changes – like the flower that Tristan is given, the death of Septamus, Una’s liberation, and her relationship with Dunsten. In the book, Tristan’s flower changes him into a mouse, but in the movie, it protects him from magic, which comes in later on during the fight scene. As for Septamus, his death in the book is fairly quiet as he is killed by the witch queen in her cottage, not in a big fight scene. And Una’s liberation – in the book, she is freed because the moon has lost her daughter to someone else in between two Mondays, but in the movie Una is freed because Sal the witch dies. And last but not least, Una and Dunsten – their relationship at the beginning is the same but in the end, Una doesn’t end up with him as in the movie – again, a film alteration that I preferred.
As for the novel, I listened to the audiobook because I knew that Neil Gaiman had narrated it and I love his narrations. The last book I listened to that he narrated was The Graveyard Book (review coming soon) and it was fantastic! I have found, by experience, that the best way to listen to the Stardust audiobook is to lay on a blanket outside on the lawn in the backyard on a warm, clear, midsummer night and gaze up at the stars. Definitely the best way to do it! I highly recommend it! =o)
At the end of the audiobook, there is an interview with Niel Gaiman where he relates the genesis of the idea for Stardust. It is one of my favorite things to hear how authors get ideas for their stories and this one was really interesting. The idea for the wall came to him when he was traveling through rural Ireland in 1987 on holiday. He looked over and saw a wall crossing a field that had a break in the middle. On the other side of the break, lay a meadow and trees and he thought it would make a great story to be able to jump on the other side of the wall and be in the land of Faery.
So the first version of the story was a novel called Wall, set in the present about an American novelist who visits a small English town where the wall is. Then, in 1991, Niel was at the World Fantasy Convention in Tucson, Arizona, where he was invited to a small party at someone’s house in the desert. He and Charles Vess were awarded a World Fantasy Award for Sandman and during the ceremony, he looked up and saw a star fall. The star didn’t just streak through the sky and disappear. Out it the desert, because of the clarity and lack of light pollution, the shooting star fell all the way down. That’s when the idea hit him – what if you could go look for a fallen star and what if that star wasn’t a lump of rock but a girl? Then, he put the two together – the fallen star and the wall and voila, the two ideas became Stardust.
What is fascinating to me about this story is that it reveals the mind of a true artist. The creative mind never stops working. It’s going twenty-four-seven and ideas surface when a person is doing anything – brushing teeth, driving in the car, shopping, working, or even accepting awards at a World Fantasy Convention. In Neil’s case, his creative genius is always active and I think he has one of the most incredible, weird, off-the-wall, from-another-planet imaginations that I have ever seen in a storyteller. What I wouldn’t give to have just one teaspoon of it!
Keep writing, Niel! I am definitely looking forward to your next story!
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