“He stared up at the stars: and it seemed to him that they were dancers, stately and graceful, performing a dance almost infinite in its complexity. He imagined he could see the very faces of the stars; pale, they were, and smiling gently, as if they had spent so much time above the world, watching the scrambling and the joy and the pain of the people below them, that they could not help being amused every time another little human believed itself the center of its world, as each of us does.” (p. 96)
Neil Gaiman says of Charles Vess that “He is the nearest thing we have today to the great Victorian fairy painters, and without his art as an inspiration none of these words would exist. Every time I finished a chapter I phoned him up and read it to him, and he listened patiently and he chuckled in all the right places.”
But, who could be enchanted by one without the other? Gaiman’s novel, Stardust, is every bit as magical as the faerie world that Vess creates; the later in which we dwell with our eyes, the former with our hearts.
I wasn’t struck by the power of Stardust the first time I read through it. I read it. I enjoyed it. But, I wasn’t moved by it. Now before I go to bed, I read a chapter each night (for nighttime is the perfect moment for such a novel), and I am pierced by the innocence of youth as well as the drudgery of Wall compared to the illumination of Faerie.
“There’s a star…” Tristran began to explain, but his father hushed him to silence.
Mr. Bromios rubbed his chin and ran a hand through his thatch of black curls. “Very well,” he said. He turned and spoke to Harold in a low voice, saying things Tristran could not hear.
His father pressed something cold into his hand.
“Go on with you, boy. Go, and bring back your star, and may God and all His angels go with you.”
And Mr. Bromios and Harold Crutchbeck, the guards on the gate, stood aside to let him pass.
Tristran walked through the gap, with the stone wall on each side of him, into the meadow on the other side of the wall.
Turning, he looked back the the three men, framed in the gap, and wondered why they had allowed him through.
Then, his bag swinging in one hand, the object his father had pushed into his hand in the other, Tristran Thorn set off up the gentle hill, toward the woods.”
Now, you may have been reading about a boy leaving Wall to pass into the unknown world of the meadow beyond. But I was reading of every parent who must allow, and not only allow but encourage, his child to go in pursuit of his dream. We do not know what trials, nor what evil, await. In hope believing we send them off knowing that if we don’t we stagnate their lives, and their future, as well.
Tristran’s father had the courage to send him off, to a place where he could not himself go, knowing that each one has only one path to call his own.
I look forward to reading, and discussing the rest of Stardust with you on April 17. Thank you to Carl for hosting this read-along.