Tag Archives: booknerd

Y is for Yvaine: #AtoZchallenge

Neil Gaiman’s novel (or in its first incarnation, story with pictures) Stardust is, at its heart, a Victorian fairy story. Ordinary village boy is hopelessly in love with beautiful village girl. Boy pledges to fulfill a quest to win girl’s heart, and ventures into an unknown realm to do so. The quest: retrieve a fallen star. The unknown realm: the world beyond the Wall. Faerieland.

When a star falls onto earth, there is light and heat and then cold, pitted rock.  When one lands in Faerie…

“And there was a voice, a high clear, female voice, which said “Ow”, and then, very quietly, it said “Fuck”, and then it said “Ow”, once more.”

And there you have Yvaine. She who once graced the night sky, dancing with radiance, has been slammed to earth. Leg broken. Completely alone. When all but pounced upon by our cheerful young village lad, she’s not in the best of moods.
“You’re the star,” said Tristran, comprehension dawning. “And you’re a clodpoll,” said the girl, bitterly, “and a ninny, a numbskull, a lackwit and a coxcomb!”

When Tristran explains the nature of his quest – return Yvaine to his village crush – she is understandably cross.

“I just want you to know,’ said the girl, coldly, ‘that whoever you are and whatever you intend with me, I shall give you no aid of any kind, nor shall I assist you, and I shall do whatever is in my power to frustrate your plans and devices.’ And then she added, with feeling, ‘Idiot.”

He has no desire to bind Yvaine forever, merely to prove that he was able to retrieve the star and so win the affection of his village girl. In fact, he intends to help the star return to her home when his task is complete.

“That doesn’t happen,” she explained. “Stars fall. They don’t go back up again.” “You could be the first,” he told her.”


Of course the heart of a star holds powerful magic, and there are many who would stop at nothing to claim it. Other forces come into play. Princes and sorceresses seek the fallen star. There is trouble, as in any true quest, at every turn. Tristran finds courage and heroism. Yvaine finds (continued) tenacity and deep, unexpected love.


For his part, Tristran is equally smitten.

“He wondered how it could have taken him so long to realize how much he cared for her, and he told her so, and she called him an idiot, and he declared that it was the finest thing that ever a man has been called.”

When villains are vanquished and affections are sorted, Yvaine has her happy-ever-after with Tristran. They adventure for a while, then settle down to rule his rightful realm. But she is a star, and will shine for time untold. When her love sleeps, forever and at last, she remains: a star bound to earth.

“They say that each night, when the duties of state permit, she climbs, on foot, and limps, alone, to the highest peak of the palace, where she stands for hour after hour, seeming not to notice the cold peak winds. She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.”



postscript: While I fully adore the original novel, I really liked the 2007 movie adaptation; just planting that flag.




E is for Eilonwy: #AtoZchallenge


In my reading life, I often come across characters I would like to be, or to be friends with. Eilonwy is both. Heir to the House of Llyr and daughter of a formidable enchantress, Eilonwy wields powers of her own. She’s the keeper of a golden bauble that turns out to be a magical artifact known as the Golden Pelydren.

The princess is fairy tale lovely – slender of build with red-gold hair and blue eyes – but is given to dressing simply and prefers bare feet to boots. When sent away for a more proper upbringing, Eilonwy is indignant.

“What! I don’t care about being a princess! And since I’m already a young lady, how else could I behave? That’s like asking a fish not to swim!”

She’s quick-witted, outspoken, impatient. She’s also good-hearted and deeply caring. It’s a nice balance for the broody irritableness in which Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran stews for a goodly part of the first three books. Though she starts as an annoyance, albeit a capable and helpful one, their friendship grows into something much greater.

Eilonwy is a fighter. Through strength of will she resists a bewitchment and sacrifices the Book of Llyr, an irreplaceable tome of spells, to save her companions.

Told to stay behind during battle, she refuses to sit by when those she cares for are in peril.

“’Go back’ Taran shouted at the top of his voice.’Have you lost your wits?’

Eilonwy, for it was she, half-halted. She had tucked her plaited hair under a leather helmet. The Princess of Llyr smiled cheerfully at him. ‘I understand you’re upset,’ she shouted back, ‘but that’s no cause to be rude.’ She galloped on.”

With her magic and the light of the Golden Pelydren, she alerts her friends to a trap and simultaneously fulfills part of a prophecy.  As you do. When the battles are done and Prydain reclaimed, all things magical must depart for the Summer Country. Taran is offered the opportunity to travel with them, to be with Eilonwy forever, but makes the heartbreaking choice to remain behind. He made promises to those who gave their lives for freedom, for peace. She accepts this… briefly.

“Eilonwy was about to turn away, but suddenly her blue eyes flashed furiously and she stamped her foot. “It’s not fair!” she cried. “It’s not my fault I was born into a family of enchantresses. I didn’t ask for magical powers. That’s worse than being made to wear a pair of shoes that doesn’t fit! I don’t see why I have to keep them!”

She relinquishes her magic, choosing a mortal life with the one she loves. She’s fierce, determined, passionate, and fully in charge of her own destiny: all things I continue to strive for. I might never be Eilonwy, but I’m so glad I know her.

**Huge thanks to saeriellyn for amazing Eilonwy/Prydain fan art**

Honorable mention: Errol the Swamp Dragon