Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

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…
yvainetude

“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.
yvaine

“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.”

yvainedance

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.

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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.”

TYdance

 

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

 

 

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D is for Death (of Discworld) #AtoZchallenge

 

Let me start by saying that Terry Pratchett is one of the most quotable writers I’ve ever read, and that cutting this post down to a reasonable length was incredibly difficult. Take a moment to feel sorry for me. I’ll wait.

discworld

This is Discworld, a planetary disc balanced on the back of four elephants who in turn stand upon the Great A’Tuin. Here, magic is real. Faeries are terrifying. Death is the one who comes when your time is done, when the sands in your glass have run out, when you are ready to move on to whatever might be next.

He’s an imposing figure: tall, skeletal, a blue glow in the depths of his eye sockets. He wears a dark cloak and carries a wicked looking scythe. He speaks in ALL CAPS. It’s impossible not to like, even love, him.

He rides a pale horse.

“The horse’s name was Binky. He was a real horse. Death had tried fiery steeds and skeletal horses in the past, and found them impractical, especially the fiery ones, which tended to set light to their own bedding and stand in the middle of it looking embarrassed.”

binky

He loves cats.

Paul-Kidby-Disque-Monde-Death

Though his job is solitary, he’s not entirely alone. There’s Albert, his manservant/ butler/grumbly accomplice. For a time, he had an adopted daughter, Ysabell. For an even shorter time, he apprenticed a young lad named Mort, who saw how difficult it was to be the Grim Reaper.

“It struck Mort with sudden, terrible poignancy that Death must be the loneliest creature in the universe. In the great party of Creation, he was always in the kitchen.”


Mort and Ysabell fell in love, and from their union came Death’s granddaughter, Susan Sto-Helit. She inherited certain familial traits, and fills in for Death on occasion.

susan_death_by_vidagr

by Vidagr on DeviantArt

Covering the demise of vermin is Death of Rats and his all-too-fond-of-eyes companion, Quoth the Raven.

“WHO KNOWS WHAT EVIL LURKS IN THE HEART OF MEN?

The Death of Rats looked up from the feast of the potato. SQUEAK, he said.

Death waved a hand dismissively. WELL, YES, OBVIOUSLY ME, he said. I JUST WONDERED IF THERE WAS ANYONE ELSE.”

 

 

He’s spent time as a simple farmhand, and once had to step into the shoes of the Hogfather to make certain that children all around the Disc received their winter cheer. While not quite jolly, he did his best at bestowing gifts.

“You can’t give her that!’ she screamed. ‘It’s not safe!’

IT’S A SWORD, said the Hogfather. THEY’RE NOT MEANT TO BE SAFE.

‘She’s a child!’ shouted Crumley.

IT’S EDUCATIONAL.

‘What if she cuts herself?’

THAT WILL BE AN IMPORTANT LESSON.”

 

He’s even-handed – endings are his job – but he is not without kindness and compassion.

“LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?”

 

Humans engender both curiosity and keen observation.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.”

(click through for full quote)

 

It’s been just over a year since we lost Terry Pratchett, but the grief remains fresh. Pterry himself, through a book 25 years old, offers some solace.

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

 

The ripples continue. The stories resound. Death will always be a part of them, of us, and in Pratchett’s final novel reminds us that our brief, strange lives matter.

“YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT”

 

Honorable Mention: Death (of the Endless): Cheerful. adorable goth girl. Likes top hats, goldfish, and ankhs.

“When the first living thing existed, I was there waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.”

 

deathofEndless

You get what anybody gets – you get a lifetime.


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