I’m fairly sure I saw this movie, but I can’t remember it for the life of me. So I picked up the audiobook. (Neil Gaiman, why must you insist on reading your audiobooks softly? Talk louder!) Our protagonist, Tristram Thorn, doesn’t show up for a while. We see his origins first, and discover how he came to be. Growing up in an extremely small and isolated town, he is understandably a bit naive. He does take direction and advice well, though. Except in the matter of love. He’s not really good at that part. He claims to be in love with Victoria Forester, the most beautiful girl in the village. One night, the two see a falling star, and Victoria promises a kiss, or his heart’s desire, if he fetches it for her. She is following the line of nonsense that Tristram has been promising her, but Tristram believes her to be as sincere as he is. The girl really has no intention of honoring her promise, and probably forgets the matter entirely as soon as she gets home. There’s no chance, she thinks, of Tristram going to fetch the star, because not only did it fall miles away, but it fell on the other side of the Wall. The Wall, the thing for which their town is named, is not just a wall separating the town from the forest. It separates this realm from that of Faerie.
So Tristram goes off on a journey to fetch the fallen star for his true love, Victoria. The guards at the gap in the Wall eventually let him go, for his father points out that the rumors about Tristram (which the boy knows nothing about) are true. Everyone (but Tristram) knows that his real mother is one of the Faerie. So off Tristram goes, and has some adventures, and finds the star, who instead of being a lump of metal is a young lady. Whatever she is, it matters not to Tristram, who insists on taking her to Victoria to prove his love. It doesn’t really matter that the star has a broken leg, or doesn’t want to go. British stubbornness and true love win out, and off they go on their journey. This journey back home has more adventures, and shows more of Tristram’s growth and character.
Some of these adventures come from the fact that Tristram is not the only one who wants the star. A witch wants her for her heart, which will grant her youth (for a while.) And some men are searching for her, for she holds the key to being the next Lord of Stronghold. I’m not really all that fond of the ones competing to be the next Lord, because they fail at being decent human beings. In order to be the Lord of Stronghold, you have to get rid of the competition, and said competition is your brothers. The deceased members hang around as ghosts that only some people can see, which is kind of fun. (Also, when this plotline was first introduced, I called what would happen almost immediately.)
There are plots and tricks, and friends and enemies, and lessons and consequences in this story. It really is a detailed fairy tale for adults, which is what Neil Gaiman set out to write. Good job, Neil! There a little details that come back as important, and word play, and the importance of language and truth. And things make sense, as far as rules and things in Faerie go! And there is an actual ending! None of this “… and they all lived happily ever after” garbage.
So, I just watched the movie. It was good, but watching it directly after finishing the book makes the differences a bit obvious. Some of the changes I can understand as necessary for moving the plot along, and that’s fine. I did like how the movie portrayed the dead brothers, and how it dealt with the witches. The time on the pirate ship was a bit different, but it made sense in the direction they went with, also because Robert De Niro is awesome. And the addition of Ricky Gervais was also awesome. But why did they change his name? Tristram became Tristan, which was kind of annoying. It’s a real name, and people still have it! Some bits were a bit more violent than in the book, and vice versa. I do think I prefer the book ending, though, as well as the character of Victoria Forester. She’s less cruel and more down to earth in the book.