Stardust at Neil Gaiman, between enchantment and censorship

A love story in the fairy kingdom, with a stormy past

You too have a special item, almost totemic, that you keep like a treasure and that never ceases to fascinate you every time you pick it up?

I do and, as you can imagine, it is a novel. I'm not just talking about the story it contains, but of the object-book itself: The cover, pages full of illustrations, watercolor colors, the jacket with silver stars.

Nevertheless, I don't often get so attached to a volume. There are few books to which I am “physically” attached: I don't necessarily need to buy them, I believe in the free circulation of culture and I gladly borrow them from the library. But the edition of Stardust of the Magic Press is different… and now I'll tell you why.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman and the Mondadori censorship

First time I came across this novel, Neil Gaiman was not very famous in Italy. The movie hadn't come out yet Stardust of the 2007 with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro, born the series Netflix Sandman (also because streaming platforms didn't even exist... we're talking about 2003!).

In those years there was not all the attention of now towards the fantasy novels, graphic novels and illustrated literature in general, considered "stuff for children" or for inveterate nerds.

This explains why two editions of the book were in circulation at the time: a complete one from Magic Press and a censored one from Mondadori. The latter did not have the illustrations of Charles Vess (heresy!), but above all it presented cuts in the text. Yes, because some passages were deemed too loud for a child audience, who was supposed to be the main target audience of the book! Therefore the sensual love scene between the young Dunstan and the magical Una was censored, just as many terms deemed obscene or vulgar have been sweetened (for those who haven't read the book: Gaiman's writing is anything but bawdy and vulgar, the very few parts in which foul language is used are justified by the context).

Today that edition of Mondadori is no longer reprinted, it can only be found in some second-hand stalls. Unfortunately I have not been able to find articles or posts that report this censorship, It seems that only I remember it. At the time, But, it was often talked about on the forums dedicated to fantasy.

In any case, This story teaches us two things: 1) if you come across the old Mondadori edition 2004/2005, escape; 2) better to stay away even from volumes that do not have illustrations by Vess, integral part of the work!

Not, But, let's put the controversy aside: it's time to talk about the fairytale beauty of this story.

The magic of Stardust

I was lucky enough to discover the charm of this book in the short time it managed to survive a comic book store in my hometown, located in Liguria.

Like a little girl, every time I went back to that shop I looked at the cover covered in silver stars, with a portrait of a girl with shining hair above it and the subtitle A love story in the fairy kingdom. Inside of, there were majestic fairytale drawings.

Ero, But, a little hesitant to buy it, Why it cost well 45.000 lire (Yes, there was still the price in the historical currency next to the one in euros!). If you are so young that you don't know the old coinage, know that that figure was very high, especially for a penniless student like me. So I started saving up to be able to afford it, because I really felt that book was calling me!

Following sacrifices and renunciations, in the end I decided to buy it… thank goodness! Shortly thereafter the comic shop closed and I have never seen that edition anywhere else.

Once she returned home with the precious loot, with great emotion I began to read the story… how to explain the magic of this beautiful fairy tale? Contains everything, the lightness of childhood, the crudity of the oldest fairy tales, the irony and charm that only Gaiman can convey.

Bildungsroman, hunt for the star that is nothing but a bright and combative girl, witches, transformations, adventure, amore… all this and much more is enclosed in these pages.

One of the parts I love is the description of the fairy market: it just feels like it's there, in the midst of characters of every shape and color, among the stalls containing delicate crystal flowers, but also scary tools of magic. In the words of Neil Gaiman:

Wonders were sold, magic and miracles; unimaginable objects and things never seen or dreamed of (what use will they ever have, Dunstan wondered, shells filled with storms?).

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