Welcome to Part Two of my analysis of the characters in Neil Gaiman’s novel, Stardust. In Part One, I introduced the four chief characters of the first two chapters. For Part Two, I will be hopping through the book more, as I take a closer look at three brothers: The sons of the Lord of Stormhold.
What we know of the Eighty-First Lord of Stormhold is not much, but we know that he is much older– “several hundred years”– than the average human when he finally dies of old age. We also learn that he killed his four older brothers to attain the throne. When we meet the lord’s seven sons, only three are still living and the other four gather around their father’s bedside as ghosts. The 81st lord is disappointed that three still remain: “Privately, the eighty-first lord had hoped that by the time his end came upon him, six of the seven young lords at Stormhold would be dead, and but one still alive” to whom he would bequeath the throne.
In any case, three sons remain: Primus, Tertius, and Septimus. We are told in the text that Primus and Tertius have each killed one of their brothers, and that Septimus has killed two.
What a loving, happy family.
Primus is the oldest son; he has “white hairs in his thick brown beard,” an “aquiline” nose, and grey eyes; when his father brings up the subject of succession, he looks “expectant.”
Tertius has “red-and-golden” hair and beard, “tawny brown” eyes, and he looks “wary.”
Septimus has a “black beard still coming in,” he stands “tall and crowlike,” and looks “blank, as he always looked blank.”
I’m guessing based on their physical descriptions that they might come from different mothers…just a hunch…
When their father asks them in turn to go to the window and tell him what they see,
Primus says: “Nothing…the evening sky above…and clouds below…”
Tertius says: “Nothing…The evening sky hangs above us, the color of a bruise, and clouds carpet the world beneath us, all grey and writhing.”
Septimus says: “I see a star.”
From their responses, I can infer a few things about these characters: Primus is a straightforward and practical man; Tertius is the “brooding poet” type; and Septimus is apt at looking for the seemlingly insignificant details within the bigger picture.
Septimus is not as “blank” as he pretends. And he manages to finish off Tertius promptly in a crafty fashion. Primus is more cautious and clever, and manages to evade his brother by his own craftiness and the help of a set of stone tiles that act as “seer stones” of a sort to guide his path. He still meets his end, however, but at the hand of a witch, not his brother.
When Septimus comes upon Primus’ corpse, we learn perhaps the chief reason why all the brothers were so eager to kill each other themselves: There is a “blood-law” which requires that Septimus must exact revenge upon his brother’s killer (even though Septimus would have killed Primus himself). He pursues the witch, but ultimately fails in his attempt at revenge and the witch kills him. He joins his ghostly brothers, and says, “There are no brothers left to take revenge on her…and it is none of us will ever be Lord of Stormhold. Let is move on.”
And so ends the tragic tale of the three brothers. Though I hardly feel sorry for any of them.
Come back later for Part Three, in which we meet another trio of siblings.
If you missed Part One, follow this link: Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, Character Analysis, Part One