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In the 2007 film Stardust (based on the Neil Gaiman novel), Babylon candles appear several times:

  • Una (Tristan's mother) takes one from a cupboard in Ditchwater Sal's caravan and gives it to Tristan. He uses it to find the star, and then later to escape the witch together with Yvaine.

  • Lamia, Mormo, and Empusa had a store of Babylon candles, but used up the last one hundreds of years ago.

  • Una gives another one to Tristan and Yvaine as a wedding/coronation present.

I found it curious that Lamia et al, who are clearly big shots in the witch world (at least judging from Ditchwater Sal's respect for "Yer Dark Majesty" Lamia), ran out of Babylon candles hundreds of years ago, and consider them so hard to get that it's not even worth hunting for one before they begin hunting the star - while Una, at that point a mere slave to a much lesser witch, is able to get her hands on not just one but two Babylon candles over the course of the film.

How does Una get hold of them? What sort of connections does she (or Ditchwater Sal) have that the "Dark Majesty" witches don't?

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  • Una stole them from Sal. Note that she's quite the alcoholic and seems to accept misplacing valuable things (such as the snowdrop) as just pay off life.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 15:03
  • @Richard Then how come Sal has >=2 Babylon candles when the big-shot witches have none? It's clear she's much further down the pecking order than them.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 15:05
  • @Radhil You've got some good material for an answer there ...
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 15:17
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    I think it's an example of the Lost Technology trope. Even the most powerful witches in the world can't make them.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 15:56
  • 1
    @Richard I'm not clicking on that link, because TVTropes.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 15:58

1 Answer 1

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Una's easy access to Babylon Candles is something of a plot hole that covers bits where the film was heavily adapted from the book.

In both versions of the story, Lamia and her sisters come off as decrepit hermit hags, having vast power but not really doing much at all with it. While Lamia gets some youth back and hunts the star, she does tend towards more wasteful displays of magic than anything else. Any rare resources like a Candle they might have had, it's speculative but safe to say they probably burned through them showing off in their glory days.

  • In the book

Tristan is actually intentionally questing for the star, and already past the wall and well into the many realms of Faerie. Helping a fellow traveler and himself escape a deadly situation, said traveler goes and finds a Babylon candle to help him get to Yvaine. The Babylon Candle is barely more than a stub, but it works enough to get him there. What little wax is left over Tristan has to force back into shape to get it to work again the second time, when they escape Lamia.

As for the second candle...

There never is one. Tristan and Yvaine take up adventuring for a decade or two while Una runs Stormhold, and presumably they keep their eyes open, but they never obtain any way to get Yvaine home. It's a much more bittersweet ending when all is said and done.

  • In the movie

Ditchwater Sal has the first candle, which Una steals to send with Tristan so he can easily find her later. It's hard to say how Sal got it, but rarities were definitely for sale at Market, so it's not that out of line. Possibly she didn't know what she had, but considering her attitudes, it's more likely she was greedy with it and either saving it for herself or waiting until she could get a vast price for it. And then, goofy Tristan wastes it on Yvaine...

The second candle is harder to explain, but seems part and parcel with the happy ending the movie sets out to accomplish. Babylon Candles are supposed to be ultra-rare, but Una is not just a slave to Sal anymore. She is mother to a King, Stormhold is a powerful realm, and she likely has the resources now to get or hunt down whatever she wants, presuming the previous Kings of Stormhold didn't tuck their own in a cupboard somewhere.

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