Lamia is a fictional character from the 2007 fantasy film Stardust and the book upon which it was based. In the book she is never named, being referred to simply as 'the witch-queen' or 'the witch-woman'. She is the main antagonist of the film and the book and an evil witch who seeks to devour the heart of an anthropomorphic star named Yvaine. In both the book and the film she is the leader of three witches collectively known as the Lilim. In the novel neither of Lamia's sisters have names although in the film they are named Empusa and Mormo. In the film adaptation she is played by Michelle Pfeiffer.
In the NovelEdit
- Main article: Lilim (Stardust)
In the novel Lamia is not named and merely referred to as 'the witch-queen'. She states that her true name was lost when her homeland of Carnadine sank beneath the waves. At one point she employs the name Morwanneg as a twisted irony because Morwanneg means "wave of the sea". It is also implied that the queen is in fact older than the world itself. In the novel, the queen once boasts that the squirrel has not yet found the acorn which shall grow into the oak which will be cut down and carved into the cradle of the infant who will grow to destroy her. It is interesting to note that, after the witch's encounter with Ditchwater Sal, there is a brief description of a squirrel finding an acorn nearby. This implies that the witch-queen's days are numbered, though nothing more ever comes of it. This prophecy is not mentioned in the film.
In the novel, the witch queen exhibits an affinity for the colour red, as she dons beautiful red garments when she is restored to a beautiful young woman, including a scarlet bracelet in the shape of a serpent. In the film she favours green, which was deliberately chosen to form a likeness to a reptile's scales, and in Greek mythology, a Lamia is a reptilian female demon. Also, in the novel she is described as having dark hair, whereas in the film she is blonde.
The Lilim in the novel are hidden from the world and have been for centuries. Many believe that they are long dead. They live in a squalid cottage in a wood "so thick it was almost a forest". The wood is literally younger than the witches, as they were ancient before it had even surfaced upon the land and began to develop. In the film, the witches live in a decrepit castle in a gorge and no rumour of them being dead is ever mentioned. It appears that other witches knew of their existence, as Lamia displays her true identity to Ditchwater Sal in the film, who is at once terrified.
In the filmEdit
At the time the film takes place Lamia is 5000 years old and is in the words of actress Michelle Pfeiffer "reaching the end of her witchy years." She is a withered, hideous but immensely powerful old crone. She has two sisters who are as old as her and the three of them live together in a dilapidated palace in a gorge. Four centuries before the events of the film the three witches abducted a star and cut out her heart which they ate to restore their youth and beauty but they have almost consumed the heart by now and their beauty and youth have long since vanished. They need to eat the heart of another star to restore their youth. When she sees a star fall from the sky, Lamia devours the last of the heart and rejuvenates herself, becoming a young beautiful woman. She then goes to capture the star so that she can cut out her heart and share it with her sisters. Although a very powerful sorceress, every time Lamia employs the use of her magic it uses up more of the energy she gained from consuming the last of the star's heart, causing her to age as the film progresses.
In the fictional universe of the story however, stars are in fact organic humanoid life-forms and the star which Lamia is pursuing is a beautiful, strong-willed but somewhat vulnerable young woman named Yvaine. Over the course of the film Lamia attempts to capture Yvaine who is protected by the main protagonist, a heroic young lad named Tristran Thorn. Lamia eventually succeeds in capturing Yvaine however, and takes her back to her palace. By this point Lamia has become a withered old hag once again and is even more intent on devouring Yvaine's heart. She and her equally vicious sisters strap Yvaine down to a table and are about to cut out her heart when Tristan arrives with his mother, Una and the ruthless Prince Septimus. A battle ensues during which Septimus succeeds in killing Empusa, one of Lamia's sisters. Lamia then uses a voodoo doll to break Septimus's arm and one of his legs. She then drops the voodoo doll into a pool, causing Septimus's lungs to fill with water and killing him.
Lamia's remaining sister, Mormo attacks Tristan who releases the caged animals that the sisters have been using for Extispicy readings. The animals throw themselves on the witch and maul her to death. Lamia then attacks Tristan personally but he fends her off with a device that projects powerful lightning bolts. Lamia uses the voodoo doll of Septimus to animate the fallen prince's corpse and make it attack Tristan who defeats it by crushing it beneath a chandelier. Tristan then confronts Lamia who proves herself a formidable swordfighter and swiftly disarms Tristan. With Tristan at her mercy Lamia gazes in despair at the corpses of her fallen sisters then severs the straps that hold down Yvaine before throwing down her knife. Sobbing she orders Tristan and Yvaine to leave saying that eternal youth and beauty seem meaningless without her sisters to share it with. Just as Tristan and Yvaine take their leave however, Lamia laughs madly and makes the doors to the castle close, trapping them in. She then uses her magic to shatter numerous mirrors, causing the shards of glass to fly at Tristan and Yvaine as they run past. Lamia approaches Yvaine and Tristan with her knife and reveals that killing Tristan would've been pointless as Yvaine is quite obviously in love with him so killing him would break her heart, rendering it less desirable than a frightened or despaired one. She also thanks Tristan for having killed her sisters saying that now she can have Yvaine's heart all to herself. Yvaine then passionately embraces Tristan, telling him to close his eyes, and their love causes Yvaine to give off a blinding light which vaporises Lamia.
Empusa and MormoEdit
Lamia lives with her two sisters Empusa and Mormo. They are more powerful than any other witch in Stormhold, and, although they are formidable witches in their own right, they are not as powerful as Lamia and thus she does most of the fighting. During a fierce battle in the Lilim's hall, Empusa, a diminutive shrewish witch who speaks with a perpetual snarl, shoots tongues of fire at Septimus, then enchants his sword so it is too hot for him to hold. Empusa is killed by Septimus after he hurls the blade they use to dismember their sacrificial animals through her chest. She gives a final shocked cackle before dying. Mormo is a somewhat obese witch who possesses immense physical strength. When she moves to attack and kill Tristan, he releases her sacrificial ferrets and wolves attack and tear her apart. They both have shrill and insane cackles, typical of witches and are constantly bickering with Lamia who feigns loyalty towards them but seems to hold them in contempt.
Personality and traitsEdit
In both the novel and the film, Lamia is portrayed as a vicious, amoral and cold-hearted killer. However, she is considerably less ruthless in the novel than she is in the film, and other witches do not seem to fear her as much. At the end of the novel, she warns Yvaine that all love eventually leads either to betrayal or loss, and so demonstrates a certain degree of bitterness about the subject.
In the movie, she indulges in typical witch-like habits such as cackling, shrieking and dissecting animals but is a proud and haughty individual with the aloof mannerisms and bearings of a queen. She possesses a dry, cynical sense of humour and like most evil queens in fiction is highly narcissistic. She is obsessed with regaining her youth and beauty and will stop at nothing to do so.
Portrayal and critical receptionEdit
Michelle Pfeiffer's performance as Lamia was largely well received. Neil Gaiman, the author of Stardust was pleased with the film adaptation and described Pfeiffer's portrayal of Lamia as "absolutely fucking terrifying."
Pfeiffer had this to say on Lamia:
Even though my character is sort of being talked about as the villain of Stardust, everyone is a villain in Stardust ... I'm probably the ugliest villain in Stardust, for sure [laughs] and the oldest because I age ... I'm 5,000 years old or something ridiculous like that, but I think as fun as these characters I play in the beginning, you don't want to fall into the trap of just going out and being mean. Mean people don't think they're being mean; mean people think they're completely justified in their outbursts or their comments and the truth underneath it all is they're fighting and angry, they feel like the victim, as twisted as they might be, so that's also why it's so interesting to play those because you kind of get to figure that all out.