The Sandman: Myths and History

Neil Gaiman has rather a lot to say as regards to gods. Or, extra exactly, the topic of mythology. Scratch the floor of any of Gaiman’s best works and you’ll discover some wealthy commentary on the tales we’ve shared with one another going all the best way again to the daybreak of humanity. Where do gods come from? What are their guidelines? What occurs to us after we die? How does all of it finish? These are just some of the questions that Neil Gaiman has addressed via a long time of storytelling, knowledgeable by a deep background in mythology.

His level is that whereas we don’t have the identical solutions, each tradition on Earth is related by their intuition to ask the identical questions. This is the very premise of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s 75-issue story in regards to the nature of tales themselves. It’s ostensibly about desires and the Dreaming, however as The Sandman makes clear, desires themselves are simply the fertile floor from which concepts develop into story, tales into legend, and legend into fantasy.

The analysis and references Gaiman consists of and alludes to in each situation of The Sandman is actually voluminous. For a whole accounting, you’d be greatest suited studying The Annotated Sandman, a set of Gaiman’s work which incorporates as many cross-references as any Sandman scholar may very well be anticipated to seek out. But with the Netflix sequence debuting this month, and the primary season masking the primary two volumes of this ten-volume sequence, it couldn’t damage to revisit a few of the fundamentals. This, then, is what Dreams are manufactured from.

The Dreaming

Every tradition which has ever existed has a proof for desires, as a result of their very nature calls for it. After all, desires are most likely the weirdest factor that occurs to each human who’s ever lived. Every day you reside your life, fall unconscious, vividly hallucinate for hours, and then do it once more. And in case you attempt to skip the whole weird course of, your thoughts and physique endure for it.

Mythologies around the globe have described desires as prophetic, as revelatory of our truest selves, as a way of communication from the gods. The Sandman’s rationalization for this final phenomenon is that every one gods are born from the Dreaming, the shared area the place all desires are fashioned, and return to it when they’re forgotten. Because, as merchandise of mythology, it’s our desires which create the gods, who in flip affect our personal actuality.

The Dreaming, by the best way, is an idea borrowed partially from the indigenous folks of Australia, who additionally known as it the Dreamtime.

The King of Dreams

The Dreaming is the setting for a lot of The Sandman, or not less than the place the motion sometimes catalyzes earlier than making its technique to the waking world. But our most important character, Dream, isn’t just the lord of desires, however an embodiment of the idea of desires itself. Dream is every little thing each tradition has ever believed in regards to the nature of desires, and the gods and entities which govern it.

Templates from African mythology are borrowed by Gaiman to relay a few of the earliest myths of Dream because the fictionalized “Kai’ckul,” an amalgam of many African cultures’ concepts of how gods work in tandem with nature and humanity. The Sandman may also current you with views from Christian theology, Norse mythology, Shintoism, and most importantly, Greco-Roman fantasy. After all, it’s the one which readers are most accustomed to, thanks partially to the tales of Wonder Woman and Shazam.

The title by which Dream is mostly referred to in The Sandman is Lord Morpheus, after the Greek god of desires. It’s a task he ceaselessly inhabits fairly actually all through the story, together with his affair with the muse Calliope and a strained relationship together with his tragic son Orpheus, all of which we’ll get to (if all goes nicely) in future seasons of the present.

Also instrumental from Greek Myth is the triple-witch goddess Hecate, offered in The Sandman within the amorphous figures of Mildred, Mordred and Cynthia. They are the three fates; the three furies; the three graces; the Kindly Ones. As keepers of the narrative thread, they’re the tellers of our story. These witches three will see Morpheus off on his first quest, and they are going to be there at our journey’s finish.


We all know the story of Lucifer. The lovely, androgynous First of the Fallen Angels, God’s favourite servant who was solid down when he challenged the last word autonomy of the Creator for the reason for free will, punished just for his want to be free.

Except, none of that was truly within the Bible. Lucifer Morningstar, or Satan, as we all know him right this moment, has little or no in frequent with the biblical adversary to good and righteousness—primarily as a result of the Bible spends little or no time truly describing the satan. Much of the favored depiction of Lucifer, particularly the extra nuanced and sympathetic ones, might be sourced again to John Milton’s seventeenth century epic poem Paradise Lost, which retells the Christian creation fantasy from Satan’s perspective. Countless classical work, sculptures, tales, poems, songs and odes to Christian mythology have drawn from this narrative depiction of a fancy Lucifer ever since, as much as and together with The Sandman.

So, whenever you see Gwendoline Christie roll up wanting like a wonderful, otherworldly renaissance portray to play the incarnation of evil, that’s simply The Sandman honoring 400 years of custom.

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare, as our most celebrated teller of tales, performs a surprisingly vital function all through The Sandman in key problems with the comedian sequence (and presumably, key episodes of the Netflix sequence). What we see of Shakespeare primarily considerations the manufacturing of two of his performs, each on fee for Morpheus himself. While learning mythology and Milton in your pursuit of full Sandman understanding, it might serve you nicely to additionally learn A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest.

The Corinthian

Perhaps probably the most haunting of all of Dream’s nightmares, the Corinthian is a creation so visceral, with a reputation so mysterious and evocative, that absolutely he must be from one thing. In reality, a personality finally asks him this very query.

Well, in case you’re stumped, don’t fear. Gaiman made this one up. All I can say is {that a} “Corinthian” is an antiquated time period based mostly on an historic stereotype of individuals from the Greek metropolis of Corinth, identified for his or her appetites for obscene cruelty and hedonism. Think of it as Gaiman titling him “The Very Old, Very Bad Dude.”

Fiddler’s Green

The legendary paradise of Fiddler’s Green might be traced again to nineteenth century folktales by English mariners. These seafarers traded tales of a wonderful place the place nobody needed to work and everybody was comfortable, the place hard-working sailors might finally retire after a lifetime of service to the ocean.

As a working-class image of the dream of a greater life immortalized in sea shanties and nice American novels, Fiddler’s Green is a blue-collar illustration of what the Dreaming itself represents: that every one of us, even probably the most humble, dares to think about one thing larger which awaits us sometime, the place we are able to lastly kick up our toes and discover peace.

So, why is that this related to Sandman? If you don’t know but, I’m not going to inform you. But when the time is correct, you’ll perceive.

And Then There’s Death…

The most iconic character from the whole run of The Sandman isn’t Dream himself, however his older sister, Death. If you don’t know her already, you then’re assured to like her at first sight. Just as Dream embodies each mythology and each tradition’s perspective on desires, Death is an amalgamate of each tradition’s ideas on what occurs after the tip of our lives. The distinction is that we by no means get to see Death’s realm like we do Dream’s. It’s not her story. In reality, Death is essentially a thriller, aside from this: she’s a form presence on the finish of your life, a pressure of acceptance for the unacceptable. She might not be the reply, however she will lead you to it.

That’s as a result of Death is, what known as in mythological research, a “psychopomp.” Most mythologies have a psychopomp, whether or not it’s the angel of loss of life, the grim reaper, Hermes, Charon, Anubis, or numerous others. What they do is to not preside over loss of life, however enable passage and transition from one world to the subsequent. Like the same-named card in tarot, what Death represents isn’t finality, however a change in states. The finish of 1 part of existence, and the start of one thing new.

You’ll study all about it in Episode 6 of The Sandman on Netflix, “The Sound of Her Wings.” And if it captures you because the books as soon as did for us, then a lifelong ardour for mythology of all types awaits you. You might do worse than to take a look at a few of Gaiman’s different works on the topic, like Good Omens, American Gods and Norse Mythology. And after all, all ten volumes of The Sandman are all the time obtainable to you wherever you’ll find nice comics.

The Sandman, starring Tom Sturridge as Morpheus, debuts on Netflix this Friday, August fifth. For extra desires, fables and recollections, go to our official Sandman TV web page.

Alex Jaffe is the creator of our month-to-month “Ask the Question” column and writes about TV, motion pictures, comics and superhero historical past for Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and discover him within the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.


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