How dare you? How dare you, an insignificant little bird dream in a land from which dreaming is banished?
This is an idea that has been germinating in my head ever since a friend told me she’d like to hear a Ted Talk about Sandman, the graphic novels written by Neil Gaiman. So here I am, ready to sit down and pen an article about the novels, which is akin to aDavid v Goliath encounter personally speaking.
Sandman is a graphic novel that makes you think, think long and think hard. With an ensemble cast of characters, collectively called The Endless, we follow in the steps of Dream or Morpheus and mainly the series is focused on his realm, the Dreaming.
With a variety of characters to choose from, it’s hard to pinpoint just one arc inthe series which you can latch on to. Gaiman is a spellcaster of reputeand here,the last thing he’s doing is holding back.
The overall theme of the series is dark and the content mature. A scene in theseries is when Death, Dream’s sister tells someone whose time has come “You got what everyone gets. You got a lifetime.” In the end we all get one lifetime. A good way of considering the entire Endless collectively is to consider them one by one.
When a person is born, he is aware of Destiny-what has been laid down before him, which also makes him aware of the mortality of it all, therefore Death.He then has Dream take him onto his Desire . Next he starts to try and get what he desires, walking into Desire’s realm from where it is a short step to Despair when the person finds that to dream is one thing and to fight for that dream is something else. In despair, he turns to Destruction and finishes his life in Delirium. The circle closes when the person diesand another person is born. I am of the opinion that the Endless are a representation of the life mortals live. We are born with a certain period of time to do things-to love, to hate, to be passionate and then we leave and become memory.
And then we have Matthew the Raven. The Raven could be a reference to Poe and probably is. Matthew is possibly the one and only friend Dream hasand we get a look at the fact that perhaps Dream is after all as human as the rest of us. Although he is a king in his realm, perhaps outside of it he can be as flawed as the rest of us are, needing a confidant or a fist bump from someone, or the reassurance of a pair of feet on his shoulder.
In legends, the Sandman is associated with sleep and also called Morpheus so it is no wonder that Mr. Gaiman chose this person to be the protagonist of a story in which he tries to tell us that we should all dream. He dares us to in fact, through this series. Mr. Gaiman has often has his writings called Gaimanesqueand although he maintains that he has no idea how such a moniker came to be attached to him, my edition of Neverwhere does have a criticism that says it is the sort of novel that Terry Pratchett would write, were he locked in a room with Franz Kafka.
It’s evident while reading Sandman that there’s a lot of Kafka inspired imagery in it. We come across many mythological creatures and we see a lot of references to a lot of literature in this series-be it American, English or from other countries.
So how strange is it when you have Death for a sister? And how strange is it to call Destiny your elder brother? It is the strangeness of Sandman that makes it appeal to me so much. You wouldn’t think so much about the nuances in the story were it written in a different style. Sandman is Gaiman at his best. The fact that Morpheus looks a lot like Gaiman is perhaps the author’s way of showing us just how special this series is to him.
What kind of a story is Sandman? I wouldn’t call it inspirational, nor would I call it horrific or mythological. I suppose I shall have to repeat myself and refer to it as Gaimanesque. The selling point of the series is just how believable the unbelievable is. In the story, it is possible for nightmares to rule over an entire kingdom, despite said kingdom being ruled by one of the most formidably powerful entities (Dream). It is possible to capture Dream. It is possible for gods to make mistakes.
Do not go into this story with expectations. Instead just enjoy the ride, go “ooh” and “aah” at the moments you want to. Sit back and let Mr. Gaiman take you on a ride that is difficult and rewarding. Prepare your EQ for a roller coaster ride.
What do you take away from Sandman? I took away just one thing. It is okay to dream and to work to make that dream come true. Mr. Gaiman has maintained and I quote “We owe it to each other to tell stories” and this is him telling us a great story. I lovedhow he showed that every creature in the Dreaming and outside of the Dreaming has a dream, irrespective of whether that creature is a rat or someone as powerful as Lucifer.
This is a guest blog by Ashesh Mitra