As I mentioned in my last post I recently read through the entirety of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman once again, the series being one of my most favourite. I therefore thought that I’d take this opportunity to introduce a new category that I will revisit from time to time simply entitled Favourites.
So what is it that makes The Sandman a favourite of mine? First and foremost I love the characters. The titular character better known as Morpheus — or Dream of the Endless — is ranked high among them, as it is his arc that is the heart of this entire series. However, I find that what Gaiman did that made the series truly masterful wasn’t how dynamic of a character Morpheus was, but all the characters whose life paths intertwined with his.
Morpheus is the star who seldom occupies the starring role in most of the stories. There is a wide array of characters that only appear in a few volumes, a few chapters, or even just once that manage to feel so full of life and are written so naturally that the regular change of cast is almost never jarring. It was especially apparent during the second reading just how much everything comes together by the conclusion of the series with all character stories interconnecting in subtle ways.
While I love the human cast for how they help to ground the series, I particularly love the characters of a more supernatural nature. The different gods, creatures, demons, dreams, nightmares, and other Endless that populate the story’s world are some of the most captivating fantasy beings I have had the pleasure of reading about. I have a particular fondness for Gaiman’s representation of old gods; that it is our belief that creates and continues their existence, this existence coming to an end when all belief is dead. As a lover of mythology and old stories it is pleasing to see the old gods represented as still existing, just suffering from a diminishment that parallels the status of their stories in our modern world.
On the topic of stories and mythology, old legends and fables are as plentiful in the series as the diversity of the characters. They can be as simple as a couple lines of dialogue, a couple pages, or an entire chapter dedicated to a reinterpretation of a story. By far my favourite is the retelling of the myth of Orpheus in the volume Fables & Reflections, which is the most beautiful adaptation of the story I have ever read.
As the lord of dreams Morpheus is an overseer of all stories, so the importance of dreams and storytelling is major focal point of the entire series. As I stated in my first post I have a deep reverence for storytelling and its role in shaping the world around us. The Sandman universe is one that takes that idea to the eleventh — reality is not merely shaped in terms of human perception, but entities come into being and even where we end up when we die is literally shaped by belief.
As terrifying as it would all be, this is a world of gods, magic and divinity that I could find myself believing in, especially considering the concept of the Endless themselves. They are not shaped by belief, but rather exist because they embody concepts that many — if not all — living things experience by simply being: we all have the capacity to desire, despair, destroy, lose our minds to delirium, follow our destiny (the path of our lives), dream, and die. It is a world of the extraordinary that is not ordered or simple to understand, but vast and complex with different hierarchies and realms of control for different beings, while at the same time having a solid foundation in the form of the Endless, whose realms all things sacred and secular must adhere to.
As a story in and of itself, the series follows a nonlinear path that pays off in a satisfying penultimate conclusion, while at the same time building a world I can get lost in as I read. I appreciate it so much for these factors alone, as I imagine writing a story this tangential and complex would be so easy to botch in terms of execution. Somehow Gaiman manages to pull it off expertly, and I can do nothing but admire him for it.
This type of post has turned out being rather experimental for me. The idea of discussing why you love something sounds simple enough, but when it comes to writing it can be hard to form into words. I hope I have performed this task adequately, and you understand just at least a little why The Sandman by Neil Gaiman is, and always will be, one of my favourites.