“Dreams don’t f**king die,” and neither does The Sandman, who feeds on them. For most pop culture fans today, Neil Gaiman’s version of this celestial being is the most renowned. In his version, The Sandman, AKA Morpheus, is the anthropomorphic personification of dreams. The mind-bending tale built around this character gave us 75 issues of comic books. No wonder it is termed a literary masterpiece. However, as much as we would like to give Gaiman sole credit, Sandman is a borrowed character.
Having its origin in mythology and folklore, The Sandman has been around for centuries. Granted, Gaiman’s recreation is probably the most popular, but Sandman’s character has been a pop culture phenomenon since pop culture wasn’t even a widely used term. Let’s explore the journey of this mythical creature that has taken over the world right from the start.
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Similar to the many mythological creatures of the universe, The Sandman has a complicated and convoluted emergence. Rumored to have started as a North European oral legend passed on to generations, the first written record is from 18th-century Germany. The idiom “der Sandmann kommt,” or “the sandman is coming,” is enunciated when someone (a child) feels sleepy.
The action of rubbing one’s eyes meant that there is sand in them, courtesy of the immortal being that wants you to dream. The Scandinavian folklore also had an identical creature sprinkle sand in our eyes to give us a good night’s sleep. The tale was built around the sandlike particles or “rheum” that deposit on the corner of the eyes in the morning.
What started as a sweet fable took a much darker turn in the early 19th century. German author E. T. A. Hoffmann conceptualized an evil form of the mystical creature. The dreadful monster would throw sand into the eyes of children to force them to sleep. If they didn’t, their eyes would fall off, and the dark figure would flee with them and feed it to his own kids. Perhaps, this is where the idea for The Corinthian, a living nightmare, stems from.
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An early dedication to the aforementioned celestial was in the 1950s; a classic title called Mr. Sandman by Chordettes. “Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream. Make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen.” From the lyrics and upbeat music, one can tell that it refers to the sweeter, harmless version of sleep bringer. However, it still delves into deeper feelings of loneliness. Sandman, I’m so alone. Don’t have nobody to call my own.
Another very popular homage to the dream lord is the 1991 single by Metallica, titled Enter Sandman. Apparently, the song was indeed inspired by Neil Gaiman’s comic. Compared to the 1950s song, this story about dream giver is considerably darker. Keep you free from sin. ‘Til the sandman, he comes. Sleep with one eye open. Gripping your pillow tight.
The latest addition of dream-themed songs is by British musician Ed Sheeran. Another pleasant and charming rendition of the character, the song almost feels like a lullaby for kids. And dream, hanging out with the Sandman. You look so sweet, my child. Hanging out with the Sandman.
Apart from Neil Gaiman’s DC version, there is another Sandman in the comic book universe, albeit in the competing one. We are obviously talking about MCU’s Sandman, a popular Spider-Man villain. With many appearances in comic books, Sandman AKA William Baker AKA Flink Marko recently cameo’d in MCU’s Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Another delightful appearance on TV was on Cartoon Network on the beloved children’s show Power Puff Girls. Seemingly cute and harmless at first, all this dream provider wants is for everyone to go to sleep. However, when the girls, distracted by something or the other, refuse to fall asleep, this frustrated dream bringer ends up having a nightmare himself and is driven to madness by it. A great origin story for a villainous sandman, if you ask us.
Which is your favorite rendition of Dream? Let us know in the comments. For those who haven’t seen it yet, the live-action adaptation of The Sandman, based on Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels, is now streaming on Netflix.
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