Have you ever wondered what purpose your dreams serve? Are they instruction? A vision of a parallel world? Maybe they show you what you secretly desire. In Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman saga, Dream is a bipedal representation of where our minds wander in the dark waters of sleep. Dream walks amongst us, and he observes, only engaging when his interests demand it. He is one of the Endless, seven beings who carry out mysterious functions that directly affect the lives of mortals. They are Death, Destiny, Delirium, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and our protagonist, Dream. In Gaiman’s world, gods have finite lifespans, but the Endless are always around, taking forms to represent any culture or species they are engaging. In the first three volumes of Sandman (Preludes & Nocturnes, The Dolls House, Dream Country) we see Dream begin to question his role in the universe. The series opens with Dream being captured and imprisoned by an otherwise inept cult. He spends seventy years locked away in a glass prison only to escape and find his domain in ruins and his creations scattered. He spends the rest of Preludes & Nocturnes searching for his missing tools, encountering DC characters such as John Constantine (the character Keanu Reeves butchered on the silver screen). After the conclusion of his quests note, his tools are restored, yet he is despondent. The world moved on without his sleepy influence. With the help of his perky and optimistic older sister, Death, he resolves to return to The Dreaming and restore his kingdom.
Starting with the second volume, The Dolls House, tells the story of Dreams devious and androgynous sibling, Desire, and his/her plot to dethrone him. Dream foils her/his plot and restores order to the Dreaming. Dream confronts his sister/brother Desire with the news that mortals are not our “playthings.” Rather, we have the ability to control them. The second volume ends on this note. Dream has come to question his role in the universe, and he concludes that he does not understand the purpose of the Dreaming, only that his function maintains a balance. He merely shapes the Dreaming and we populate it with our power. Unity Kincaid, a woman who spent most of her life asleep, is able to bend Dream to her will and change the outcome that he envisioned. Dream shapes our world, based on our will. In the third volume, Dream Country, Gaiman introduces us to four self-contained short stories that revolve around the Dream-King. “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” tells the story of how cats once ruled over humans, using us as prey and playthings. The humans dream of a different world where they rule, and through their shared will, they make it so, erasing the cat domain forever. Dream informs a feline that the collective will of the cats can undo the human’s realm, if only they can band together and will it so. One cat concludes with a familiar feeling, that a thousand individuals can never band together to make change happen. So this is where we find Dream; enlightened to the symbiotic relationship between him and the slumbering mortals he watches over. He’s ignorant to his true purpose but knows the creative force of the Dreaming is threatened by the chaos and impulsiveness of Desire. Dream is changing and the future holds the question: What is the purpose of our Dreams?