If you haven’t read our post “A Prelude to Preludes and Nocturnes” you might want to check it out here first. It has our policy on spoilers as well as the calendar for the re-read.
Super brief summary because, hey, we’ve all read it by now. First published in 1991, Preludes and Nocturnes collects issues 1-8 of The Sandman series (themselves originally published in 1989). The arc of the novel is the capture and imprisonment of Dream (Morpheus), his escape and his search for the tools which were taken from him upon his imprisonment. Along the way, Dream is forced to overcome his weakened condition, a demon in Hell, and John Dee, a madman who uses Dream’s ruby to wreak havoc on the world. He also confronts his own feelings of loneliness and strangeness as he comes into a world which has changed in his absence.
By the by, I’m pretty sure this graphic novel cost me a second date once. In fact, I think this exact frame ensured the guy, who I decided to loan the book to after a phenomenal first date, wouldn’t call again for months.
…but that’s another story. (And, yes, I did get the book back. And that guy turned out to smell pretty bad anyway, so whatever).
Lets get right to it, shall we? In order to (hopefully) avoid the pitfall of rambling on, I decided to build this post around two guiding questions. 1) What themes permeate the Sandman series/what thesis or messages run throughout? and 2) What brief moments/frames/quotes raise goosebumps or make me smile? There are also potential discussion questions sprinkled throughout, if you’re into that sort of thing…which as a teacher, I totally am.
1. Theme: The importance and power of names.
From the chant that traps Dream in the opening chapter to the nightmares of Scott Free; from the multiple names of the Hecateae to a deadly battle between brothers over the name of a gargoyle we would eventually come to know as Goldie (but whom I prefer to think of as Irving), the importance of names is a running theme throughout Gaiman’s work. Dream himself has not only several English names (Dream, Morpheus, the Sandman, etc), but Nada’s tribal name, Kai’ckul and even the Martian name, Lord L’Zoril. Sometimes, it seems, names depend on who’s speaking. And contrary to what Juliette might want to believe, Gaiman reiterates again and again that there IS something to them.
This is a theme runs through many religions and mythologies as well. Rarely do we get the “true name” of Gods and demons. To know the name is somehow to know the thing, the essence of it, and in knowing the essence, power is transferred.
Even in something as simple as one of my favorite children’s movies, The Neverending Story, names are earth-shattering and mysterious. Able in this case to breathe new life into a dying world. Able to speak something into existence.
We can see this in our own lives too, can’t we? As someone who often goes by her last name, I get a little kick start in my belly if a man I am attracted to says my first name for the first time (I can actually remember these exact moments in time, even now). And certainly,I see the power of names in action every day on a very practical level in school. Without a name, the student is in some ways lost to you. You can’t communicate in any meaningful way, can’t even redirect behavior with the full authority you need, until you get those names.
This particular aspect of The Sandman series raises such goosebumps for me. Just typing the phrase “names have power, boy” (Books of Magic, also by Gaiman) sends a charge through me.
What is this? What is it about a name?
Numbers 2 and 3 contain spoilers for future events in the series. If this is your first time through, skip to number 4!
2. Theme: The the necessity and the consequences of change.
From the first chapter on, Neil Gaiman sends his reader a message about what happens when things change. There are consequences to Dream’s absences that go beyond his crumbling castle and the damaged psyches of the dreamers of the world. When he gains his freedom, Things Have Changed. The world has changed. Even Hell has changed. Most importantly, with all those years to sit and contemplate and all that he faces in this and subsequent stories after his release, Dream himself changes.
This change holds the seed of his end. Because one of the thesis of the series seems to be that everything ends, even the endless. Another, in order to change, part of us must die. We must learn to let go of who we used to be.
3. Favorite moment of foreshadowing:
Not everything that builds toward an ending is foreshadowing, but this seems a wonderful example of it at its best. This isn’t the only such moment in the novel, but it’s always been one of my favorites.
4. Something that always makes me smile:
Just a moment of humanity here. We see so little of Dream’s personality beyond the stoic, the responsible, and the horrified in the rest of the novel, it is nice to see him intimidated by his sister in a simple and human way.
That’s it for me. What do YOU think?
As always, feel free to make and answer your own questions or any of mine.
You can do so in comments, or on our Facebook page.
Cheers – Proffitt
Stuff we geek out about…
- A Little Something for the Fellas (2)
- A Little Something for the Ladies (9)
- Avengers Boot Camp (9)
- Before the Movie – Trailers (13)
- Editorials and Reviews (136)
- Interviews (19)
- Miscellaneous Geekery (48)
- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
What we JUST said…
- They Can’t All Be Buffys-Zombieland the Pilot
- All the Posts I Meant to Write this Month, Abridged
- Hemlock Grove-A New Guilty Pleasure
- Deborah Harkness and A Discovery of Witches
- Syfy’s Defiance- Hope They Didn’t Blow the Budget on a Song
- Cover Reveal for the New Liz Long Novel Witch Hearts
- From Gen-X, To Chris Hardwick With Love