Super brief summary in which I reveal something of a girl crush on Rose Walker: Rose Walker. I love that name. Every time someone says it, I want to steal it for myself. Rose will go on to deliver one of my favorites pieces of dialogue in all The Sandman series, you know the one – about love? – but here, in The Doll’s House, she is only just beginning to come into her own. She’s full of a curious mix of pep and piss and vinegar, and I love her from the start. I used to have fantasies in which I got to play Rose Walker in some magically perfect production of the comics. I think, ultimately I just wanted someone to look at me and tell me, as Gilbert tells her, “You were the best thing about being human.”
But Rose represents more than a beautiful girl with an awesome name and a bit of spark about her. In this, the second collection and arc of the series, as Dream embarks on a quest to round up errant dreams, Rose and her family quickly take center stage. Morpheus realizes she is a vortex that threatens the Dreaming and all of reality with it, and the circumstances of her creation have implications regarding his younger sibling, Desire. As Dream seeks Rose and the runaway dreams, we see his personality more than in Preludes and Nocturnes, we see his interaction with the world of dreams and humans, and we see him once again frustrated by situations for which there seem to be no…rules.
The Doll’s House gives us some more insight into the rules for the universe and its inhabitants. More than anyone, Morpheus seems to take these rules and his obligations as a member of The Endless and lord of his realm, very seriously (well…except in that one case – Nada).
- Sometimes these rules involve communication between the mystical and humans, or between any creatures, really. Brute is admonished by Glob for nearly speaking Morpheus’ name while they are hiding out inside poor Jed’s head. “His name could grant him immediate access here!” he exclaims. He’s not kidding. Speaking the name brings Morpheus to Rose’s side in her moment of need just as Gilbert promised it would at the end of The Collectors. He’s fast!
- Dream believes he has a function, an overall rule for purpose of existence, and when he fails in his function it hurts him deeply. We seem him clearly upset over having to kill Rose, but not nearly as upset as he was when he failed to protect a world from a vortex in the past and the world perished. It takes Unity’s cunning to allow Rose to live. Dream does not feel free to do so himself. (Adam, on our message boards, pointed out that sometimes Dream is more trapped by his own sense of obligations than anything).
- Dream believes in these rules for others as well. His admonishment for the Corinthian isn’t so much about the horror of what he has done as the ways he has failed to fulfill the function Dream imagined for him – to be the dark mirror for humanity. “You have told them there are bad people out there. And they’ve known that all along,” he says. He is disappointed in Gilbert for a similar reason, yet ultimately shows him far more mercy. Dream does, it seems, have a heart.
At the end, Rose and Dream have opposing thesis about the relationship between all the immortal forces out there and humans. Rose contends we are the dolls in their game, Dream the reverse (Desire, it seems, just thinks everyone is his/her doll, mortal or not). From the evidence, I’d agree with Dream. Mortals seem much more in touch with the fact that they have choices.
Good ol’ Hob Gadling knows this. He even decided not to die. Men of Good Fortune draws some attention to the theme of Change again. We see the world change around Hob, yet he maintains the important things stay the same – good and bad. Certainly the parallel conversations in the pub at the beginning and end of the story (politics, disease, God) seem to support his claim. I wonder then how he explains the fact that after storming out indignant at the thought that an Endless would ever need companionship from mortals, Morpheus comes back 100 years later and offers to buy his “friend” a drink. (In that case the quotes are actual quotes…he calls him a friend. Not the sarcastic kind of quotes).
OK, I know I know. I went on about change last time. I can hear Bex saying, “move on, Proffitt!”
Lets get to what we all came here to talk about: The Collectors.
Obviously, Neil Gaiman didn’t write these as graphic novels, but I can’t help thinking of The Collectors as The Doll’s House’s answer to 24 Hours. They are both as much horror comics as anything. Along with the terror, The Collectors has a dark humor. As a reader, I find myself tremendously creeped out and having a tremendous amount of fun at the same time.
For instance, in the opening pages, Gaiman has some fun with language.
The convention name, of course: Cereal Convention.
The words used by the attendees in small talk about jobs and food and life: (the journey was) killer, (wouldn’t be seen) dead, killed (the lights), (to) die (for), (he) slays (me), (the issue was) dead and buried, (the tv version) butchered it.
It’s fun – the panel discussions alone, I mean, come on! Women in Serial Killing? We Are What We Eat? Classic.
But…it’s also terrible (in a good way). One of my favorite parallels in this collection is Gilbert’s story of Red Riding Hood and what happens to Rose when Funland attacks her. The use of the phrase “you won’t need it anymore” to imply impending horror raises goosebumps. There’s something genuinely scary about this story.
And then there are the moments that are both. Like this:
One last thought. It’s interesting to me who Dream forgives and who he does not. Both Dee and Funland get a measure of compassion despite being pretty rotten guys. You sense that as a being not human, Dream can understand something about them from an outsider perspective. While he does not want them to hurt
others, he also does not seek to punish them. Yet…look at what he does to Nada. I mean, I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but…it is a *bit* harsh sending her to hell and all. Especially given she is trying to do exactly what he would in her place: obey the rules that will keep the people for whom she is responsible safe.
Is Pride the killer sin for Morpheus?
That’s it for me, friends. You?
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