In the ninth issue of Sandman, well, my predictions aren’t even close to being right yet. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Sandman.
“Tales in the Sand”
Oh, y’all, this shit was made for me. STORIES THAT SPAN PRETTY MUCH ALL OF HUMAN EXISTENCE? Yes, thank you, I’ll accept that. I love this framing/setting device so much, and it’s just one of those tropes that I am always eager to explore. It’s also rad to open a graphic novel and see an entire issue/chapter where every character is a person of color. YES, THIS IS GOOD, I LIKE THIS A LOT.
And even the story itself sort of breaks my expectations for what Gaiman was going to do with this. This particular tale, told some unnamed time ago, didn’t seem to have much to do with the Sandman until the storyteller revealed who the fable concerned: Queen Nada. Nada is not a common name, and I flipped through the first volume until I found that panel in Hell. Nada was there, and she’d done something to earn Morpheus’s ire. On top of that, I hadn’t even noticed that Morpheus appeared to her with a different face in that scene, and it’s in “Tales in the Sand” that the reasoning behind this is explored.
I don’t know that I understand it, though. Did Morpheus choose to appear to her the way that he did, or are we seeing an earlier version of his being? I’d like to think it’s the latter, that he evolved into the pale, Robert Smith-esque person that he is now. This tale also gives us another immutable fact about the Endless: they cannot be with mortals. I assume “be” means that they cannot have sex with them, as they certainly appear to be able to be friends with them. Oh shit, what if they can’t do that either? That must be weird to have the possibility of friendship restricted to your own kind. Either way, this is about two beings from different worlds falling in love. The star-crossed lovers trope isn’t exactly new, but I was completely impressed with how Gaiman changed this: he made Morpheus a total asshole.
His actions in “Tale in the Sand” don’t exactly make him look good, and I tend to like it when an author is willing to do such a thing with their characters, especially a main one. Here, Queen Nada is the reasonable one, even though she’s just met the one she loves. She knows that it will be disaster to love Kai’ckul, and she openly tells him this. She rejects the lord of dreams, and he does not take this lightly. I’m wondering if this is foreshadowing for this volume or for his character as a whole. Morpheus’s flaw here is pride. He cannot accept rejection, and when Nada’s warning proves to be right, he still pursues her. In the end, he chooses to punish her for what has happened, despite that he’s just as complicit in the destruction of the City of Glass.
I went back again to read her appearance in “A Hope In Hell,” and it’s just heartbreaking. She begs him to forgive her after she’s spent ten thousand years suffering in Hell, but his pride refuses to forgive her. After ten thousand years. It’s immensely fucked up, and it’s also a glaring character flaw on the part of Morpheus. For me, while I am furious at the idea that Morpheus can’t get over a rejection that’s rather understandable (HER ENTIRE PEOPLE WERE DECIMATED, DUDE), I admit that I’m excited to see that even these Endless beings aren’t without their own problems. I don’t know how interesting Sandman would be if there were these perfect moral beings at the heart of a lot of these stories. That’s not all that satisfying. (Need I remind you that I thrive under moral ambiguity?)
Granted, this is just the prologue for the story to come, but I really don’t know where this is going to go from here. I do have a feeling that this story is going to become important, but how? Why does it matter? What other flaws does Morpheus possess?
Oh, I am just so terribly excited to keep reading more.
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