In the fortieth issue of The Sandman, Hippolyta Hall’s child wanders into the Dreaming, where he hears three very different stories from – wait, what am I doing? DEATH AND DREAM AS CHILDREN. HELP ME. If you’re intrigued by that, then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
“The Parliament of Rooks”
I know it’s a common theme in Gaiman’s work, but I’ll never tire of the man’s love of telling stories. It’s what I love about doing Mark Reads and Mark Watches. I love the power of a good story. I love the experience of discovering the twists and turns for the first time. I love the emotional attachments that I develop. And it’s true that the stories that stick with me the longest are the ones that have that air of mystery to them. It’s why I ultimately loved LOST, despite that most fans I know disliked the ending. It’s why I enjoy returning to the Harry Potter universe; there’s so much left unexplained that I love thinking about.
I guess once I think about it, I don’t know why I enjoy storytelling so much. Actually, I just don’t know that I’ve engaged the idea beyond a superficial examination, you know? What is it about a story, grand or small, that can keep my attention for so long? I suppose I understand loving fiction or non-fiction if it has an emotional resonance with me. But there’s a lot of The Sandman that has nothing to do with my life. The same goes for stories of the Bible, or Greek myths, or fairy tales, or Roman gods. None of it really applies to my own life, but I still love all of them.
I think there’s a permanence to stories that appeals to me. I still live with a fear of being forgotten and ignored, and I know a lot of that is because of the way I was raised. So there was a part of me attracted to the stories of Lovecraft, Poe, Austen, and Shakespeare because they were so old. It didn’t detract from how good they were and how much I enjoyed them. They all created stories that are still remembered, told, cherished, and passed along all these years later. Why couldn’t I do that?
That’s the function “The Parliament of Rooks” serves, and I’d actually say this entire volume is about keeping stories alive. The three stories told in this issue are very intentional. Cain’s story about the parliament of rooks gives us the idea that a good mystery can last forever. (Interestingly enough, though, I will now remember what a parliament of rooks is even more than before because Abel explained the purpose of the parliament.) Eve passes along the story of creation, but we learn that Adam actually had three wives. Her story gives us this line:
“And Eve lived to be older than any woman; who, in the end, did not die, but who retreated to her cave. Blamed for sin. For misery. For the Fall.”
Yeah, that pretty much defines her characterization. She’s blamed for everything negative that exists in the world. I like to imagine that she came out of her cave for this one child, just to tell her own story.
But Cain’s story is just heartbreaking. His is a re-imagining of the past, a way that would give him a loving life with his brother Abel, a past where Dream is a caring, considerate being who does what he can to make Cain happy. AND IT FEATURES BABY CAIN AND BABY ABEL AND BABY DREAM AND BABY DEATH AND OH MY GOD THIS IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE. And as cute as it is, this is just a damn fine story, and I don’t want the adorable characters to detract from that. A story can live forever, but we need to keep telling them in order for that to happen. I’m glad Neil Gaiman is still telling stories.
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