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In Volume One of The Sandman (Preludes and Nocturnes), Dream is held captive for 70 years. After escaping and taking vengeance on his (only surviving) captor, he returns home, to the Dreamworld. Finding it in disarray, he realizes that he needs to recover his "tools," his totems of power, so that he can make things right again. He mentions that he has "placed too much of [himself] in the tools," implying that his tools (ruby, pouch of sand, and and helm) contain parts of his power and, perhaps, his being.

Dream (silhouetted) speaking with Lucien. Lucien: "It hurts me too, Lord." Dream: "Hurts. Yes... Some power returns to me, simply by BEING here. But i placed too much of myself in the TOOLS. And they are GONE."

The Sandman #2 "Imperfect Hosts" page 16

He decides to quest for his lost tools, spending most of the volume in that pursuit.

After recovering his pouch and helm, Dream attempts to recover his ruby from a Justice League storage house (#5 "Passengers"). However, he is knocked out when he touches it, because John Dee modified it during his years of using it. While Dream is out, Dee takes the ruby, and wreaks global havoc with it for one day (#6 "24 Hours").

When that day is over, Dream asks Dee to return the ruby to him so he can attempt to fix all the things that Dee has broken. Dee, however, refuses, and threatens to kill Dream with the ruby.

Dream and John Dee in conversation. Dream: "You will repair it, then, give back control of it to me? You will return it?" Dee: "Give my baby to YOU? Don't be STUPID." Dee, brandishing the shining ruby: "I'm going to kill you."

The Sandman #7 "Sound and Fury" page 5

During that conversation, Dream says a little more about his relationship with the gem:

Dee to Dream (in a diner): "She's so clever. My clever baby." Dream: "Listen to me." Next panel, Dream is shown supine, with a shining gem on his chest. Dream's disembodied voice: "I made the stone, created it from the fabric of my being long ago. Powered by my spirit it was made to manipulate the fabric of dreams, of the world I rule." Inset shows Dream (wearing his helm) holding the ruby by a chain.

The Sandman #7 "Sound and Fury" page 4

Dream takes the battle to the Dreaming, where Dee appears to destroy Dream with the ruby; actually, he destroyed the ruby and transferred the power inside it back to Dream.

Dream, towering over a small Dee. Dream: "But you destroyed the ruby. I doubt I would have thought of that. Destroying it, you released the power stored in it. My control of the dreamworld. It's all mine again. It feels GOOD."

The Sandman #7 "Sound and Fury" page 20

What does the ruby represent? There's a lot going on around this ruby: it is an object that was created by an anthropomorphic personification of dreams, invested with his power and part of his being, that was stolen from him, rendered unusable to him, used to wreak global chaos, destroyed in an attempt to kill its creator, and ultimately returned its power to Dream.

I am not very well-versed in mythology, but I am fascinated by the ruby and Dream's relationship with it. I would appreciate answers that involve mythology (as Dream has connections to mythology), but answers with other sources are also acceptable. Like I said, there's a lot going on with this gem, but answers don't need to explain all of it (good answers, like scientific theories, will explain as many facts as possible; the more things explained the better).

7

You have seen that the viewers' perception of Endless is based on individual expectations.

"You look terrible. White as the man in the moon. Are you always so pale?" "That Depends on who's watching." "Sorry?" "No matter."

For instance, Dream appears as a black short-haired man to Nada, while he usually looks like a pale white messy haired man (not like Neil Gaiman at all)

Kai'ckul Morpheus

But that's not all. The Endless are different from all the other entities in the sense they are truly endless. Endless cannot be killed, as they are anthropomorphic personifications of natural forces.

"The Endless? The Endless are merely patterns. The Endless are ideas. The Endless are wave functions. The Endless are repeating motifs. The Endless are echoes of darkness, and nothing more. We have no right to play with their lives, to order their dreams and their desires."

When an Endless is "killed", another aspect of them takes place instead.

If we kill you, another aspect of yourself will take your place. That is what I learned at the congress at the dawn of time.
The Sandman: Overture #4

But let's talk about the tools for a little: the Ruby, the Helm, the Pouch. Dream says he created them at the beginning of time to help him govern his realm:

They stole more than time. When I established this realm I created tools to administer it. My tools are lost. I need help.

The Ruby, as it turns out in The Kindly Ones, is not one of a kind. Dream had created a number of Dreamstones, of which the most powerful was the Ruby.

"Penny for your thoughts" "You have no pennies, Matthew." (awkward silence) "I was contemplating upon this emerald. It was one of the twelve Dreamstones I created long, long, long ago. The greatest of them, the one into which I put the most of myself, was the Ruby. There were others - a Rose-Quartz I gave to poor Alianore, a Fire-Opal, a Black Pearl, a Topaz... Some of them are scattered. Some have been destroyed. This was the least of them. It was an Eagle Stone I created for the great birds. And they used it for a time; and then they returned it to me."

Morpheus draws our attention to the facets of the gem; the facet is the visible side, and each facet may be different, but it doesn't describe the whole gem. The gem has many facets, of which only one can be seen at a time.

"Facets, Matthew. Each facet catches the light in its own way. It glints and sparkles and flashes uniquely. It would almost be possible to believe that the facet was the jewel; not just a tiny part of it. But, then, as we move the jewel another facet catches the light..." "So? What's your point?" "My point? I have no point, Matthew. Save for the jewel, and the facets, and the light. We see an aspect of the whole. But the facet is not the jewel..."
Click for full resolution

And in The Sandman #21 (page 11), introducing Dream along with most of his family:

Dream of the Endless: ah, there's a conundrum.

In this aspect (and we perceive but aspects of the Endless, as we see the light glinting from one tiny facet of some huge and flawlessly cut precious stone), he is rake-thin, with skin the color of falling snow.
Emphasis added

The Ruby represents the multi-faceted nature of Dream as one of the Endless. The Endless are anthropomorphic personifications of natural forces, but those forces will continue to exist even if a personification is destroyed:

The universe knows someone is missing, and slowly it attempts to replace him. Wesley Dodds's nightmares have stopped sine he started going out at night.

But a personification is needed (apparently), so a new aspect of an Endless will be born.

The newborn aspect will still be the same Endless - except, possibly, in personality. Thus they are called "aspects" - just as the facets of the gem.

The Ruby also represents Morpheus' self-restraint, and consecutively the importance with which he treats his job.

"The ruby contains too much of me - of my power - in its fabric. It stole more when I tried to use it."

I think for Morpheus' case, we can quite accurately say that he has put his soul into his job2.

Neil Gaiman has another opinion. In Hy Bender's The Sandman Companion Gaiman says the following:

[Ruby] was normally a kind of computer, that automated things for the Sandman; instead of having to figure out how to perform a certain task, Dream would just say "Ruby, do this," and it was done.
The Sandman Companion, "Secret Origins", page 236.

There is also this bit, where Gaiman calls the Ruby a trap:

HB: Yep. What can you say about issue 7, "Sound and Fury"?

NG: It wrapped up the Sandman's quest for his tools of office, and it restored him to full power by having Doctor Dee destroy his ruby - demonstrating that tools can be the subtlest of traps.
Ibid, "Preludes and Nocturnes", page 37.

In combination with the previous quote, I think this means that Morpheus was less bounded by his own rules after the destruction of the Ruby, and started giving matters more attention. Perhaps it is also amplified by the time he had to reflect on his doings, while in captivity.

This is echoed in the last volume, The Wake, in the story named "Exiles" (drawn exquisitely by Jon J. Muth):

Daniel: "Tools, of course, can be the subtlest of traps. One day, I know, I must smash the emerald."

We can take from this that Dream has learned his lesson from his unfortunate mishap with the Ruby and Dr. Dee, and won't rely on tools as much anymore.


1: One possible exception is Death, but it is not clear whether she will exist after the Universe is gone. It is almost certain, however, that she will be the last of the Endless.

2: Whatever the correct English expression is.

  • 1
    I like to think of it as if Dream was world famous violinist and gemstones were mp3 player with his greatest hits memorized. Or a cd player and CD with his greatest hits. Instead of bothering with playing his instrument masterfully for every single one of his "customers", he would just play one of his recordings. It is a tool made to help him with his task: helmet to be able to reach people unseen (like Hades helmet), sand to get people to fall asleep, Ruby to shape the dreams to something 'common', to automatize a common task. – jo1storm Apr 13 at 20:19

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