9

In "The Parliament of Rooks" (The Sandman #40), Abel tells a toddler Daniel Hall a "children's story" about how he and Cain came to live in the Dreaming (pages 18-20). In the story, Dream and his sister Death appear similarly to Pop Vinyl characters, and it's really quite adorable.

Two panels, both with a child version of Dream and Death of the Endless. Caption 1: "Death was a little older than Dream. Things had the potential to die before they had the potential to dream. But there hadn't been much dreaming or much dying back then. Things were still taking shape." In the second panel, Death giggles as Dream learns to walk. Caption: "They were... they were children, back then. In the olden days."
(page 18)

Cain objects to this portrayal of the eldest Endless, but Abel's rebuttal is a little unclear to me:

Cain, to Abel: "Children? They didn't even look remotely human. None of us did, back then. What are you trying to feed the child -- sanitized pablum? Li'l Death? Li'l Morpheus? Revolting!" Abel: "This is muhmy story, Cain. Luhleave me alone."
(page 18)

So I wonder about the veracity of Abel's portrayal of the Endless. Cain thinks this is a gross oversimplification, but Abel says "this is my story." I think there are three possibilities:

  1. Abel knows that Cain is right, and changes the story and imagery for baby Daniel's benefit. After all, he does change the end of the story; it's clear by now that in Gaiman's world, Cain and Abel do not live "happily ever after," as Abel finishes the story. He may sanitize other details of the story for the child's benefit.
  2. Abel thinks he's right, because he is. We know that the Endless appear differently to different people (see e.g. this Lit.SE answer).
  3. Abel thinks he's right, but he isn't. Cain considers Abel simpleminded, constantly calling him any of several derogatory names like "powderbrain" or "numbskull." There isn't much to analyze, but Abel appears to be of normal intelligence, even if he is much softer (perhaps more naive) than his brother. If he honestly believes that he and his brother lived happily ever after1, then he may be an unreliable narrator.

Which of these three is it? Was Morpheus actually "Li'l Morpheus" for a time? (Is there another possibility I haven't considered?)


1: I don't think it's likely that he doesn't understand that his fraternal relationship is severely abusive and dysfunctional, although I admit the possibility. I submit that he doesn't intend the living "happily ever after" as part of his story, making it more of a hinted plea to his brother, because the point of view shifts from "way back when" back to the present time, when Abel is speaking to Daniel. On the other hand, he doesn't stutter during that part; Matthew notes on the next page that the stutter disappears when Abel tells stories, making it possible that that sentence is part of the story. I'm not really sure how to interpret that part.

  • really nice analysis of the stutter. (That's close reading, BTW). – user111 Jun 6 '17 at 4:15
  • 3
    I feel like, given the themes about the subjectivity of stories that the series touches on, there's a way to interpret this scene so that Cain and Abel are both right and both wrong. Unfortunately it's been too long since I read it and I don't have the books to review. – Torisuda Jun 6 '17 at 16:59
  • @Torisuda That's really interesting! I'll have to think about it. – Shokhet Jun 6 '17 at 17:33
  • @Hamlet Thank you. I am planning to read the articles about close reading that you posted in chat. – Shokhet Jun 6 '17 at 20:52
6

Cain is most probably right in blaming Abel for "sanitising".

When was "that time"?

When The Dreaming was first established, Dream was its only inhabitant for millions of years - at least according to Neil Gaiman:

I always assumed the Sandman spent millions of years in a version of The Dreaming completely on his own; and I think he quite enjoys the alternative of having others around - though he'd never admit it.
The Sandman Companion, chapter 4: "The Doll's House", page 52.

Note that the author says "millions", and not billions. Assuming all the Endless were born very promptly after the "beginning" of the universe, I think it's quite obvious that Cain is right - after all, Earth is only 4.5 billion years old, and the universe is 3 times older.

Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel are not necessarily human.

When Matthew asks how Eve, Cain, and Abel fit into the scientific view on the history of the world, Abel begins to respond that the story he told was not set on Earth.

My assumption is that the story of Adam and his wives was not meant as a history of human beings as well - Cain does say "you're everybody's mother", and even though Eve says "it's a matter of opinion", which part of this comic series isn't?

Dreamers, in The Sandman universe, are not only humans... and not even "living beings" in the accepted sense of the word.

Take this panel from The Sandman: Overture #2 - this is what Dream looked like for the first dreamers:

I think it's somewhat humanly-arrogant to assume those characters looked like humans a long time ago. After all, in a series whose protagonist changes appearance as he pleases, things like this shouldn't come as a surprise.


The reason why Abel "sanitised" his story is his audience - a former human now-raven Matthew, and the human boy Daniel (nobody cares about the gargoyle). Quite possibly they wouldn't understand his story if he told it as it was.

  • Nice answer! I'm not sure what you mean by "geological history" (last paragraph before your first picture). Maybe "human" or "anthropologic" history is a better term? – Shokhet Jun 6 '17 at 20:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.