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One symbol that is repeatedly associated with Desire is a crystal heart. This appears in several Sandman stories, including in each Endless member's gallery. (Each Endless has a gallery, containing the sigils of the other Endless.)

Dream, standing in his gallery and holding Desire's sigil -  a crystal heart.
The Sandman vol. 2: The Doll's House, part seven: "Lost Hearts"; click for full page.

I do have a picture of one of these hearts from a question that I had asked earlier on another SE site:

A woman, holding and then breaking a red crystalline heart.

The Sandman #16 "Lost Hearts"

The hearts are also something of a signature for Desire; when Nada's village was destroyed by Desire in The Sandman #9 ("Tales in the Sand"), crystalline hearts are left in the sand (and prompt the old man to begin his tale).

I wonder, then, if the "emerald heart of Koschei the Deathless," (seen in The Sandman #38 "The Hunt") is also associated with Desire of the Endless. The heart, given to Baba Yaga, appears strikingly similar to those hearts associated with Desire:

One silhouetted hand giving an emerald heart to another. Baba Yaga's speech bubble reads "Aye, this is the emerald heart of Koschei the Deathless. Well, good luck to you, boy."

As a side note, this emerald heart may or may not actually have once belonged to Koschei the Deathless:

The granddaughter asks the grandfather "I thought you said it wasn't the emerald heart of Koschei the Deathless." The grandfather answers "Maybe I was mistaken. Maybe Baba Yaga was easily fooled. Who knows?"

Desire's hearts appear in different colors, at least white and red, so I don't think Koschei's hearts green means that this is a different type of heart.

Is the emerald heart of Koschei the Deathless connected to Desire? If so, what is that connection?

  • Thank you for the pictures, @Gallifreyan. You're the best :) – Shokhet Jun 20 '17 at 14:05
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Hearts are certainly important, and were planted throughout the series intentionally:

If you leaf through the series, you'll find either an image of a heart or the word heart in virtually evert issue. Hearts are a major part of what Sandman is about.
Neil Gaiman in The Sandman Companion, part two, chapter 4: "The Doll's House"; emphasis respected.

Does the heart really belong to Koschei? I don't know. Most probably. But is the heart connected to Desire? Almost certainly. As Neil Gaiman acknowledges later in The Sandman Companion, the moral of "The Hunt" is some dreams (and some desires) should stay dreams (see also What did Vassily see when he looked at the sleeping woman? on SFF):

Hy Bender: Any comments about the very end of the story?

Neil Gaiman: Well, the granddaughter thinks the fairy tale's about her and her boyfriend, but of course it's not at all; it's a true story about her grandfather, and about dreams better left unrealized.
Ibid, chapter 8: "Fables and Reflections"; emphasis added.

I would even put forward a theory that this story is similar to "Three Septembers and a January", the story about Emperor Norton, the first and last emperor of the United States. In both stories, Desire tries (in "The Hunt" - subtly, in the other - not so much) to claim the protagonist for its own realm, and on both occasions Dream averts it, by showing them a dream. Norton had a dream of being the emperor; Vassily was granted an opportunity to see the object of his dream, and politely refused it (I wonder if the duke's daughter dreaming of goblets of sour blood had any influence on Vassily).


Although another theory I just developed (after reading this) is that the heart is related to Desire, but through Koschei. It's simple, and confined to this panel:

This is the emerald heart of Koschei the Deathless. He kept his life in this heart, but a woman stole it, and he died.

I.e. here we have the classic story of Desire making someone fall in love and then die because they couldn't be loved back. I think the key difference between Vassily and Koschei in this case is dreams versus desire, respectively. I'm not quite sure where to draw the line between the two in this case, but if we were to accept that the duke's daughter was only a dream for Vassily, then we don't need to involve Desire with another plot to bring a man to his doom.

The choice of words in this panel is what drives my theory:

Vassily looked at her. She was Beautiful, indeed. And pale. And fragile. She was everything he had dreamed of.

Notice that is says "dreamed of" instead of "desired". I think the line between dreams and desires in this case is that Vassily didn't truly want the girl to belong to him - he was curious as to whether she truly was as she was depicted in the miniature. Hence he dreamed of her, but without romantic or sexual desire.

  • Nice answer, thank you. I'm glad that I'm "correct" about linking the hearts to Desire. Do you have any idea what the connection to Vassily, specifically, is? (Is Desire pushing him to desire the duke's daughter through the heart; and does that desire disappear after he gives the heart away?) – Shokhet Jun 20 '17 at 14:01
  • I think I actually have some support for my theory about Desire trying to push Vassily into a relationship with "Natasha." See scifi.stackexchange.com/a/162018/41144. – Shokhet Jun 20 '17 at 20:04
  • I know this is a story about "The King of Dreams," but I think you're reading too much into that word in the final panel. – Shokhet Jun 20 '17 at 21:48
  • I could say the same about your Desire theory :) – Gallifreyan Jun 20 '17 at 21:49
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    Maybe it is a bit of a stretch. I just finished Mistborn which (mild spoilers) involves an Endless-type god that remotely influences and controls people through implanted metallic spikes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – Shokhet Jun 20 '17 at 22:16

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