Neil Gaiman’s Sandman will turn the history of mankind for his own selfish purposes

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He is a member of the Infinite and the King of Dreams, but Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is not averse to turning human history around for his own selfish purposes. One comic book story shows Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, doing just that, inadvertently getting involved in the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century and changing the course of history forever.

Created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg, Morpheus is part of the Infinite, seven beings of unimaginable power who act as living embodiments of natural forces such as Death, Desire and Destruction. Morpheus is the lord of Dreams, the place where the dreams and nightmares of mortals live. Aloof, cold-blooded and self-obsessed, Morpheus everywhere personifies discontented, sickly young people. Sometimes the Lord of Dreams even goes out into the waking world and takes part in the affairs of mortals, sometimes for the benefit of humanity; other times less.

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“Sandman # 29” by Neil Gaiman, Stan Woch and Dick Giordano tells about one such story where Morpheus asks for help from a mortal acquaintance to help him find something that has great personal significance for him. This mortal is Lady Joanna Constantine, a con artist, the ancestor of John Constantine, who is in every way a fraud, like her modern descendant. Morpheus asks her to infiltrate France in 1794 and take the head of his son Orpheus, who, being immortal, is still alive and fully conscious. Lady Constantine successfully wins the favor of Saint-Just, Maximilian Robespierre’s most trusted ally and one of the key figures of the bloody reign of terror, the period of the French Revolution when thousands of political dissidents were publicly beheaded. Discovering that Orpheus’ head is kept by the Jacobins, Lady Constantine takes it and escapes from Paris, but is captured before she manages to escape the city. Finding herself sentenced to death by Saint Just and Robespierre, Lady Joanna Constantine forces Orpheus’ head to sing to their kidnappers. Stunned by his hypnotic voice, Lady Constantine and Orpheus can bypass Robespierre and Saint Just and escape from France altogether. Still reeling from the effects of Orpheus’ voice, Saint-Just stumbles shortly afterwards during a speech to the French National Assembly, making a fool of himself in the process. He and Robespierre were subsequently arrested and sentenced to death for their atrocities, effectively ending their reign of terror.

This is a perfect example of how Morpheus’ personal actions can have long-term consequences. The Sandman may be an immortal god-like being of immense power, but he is still beholden to petty desires and desires like those of mere mortals. The simple act of Morpheus hiring Lady Constantine to bring his son back leads to the end of the French Revolution—a clever way for Gaiman to weave his story with real moments in history.

The entire Sandman series deals with the nature of this balance of power, with eternal beings like the Infinite shaping reality on a whim for very human, imperfect reasons. This, in fact, is Gaiman’s thesis: there is no such thing as “unlimited” power, simply because everyone is defined by the limitations of their own nature. Their fears, their desires… Their selfish need to prove their existence. While Neil Gaiman’s Sandman may be a creature of almost limitless power, he will always owe it to his own nature.

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