Saturday, 4 August 2012

Politics, Immortality And Dream

Neil Gaiman's Sandman includes one more fantastic story about the limits of political power. The fruit of immortality passes from an ascetic to a king to the king's wife to her lover to a courtesan and back to the king who then executes the wife and the lover, abdicates and eats the fruit. His royal power could not prevent his wife's unfaithfulness so he ends her life and his kingship.

How does this relate to Dream? Well, the ex-king once describes sleep as being in the arms of Morpheus. More importantly, he tells his story to his fellow immortal, Hob Gadling, and to the handsome cabin boy, Jim. Jim tells his/her story to a group of travellers stranded in the Inn of the Worlds' End by a "reality storm" occasioned by the death of Morpheus. 

The latter has set in motion a sequence of events that can end in his death. On the one hand, he remains confident that he can prevent his death. On the other hand, he must want an end or he would not have initiated these events in the first place. If he dies, then he is succeeded by another aspect of himself whereas, if, like his brother, Destruction, he merely leaves his realm, then that realm, the Dreaming, ceases to be ruled. His sense of responsibility will not allow him to leave such disorder in his wake.
By dying, Morpheus abdicates great power but not political power. He tells Desire, "We of the Endless are the servants of the living - we are NOT their masters. We exist because they know, deep in their hearts, that we exist." (1) They are anthropomorphic personifications of aspects of our consciousness so their power over dreams, desires etc derives from us.

(1) Gaiman, Neil, The Sandman: The Doll's House, New York, 1990, p. 226. 

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