Monday, 16 December 2013

Mixing Mythologies

In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: The Kindly Ones (New York, 1996), these events occur simultaneously:

the Furies attack the Dreaming, although they cannot kill one resident of that "Land of Nod," Cain, because he is too well guarded;
Odin and Thor recapture the escaped Loki while Loki's temporary ally, the Puck, returns to Faerie;
Rose Walker and Celia Cripps discuss the words "sinople," "lusk" and "bloater" on a flight to the US.

Gaiman seamlessly blends the mundane with the multiply mythological - Greek, Biblical, Norse, English and invented. The in-flight conversation does not seem out of place and even resonates with the surrounding narrative whether or not we notice. It is possible to recognize Gaiman's writing as powerful without understanding how it is.

The Dreaming is a modern myth, a story capable of transcending its text. Retroactively, it is the source of all other myths because all gods begin as dreams. An imminent battle in the Dreaming draws ravens, including the ones form the Tower of London (so will the kingdom fall?) and Noah's raven who remembers "The old lush" when he was "...Utnapishtim..." (Chapter 9. p. 22). These characters live in the stories and know that they are stories.

In The Sandman: Brief Lives (New York, 1994), we are told that gods begin in Dream's realm and that Dream was there "...when the first living thing awoke to life..." (Chapter 8, p. 11) but, in The Kindly Ones, Dream tells Nuala that the Furies (who are feared by gods) can harm him because they are empowered by "...rules that were old when time was young..." (Chapter 11, p. 6). There are always mysteries beyond those we know.

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