The Sandman: A Complete Guide to the World of the Dreaming (and Beyond)
After 30 years of waiting, The Sandman has finally made its way to the screen. Netflix did the impossible by adapting what was once called an “un-adaptable” comic, and they did so with flying colors. The Sandman show, which was co-created by its author Neil Gaiman, managed to translate almost every important element from the comics.
Netflix viewers will be introduced to the fantastical world of The Sandman, from the realm of The Dreaming to the pits of Hell. The show boasts rich and mysterious mythology that spans from the beginning of time to now. You’ll meet anthropomorphized characters like Death and ancient entities like The Fates. Comic fans might know the world by heart, but new viewers might have a hard time keeping up with Dream’s world.
So to satisfy everyone’s curiosity, we’ve prepared a quick and dirty rookie’s guide to the world-building of The Sandman.
Dream and Desire.
The Endless are anthropomorphic entities who were made into being when humans first dreamed, desired, despaired, died… you get the idea. The Endless, the metaphysical children of cosmic beings Night and Time, embody these essential forces of the universe in (somewhat) human bodies. They rule over their own realms and influence the world with their powers. There are seven Endless in all.
Dream (Tom Sturridge) - Also known as Morpheus and The Sandman, Dream controls the realm of The Dreaming and holds power over dreams, stories, and nightmares. He walks through the world of sleep and can manifest dreams into reality. Dream’s escape from his century-long imprisonment kicks off the events of The Sandman.
Death (Kirby Howell—Baptiste) - The eldest of the Endless is Death, Dream’s big sister who is surprisingly kind, gentle, and fair. Death the concept gets a bad rap for being dark and gloomy, but Death is perhaps the most positive character in the comics. She holds all the wisdom that the other siblings lack.
Desire (Mason Alexander Park) - The androgynous twin of Despair, Desire is the most antagonistic of the Endless siblings who take joy in messing with Dream. Like the feeling they embody, Desire is a complicated character who’s never wholly good nor bad.
Despair (Donna Preston) - In contrast to Desire is Despair, the twin who enjoys watching humans in misery. She’s a glum figure who aids Desire in her troublesome endeavors.
Destiny - Destiny rules over The Garden, a realm designed to resemble a huge maze. Destiny plays the role of the omniscient sibling who keeps himself separate from humanity. He does not appear in season one.
Destruction - In the second episode of The Sandman, Lucienne notes that Morpheus isn’t the first Endless to be kept away from his realm. The first was Destruction, who actually abandoned his realm to embark on a journey to solve his… existential crisis. He does not appear in season one.
Delirium - The youngest of the siblings, Delirium was actually once known as Delight. But something happened to change her persona from endless joy to endless chaos. She does not appear in season one.
The Humans, Nightmares, and More
Unity Kincaid, Lucienne, and Rose Walker.
Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong) - Morpheus’ right-hand woman, Lucienne is The Dreaming’s librarian who oversees The Dreaming and all of Morpheus’ tasks when he’s not available. She speaks sense to Dream when he’s too stubborn to see it and gives him the guidance he needs.
Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie) - While not one of the Endless, Lucifer is powerful in their own right as a fallen angel and the ruler of hell. Lucifer was depicted as a man in the comics, but the role became androgynous in the show, similar to the way Tilda Swinton played an androgynous Michael in Constantine.
Matthew (voiced by Patton Oswalt) - The sarcastic raven is Morpheus’ new sidekick who follows him around even when he doesn’t want him to. Dream always has a raven, and Matthew replaces the position vacated by the last raven Jessamy when she was killed in the first episode.
Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman) - Replacing John Constantine in the show is Johanna Constantine, played by Jenna Coleman. Johanna is essentially the female version of the character and maintains the sarcastic and witty spirit of John.
Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) - The head of the Order of Ancient Mysteries, Burgess was the occultist who imprisoned Dream by accident in the early 1900s. Burgess intended to capture Death but got Dream instead. He passed while Dream was still imprisoned, leaving the Sandman in the custody of his unwanted son, Alex.
Alex Burgess (Laurie Kynaston) - The son of Roderick, Alex once sympathized with Dream but eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and tried to bargain with Dream for favors and freedom. When Dream escapes, he puts Alex in an endless sleep full of nightmares for keeping him imprisoned.
Rose Walker (Vanesu Samunyai) - Walker is a young girl with the power to converge dreams, giving her the title of Dream Vortex. Through her mysterious lineage, she was her own connection to the Endless, but perhaps not the way it seems.
Unity Kinkaid (Sandra James-Young) - When Dream was imprisoned, millions were afflicted with the "sleeping disease" as Dream wasn't around to do his job. Unity was one of the victims and spent most of her childhood and adult life in a deep sleep. She awakened when Dream was freed.
Ethyl Cripps (Joely Richardson) - The mistress of Roderick Burgess, Cripps was also an occultist. During her affair with Burgess, she became pregnant but was told to get rid of her child by Burgess. Instead, she ran away to America, stole all three of Dream’s objects of power, and gave birth to John Dee.
John Dee (David Thewlis) - Also known as Doctor Destiny, John Dee stole the ruby from his mother and used it to manifest dreams into reality, creating death and destruction along the way. His mother eventually imprisoned him, but he was let out when she died. His extended time with the ruby polluted it, giving Dream a hard time getting it back.
The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) - A nightmare gone rogue, The Corinthian escaped Dream when he was captured by Roderick Burgess. In the century he was imprisoned, The Corinthian killed hundreds, creating a community of serial killers. He spends the season plotting in the background to keep Dream away from him so he can stay in the waking world.
The Objects of Power
Dream with his helm.
Despite being an Endless, Dream needs three important objects to harness his power. While Dream is still powerful without them, they act as conduits or tools that sharpen and enhance his ability to shape matter and dreams. These objects are also symbols of power as Dream seeks them out to reclaim his status as the king of dreams.
Dream’s Helm - The object that’s also Dream’s sigil, the helm was crafted from the spine and skull of a real god. It was stolen by Ethel Cripps in the show and given to a demon in exchange for her Amulet of Protection. Dream goes to Hell to get his helm back.
Dream’s Sand Pouch - Also stolen by Ethyl Cripps, the sand pouch eventually ended up in a garage sale and was bought by Johanna Constantine, who left it at an ex’s house. Dream walks into that relationship spat to get his sand pouch.
Dream’s Ruby - The last item stolen by Ethel Cripps was the ruby, which was the only object she didn’t trade with the demon. Instead, she kept it until it was stolen from her by her own son, who used it to kill hundreds. The ruby is one of 12 dream stones made by Dream, but it’s only the Ruby that he chose as a symbol of power.
Dream in The Dreaming.
The Dreaming - The realm of Dream’s creation, The Dreaming is, quite frankly, the stuff of dreams. Morpheus created every corner of The Dreaming and it’s taken a life of its own, reflecting the moods of Dream whether he’s pleased or moody. The rules of The Dreaming are vague, just as dreams are, but its inhabitants are either dreams, nightmares, myths, and stories, or they are humans who eventually became dreams, like Cain and Abel.
Hell - The underworld for demons, fallen angels, and damned souls, Hell is ruled by a triumvirate of Lucifer, Azazel, and Belial. Hell is a chaotic pit, and also holds the forest of suicides and cells for the damned. Lovely place.
The Sandman Comics
The first season of The Sandman covered two volumes: Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. If you’re eager for the rest of Dream’s story, here are all the comics you need to collect whether in print or on Kindle.
- The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
- The Sandman Volume 2: The Doll’s House
- The Sandman Volume 3: Dream Country
- The Sandman Volume 4: Season of Mists
- The Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You
- The Sandman Volume 6: Fables and Reflections
- The Sandman Volume 7: Brief Lives
- The Sandman Volume 8: Worlds’ End
- The Sandman Volume 9: The Kindly Ones
- The Sandman Volume 10: The Wake
The Sandman is now streaming on Netflix.