Sandman

Sandman

In Scandinavian folklore, the Sandman is a mythical character said to sprinkle sand or dust on or into the eyes of the child at night to bring on sleep and dreams.

The grit or ‘sleep’ (rheum) in one’s eyes upon waking is the supposed result of the Sandman’s work the previous night. Rheum, also known as gound, is a thin mucus naturally discharged from the eyes, nose, or mouth during sleep.

E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822) wrote a story in 1816 called ‘Der Sandmann,’ which showed how sinister such a character could be made. According to the protagonist’s nurse, he threw sand in the eyes of children who wouldn’t sleep, with the result of those eyes falling out and being collected by the Sandman, who then takes the eyes to his nest on the Moon and uses them to feed his children. In Romanian folklore there is a similar character, Moș Ene (Ene the Elder).

Hans Christian Andersen’s 1841 folk tale ‘Ole Lukøje’ introduced the Sandman, named Ole Lukøje, by relating dreams he gave to a young boy in a week through his magical technique of sprinkling dust in the eyes of the children. ‘Ole’ is a Danish name and ‘Lukøje’ means ‘close eye.’

Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman wrote an acclaimed comic book called ‘The Sandman’ for Vertigo Comics. The original series ran from 1989 to 1996. It tells the story of Dream of the Endless, who rules over the world of dreams. He is an anthropomorphic personification of dreams known to various characters throughout the series as Morpheus, Oneiros, the Shaper, the Shaper of Form, Lord of the Dreaming, the Dream King, Dream-Sneak, the Cat of Dreams, Murphy, Kai’ckul and Lord L’Zoril. He posses three symbols of office: a helm, an amulet known was the Dreamstone, and a sand pouch.

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