Editor’s Note: The following includes The Sandman spoilers.A few weeks after its Netflix debut, it’s safe to say that The Sandman is a hit. Neil Gaiman‘s world of fantasy and dreamlike adventures has us ensnared once again, and we are definitely all the better for it. One of the most interesting aspects of Gaiman’s work, that makes it so appealing to audiences and readers everywhere, is how sensible and relatable it is. We can see a bit of ourselves even (and especially) in the Endless, who are the personification of different aspects of reality. It’s crazy. And that is possible because, among other things, the Endless are a family.
Don’t deny it, everybody who has siblings knows the struggle is very much real. It doesn’t matter how many there are in your family or wether you are the oldest, the middle one or the youngest, each one of the offspring always gets their very own special treatment – be it for the best or for the worst – and they will always think that the other one has it better. Now, imagine for a second you are in a family with another six siblings, each one more eccentric than the next, all the while not being so “usual” yourself. Being normal is definitely overrated, but the Endless take that to the next level and form one of the most dysfunctional families in pop culture.
While in the show and the comics we follow Dream (Tom Sturridge) most closely, they are all fascinating and worth looking into, all seven of them: Destiny, Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Dream, Destruction, Desire (Mason Alexander Park), Despair (Donna Preston) and Delirium. Being the great mythology architect he is, Neil Gaiman built the Endless in that order, making it so as their ages are a very important factor in understanding who they are and why they do what they do.
The oldest of the Endless siblings is Destiny, but he doesn’t appear in Season 1 of The Sandman. Him being the first to come into being, he represents the most basic aspect of existence: once everything exists, things will happen. Therefore, Destiny is the representation of entropy, the exchange of energy between all beings and things in the universe. He is the one who ensures that everything that needs to happen will happen by continuously reading his book and setting everyone’s paths in motion
The second eldest of the Endless, Death is also the kindest, precisely because she knows what Destiny has in store for us: the end of our paths. While her big brother represents the exchange of energy in the universe, she represents an important aspect of this exchange: it’s a zero-sum game. If one side earns or gains energy, the other side is bound to lose it, and that’s how things die. So, even though her name says otherwise, she is the one to truly define the concept of life and the act of living, that being existing while your energy lasts before it is transferred back into the universe. Her sigil, an ankh, states that clearly, being the Egyptian symbol for life. Death is the most natural thing in someone’s life, it’s the one thing we all have in common.
Now that the concept of life and death is well established, it’s time to look into what is the main drive for sentient beings: dreams. Dreams are what makes life worth living. Life demands us to dream, otherwise we are stuck in a monotonous existence, with no motivation or nothing to make us want to move forward. It’s the act of dreaming that makes existence bearable for mortals. Another important aspect of dreaming is that that is what ultimately defines reality. In A Dream of a Thousand Cats, it’s explained that the humans were dominated by the cats, and were only able to change that reality through dreaming collectively of a better world for themselves. Of course, things never change all of a sudden only through dreaming, you have to work for it. And that’s how one’s reality is defined. Morpheus is not really a life coach, far from it, but the message is pretty straightforward: if you can dream it, you can do it!
The prodigal brother of the Endless family, Destruction left his post because he didn’t want to be responsible for the chaos humanity would bring upon itself when it turned to science. Because destruction is what happens when dreams get subverted to evil ends. His good nature and kind heart make him see himself as the herald of change, a necessary step so things may get better in the future. Ironically, every time he tries to create something beautiful, it never works. This goes to show that even the best intentions can bring about catastrophic consequences. Destroying things is his nature, no matter how much he tries to turn that around.
Desire and Despair
The Endless twins share a very strong bond, and that is not a coincidence (more like Destiny, but we’d have to check his book). Desire and despair are emotions that often go hand in hand, and can mutually fuel each another. Once desire manifests and the need for doing of having something goes wrong, people often feel despair in their hearts, and the opposite is also true – when desperation reigns, desire is often the one thing on someone’s mind… Not dreams. An interesting personality trait of Desire, by the way, is their animosity towards Dream, denoting the differences between those two concepts and how they can get in one another’s ways. Those elements can bring each other forth in us, either being the spark of motivation for us to get what we want, or to make us confused and fumble when we are close to getting it.
By now, it’s a known fact that Delirium used to go by another name, Delight, a very positive condition. One that most people keep chasing as their main goal, often losing sight of what’s important and becoming, well, delusional. The youngest of the Endless is also one who is constantly using her abilities. Delirium, the feeling, is a spike of ecstasy and illusion caused by something happening at the moment. That means that this is a very brief state of mind, something represented in Delirium, the Endless, by her constant change of appearance. Like her older siblings, her existence also defines the opposite of her name, which makes sanity also her domain. Sanity, though, is not something easy to maintain, no matter how focused and centered you are, and that’s why people often turn to drugs to feel better or can lose their minds in extreme conditions. There are a lot of conditions for sanity to be maintained, which is also expressed in Delirium’s dependence of her older siblings, especially Dream and Destruction – a dreamer, under too much duress, can get delusional and even cause some destruction.