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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Sandman

“Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.”  
Edgar Allan Poe

Everyone craves a good night's sleep, and we practice many ways to achieve this.   Listening to music, playing a game on your cell phone, reading, watching television and so on.   When we fall asleep, we hope for dreamless or peaceful sleep; yet, many are awakened by nightmares.  It is estimated that 5 to 10% of adults suffer from nightmares, and 50% of toddlers or children (ages 3 to 6) suffer from regular bad dreams or nightmares.  

Some people choose to utilize medications and even therapy, but personally, I prefer white noise and use a fan 365 nights per year.   About a decade ago, I used a sea-scape CD, and used repeat, to help lull me to sleep. 

Enter The Sandman.  

Commonly regarded as a cheerful presence, (always a male) who creates a restful night for children by creating sweet dreams, through some sort of wizardry.  

He is called the Sandman because he is known to blow or sprinkle magical dust, or sand, from his hands onto the eyes of children.  

In this folklore, when one wakes in the morning with grit in their eyes, it was often told to children that the Sandman had visited them.   

Jennifer Anniston as Rachel, in this short video from the popular television show Friends really dislikes anything near her eyes.

This Sandman, is frequently depicted in vintage illustrations, as a childish or small elf-like creature, who appears quite cheerful while administering his night time duty.  This Sandman is benevolent and a creator of dreams, and even has the ability to create premonitions, so that one may be able to foretell their own future.  

In 1841, Hans Christian Anderson, gave the Sandman proverbial wings in his story called, "Ole Lukøje". 

The origin of The Sandman story is believed to be Norse or Northern Europe, and most likely an oral tradition passed on to help children fall asleep, and may have been were Anderson adopted the idea.  Anderson describes The Sandman's visits with a pleasant approach:

"In the evening, while the children are seated at the table or in their little chairs, he comes up the stairs very softly, for he walks in his socks, then he opens the doors without the slightest noise, and throws a small quantity of very fine dust in their eyes, just enough to prevent them from keeping them open, and so they do not see him. Then he creeps behind them, and blows softly upon their necks, till their heads begin to droop.... Under each arm he carries an umbrella; one of them, with pictures on the inside, he spreads over the good children, and then they dream the most beautiful stories the whole night. But the other umbrella has no pictures, and this he holds over the naughty children so that they sleep heavily, and wake in the morning without having dreams at all."

There is another Sandman, whose nocturnal visits are not surrounded by sugar plums and winged fairies dancing in one's head.  He is a wicked, fanged creature with long fingers and nails, who collects the skin of his dead victims, and wears them as a putrid and decaying cloak.  He lurks in the shadows of bedrooms, whispering "tick-tock, tick-tock" which induces sleep in his victim.  Once the individual has dozed off, the Sandman may devour the innocent dreamer, suffocate you with sand, or steal your eyes and eat them!  

"Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream...." 
– The Chordettes

This very disturbing story, "The Sandman", was translated from German as Der Sandmann, written in 1816 as a short story by Ernest Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann.  It was first introduced in 1817, in his book of stories entitled, "The Night Pieces".  Hoffman delivers a inverted, satirical critique of society at that time, and feeds fear into the minds of the reader.  The story is a narrative, and, according to the protagonist's nurse in one excerpt, describes the Sandman with horror-based detail:

"He is a wicked man, who comes to children when they won't go to bed, and throws a handful of sand into their eyes, so that they start out bleeding from their heads. He puts their eyes in a bag and carries them to the crescent moon to feed his own children, who sit in the nest up there. They have crooked beaks like owls so that they can pick up the eyes of naughty human children.  A most frightful picture of the cruel Sandman became impressed upon my mind; so that when in the evening I heard the noise on the stairs I trembled with agony and alarm, and my mother could get nothing out of me but the cry, 'The Sandman, the Sandman!' stuttered forth through my tears. I then ran into the bedroom, where the frightful apparition of the Sandman terrified me during the whole night."

In the modern-day supernatural thriller based on The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, our friend, The Sandman comes to life in Episode 3: 'For the Triumph of Evil'.  Apparently, sand emanates from his own eyes, which he gathers into his hand to cast into the eyes of his victim.  Let's face it:  He is really a disturbing creature!

^Metalica^ - Enter Sandman [Official music video]

Perhaps one of the most frightening variations of The Sandman is the character of Freddy Kruger, appearing in the 1984 movie "A Nightmare on Elm Street".   Wes Craven was Freddy's creator, who invented this seemingly invincible man to enter into the real world, via dreams.  Though this is a slasher movie, I still feel that a strong association can be drawn from The Sandman.  Freddy, and the film are a superb representation of a realized nightmare, the suffering children and the power of subconsciousness.  This flick scared me to my core, and I still have several fears resulting from watching this particular movie.  

"Wes Craven said his inspiration for the basis of Freddy Krueger's power stemmed from several stories in the Los Angeles Times about a series of mysterious deaths: All the victims had reported recurring nightmares and died in their sleep.   Additionally, Craven's original script characterized Freddy as a child molester, which Craven said was the "worst thing" he could think of. The decision was made to instead make him a child murderer in order to avoid being accused of exploiting the spate of highly publicized child molestation cases in California around the time A Nightmare on Elm Street went into production.  

Craven's inspirations for the character included a bully from his school during his youth, a disfigured homeless man who had frightened him when he was 11, and the 1970's pop song "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright. In an interview, he said, "When I looked down there was a man very much like Freddy walking along the sidewalk. He must have sensed that someone was looking at him and stopped and looked right into my face. He scared the living daylights out of me, so I jumped back into the shadows. I waited and waited to hear him walk away. Finally I thought he must have gone, so I stepped back to the window. The guy was not only still looking at me but he thrust his head forward as if to say, 'Yes, I'm still looking at you.' The man walked towards the apartment building's entrance. I ran through the apartment to our front door as he was walking into our building on the lower floor. I heard him starting up the stairs. My brother, who is ten years older than me, got a baseball bat and went out to the corridor but he was gone." - Source: wiki

Below, "The Sandman" - an (oral narrative) horror story, created by Tam Lin.  This short film is a bit different, as it appears to be an art project, of sorts. Still and gifs pictures are combined with the spoken word create this modern and unique tale of The Sandman. 

Image Credits:

Umbrella Illustration by Caroline Emilie Mundt - Pinterest
Sleepy Hollow Sandman - tumblr
The Sandman - Illustration by Brian Bolland
Midsummer Night's Dream, 1935 gif image
Other:  tumblr, Pinterest, Google Images under search words Sandman, sleep, sleep gif