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The Sandman Fables And Reflections Analysis Essay

The Sandman: Fables and Reflections Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Sandman: Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman.

THE SANDMAN: FABLES AND RECOLLECTIONS is a compilation of comic books about the popular DC/Vertigo comics character the Sandman. All are written by Neil Gaiman, but illustrations are by various artists. The nine stories included were originally sold as individual comic books in the 1990s.

The stories vary in settings, ranging from the golden ages of Rome and Baghdad to present day. The common denominator in all the stories is that Dream has some role to play in each.

The fact that eight of the nine stories were based on some historical fact adds more interest. Gene Wolfe, in his introduction to the book, claims that a reader will learn more historical information about the first and only emperor of the United States by reading "Three Septembers and a January." The only stories that are truly born of imagination, with no character of historic reference, is "The Hunt" and "Fear of Falling."

In "Fear of Falling," Dream helps a playwright and director face his fear to become successful.

In "Three Septembers and a January," Dream gives a desperate man a dream because of a challenge issued to him by his sister Despair. Joshua Norton becomes the first and only emperor of the United States. This man really existed.

Dream helps a young forest man, who also happens to be a werewolf, meet the woman of his dreams in "The Hunt." He wisely realizes the two have nothing in common and he lives happily ever after with the werewolf girl he met during the tale.

Dream is the one who needs help in "Thermidor." He asks Lady Johanna to help retrieve his son's head. This story talks of St. Just and Robspierre, both important to the French Revolution.

In "August," Dream helps Augustus find a day to think without the gods' scrutiny. The time he is able to spend without the watchful scrutiny of the gods helps him deal with his feelings of guilt and hatred for his great-uncle, Julius Caesar.

In "Soft Places," Dream does not want to help Marco Polo but does because Polo has been so polite to Dream.

Dream treats his son like the mortal he is in "Orpheus." Dream tries to counsel his son through his grief, but does not treat him any differently than he would a non-family member.

The "Parliament of Rooks" is a story about stories. Dream's only real connection to it was as a child. When he and his sister, Teleuth (death), were young, they don't have much work to do. As the reader learns in Abel's story, the youngsters are small because not many people either dream or die.

In "Ramadan," Dream teaches King Haroun Al Raschid a valuable lesson. After being summoned, Dream gives the king exactly what he says he wants... a kingdom that won't fade away, stored tightly in a jar.

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Fables & Reflections (1993) is the sixth collection of issues in the DC Comics series, The Sandman. It was written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Bryan Talbot, Stan Woch, P. Craig Russell, Shawn McManus, John Watkiss, Jill Thompson, Duncan Eagleson, Kent Williams, Mark Buckingham, Vince Locke and Dick Giordano, coloured by Danny Vozzo and Lovern Kindzierski/Digital Chameleon, and lettered by Todd Klein. The introduction is written by Gene Wolfe.

The issues in the collection first appeared in 1991, 1992 and 1993.[1] The collection first appeared in paperback and hardback in 1993.

Like the third collection (Dream Country), and the eighth (Worlds' End), Fables and Reflections is a collection of short one-issue stories. Most of the stories do not contribute directly to the overall story arc of the series on a textual level but rather comment on its themes and provide subtext. The most conspicuous exception is the story "Orpheus", originally printed as the one-shot Sandman Special, which is central to the main story of the series.

It is preceded by A Game of You and followed by Brief Lives.


The book contains four tales under the banner of "Distant Mirrors", which are about emperors and the nature of power. These issues all take their name from months ("Thermidor", "August", "Three Septembers and a January" and "Ramadan"). Three of the issues making up the "Distant Mirrors" group were published between the "Season of Mists" and "A Game of You" story arcs. The last, "Ramadan", was written contemporaneously, but because of art delays DC published it as Issue #50, after the "Brief Lives" arc.

Three other issues appearing in Fables & Reflections, published as the Convergence story "arc", are also single-issue short stories in which Morpheus appears very little. Each of these issues details various characters' meetings with one another, and each is structured as a story within a story (this is a theme to which Gaiman will return in the Worlds' End arc). "Convergence" appeared between the "A Game of You" and "Brief Lives" story arcs.

The collection also includes the Sandman Special, retelling the Greek myth of Orpheus, and a brief piece from a Vertigo promotional comic.

Because Fables & Reflections partakes of so many elements, some believe it lacks the thematic or artistic consistency that is present even in the other short story collections. Perhaps in an effort to make these differences less apparent, DC has shuffled the issues in the volume instead of presenting them chronologically with "Distant Mirrors" at the front and "Convergence" at the back. Some readers may choose to read this volume cover-to-cover after "A Game of You", while others read individual stories in their place as originally published.

Due to its nature as a collection of short stories, Fables & Reflections is probably the least essential volume of the series in terms of the surface plot of The Sandman (with the exception of "Orpheus"), but perhaps the most accessible as the reader can dip in and out without needing a thorough grounding in the characters and previous stories. That said, some of the stories in Fables and Reflections provide key subtext that is invaluable to the close reader attempting to understand Morpheus' motivations in the rest of the series.


"Fear of Falling"[edit]

This is the story from Vertigo Preview #1. This is a very short story, concerning a theatrical author/director who is afraid of the consequences of his new play, be they success or failure. Drawn by Kent Williams.

"Three Septembers and a January"[edit]

A playful story concerning the (mostly true) history of Joshua Abraham Norton, first, last and only Emperor of the United States of America. Despair challenges Dream to keep him in his realm for the remainder of his life. While Dream is uninterested, Despair harkens to the memory of their brother's departure which Despair states was caused by Dream's lack of caring. Neatly dovetailed with his story is an explanation for his strange career centering on a challenge between Morpheus and Desire. The story also ties into Desire's actions in the second collection, The Doll's House. Drawn by Shawn McManus.


An altogether darker story set in the heat of the French Revolution, featuring the character of Lady Johanna Constantine (who first appeared in "Men of Good Fortune") and introducing, briefly, Orpheus. The villains of the story are Robespierre and Saint-Just. Thomas Paine also appears. Penciled by Stan Woch and inked by Dick Giordano.

"The Hunt"[edit]

A fairy tale of the East European tradition concerning a young man of 'The People' (werewolves) who comes to possess a portrait of a beautiful princess. It makes reference to The Death of Koschei the Deathless and the witch Baba Yaga. Penciled by Duncan Eagleson and inked by Vince Locke.


Another story concerning a month. An extremely bleak tale about the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar set in 7 AD. Disguised as a beggar, he talks of his life to the dwarf who instructs him in this disguise. We learn that as a young man, he was raped by his great-uncle, Julius Caesar; and we learn that Augustus chose the future of the world from two sets of prophecies, one in which the Roman Empire grew to cover the whole world and lasted millennia, and one in which it died out after a few hundred years. He spends one day a year disguised as a beggar because Morpheus told him, in a dream, that if he does so the gods cannot spy on his plans. It is implied that, during his days in disguise as a beggar, Augustus plotted for the Roman Empire to fall after his death out of his hatred for Julius Caesar. Penciled by Bryan Talbot and inked by Stan Woch.

In the story, Augustus uses the phrase "quick as boiled asparagus", a reference to I, Claudius.

Most of this story is based on The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius.

"Soft Places"[edit]

A story of Marco Polo lost in the desert, at a location where the boundary between reality and the Dreaming is malleable. There he encounters Rustichello of Pisa, Fiddler's Green, and Morpheus himself, after the latter escapes his captivity in "Preludes and Nocturnes". In their conversation, Fiddler's Green explains the location (the story's eponym), and scolds Marco and other explorers for reduction of their number. Ultimately, Morpheus returns Marco to his expedition. The story is something of a piece with "Exiles", a story from the tenth collection, The Wake. Drawn by John Watkiss.

"The Song of Orpheus"[edit]

This is the central story of the collection, which narrates the Greek myth of Orpheus; but to the main story, Gaiman adds an interpretation based on his own characters, wherein Morpheus and Calliope are the parents of Orpheus, and his uncle Destruction and aunt Death instruct him to reach the underworld, after the death of his wife Eurydice. Here, Orpheus' head is kept alive indefinitely after his dismemberment by the Maenads, and Morpheus' refusal to assist Eurydice's return, estranges him from Calliope (as remarked in Brief Lives). Penciled by Bryan Talbot and inked by Mark Buckingham.

"The Parliament of Rooks"[edit]

This story follows Daniel Hall - the child of Hippolyta Hall, first mentioned in Volume Two, The Doll's House, and introduced in Volume Four, Season of Mists - as an independent character. Here, Cain, Abel, Eve, Matthew, and Daniel hold a storytelling session, in which are described the three wives of Adam (a story appearing in the Alphabet of Sirach); how Cain and Abel came to reside in the Dreaming; and the natural phenomenon, the 'parliament of rooks'. Upon conclusion, Daniel returns to his mother. In a series of panels illustrated by Jill Thompson, the second internal story introduces the so-called "'Lil Endless" characters: renditions of Morpheus and Death as children, which became very popular with fans of the series. Penciled by Jill Thompson and inked by Vince Locke.


At the beginning of this story, the CaliphHarun al-Rashid rules over the brilliant city of Baghdad, but is troubled by the impermanence of its perfection, and offers Baghdad to Morpheus, if Morpheus will preserve it for ever. After the deal is completed, Harun awakes in a far more dreary version of Baghdad, with no memory of its previous fantastical nature. The story ends with an abrupt shift to war-torn modern-day Baghdad, where an old man tells this tale to a young child in exchange for money and cigarettes. The implication is made that the legendary Baghdad is preserved in legend, and therefore immortal. This tale contains numerous references to the One Thousand and One Nights, the famous collection of Middle Eastern fables; and it is implied that these are meant to preserve Baghdad. Drawn by P. Craig Russell, coloured by Lovern Kinzierski and Digital Chameleon.

Issues collected[edit]

IssueTitleWriterPencillerInkerColoristLettererAst EditorEditor
Vertigo Preview"Fear of Falling"Neil GaimanKent WilliamsKent WilliamsSherilyn van ValkenburghTodd Kleinn/aKaren Berger
31"Distant Mirrors - Three Septembers and a January"Neil GaimanShawn McManusShawn McManusDaniel VozzoTodd KleinAlisa KwitneyKaren Berger
29"Distant Mirrors - Thermidor"Neil GaimanStan WochDick GiordanoDaniel VozzoTodd KleinAlisa KwitneyKaren Berger
38"Convergence - The Hunt"Neil GaimanDuncan EaglesonVince LockeDaniel VozzoTodd KleinAlisa KwitneyKaren Berger
30"Distant Mirrors - August"Neil GaimanBryan TalbotStan WochDaniel VozzoTodd KleinAlisa KwitneyKaren Berger
39"Convergence - Soft Places"Neil GaimanJohn WatkissJohn WatkissDaniel VozzoTodd KleinAlisa KwitneyKaren Berger
Sandman Special"The Song of Orpheus"Neil GaimanBryan TalbotMark BuckinghamDaniel VozzoTodd KleinShelly RoebergKaren Berger
40"Convergence - The Parliament of Rooks"Neil GaimanJill ThompsonVince LockeDaniel VozzoTodd KleinAlisa KwitneyKaren Berger
50"Distant Mirrors - Ramadan"Neil GaimanP.Craig RussellP.Craig RussellLovern Kindzierski / Digital ChameleonTodd KleinShelly RoebergKaren Berger


External links[edit]

  1. ^Gaiman, Neil (1993). Karen Berger, ed. The Sandman: Fables and Reflections. DC Comics. p. 264. ISBN 1-56389-105-0. 

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