Well the Sandman has grown on me the more I read this series written by Neil Gaiman (the latest I had read was The A Game of You, perhaps one of my favourites along with Dream Country).
This time though, being unable to find the next book in the collection, I picked up The Dream Hunters (Sandman, Book 11). It wasn’t quite what I had expected at first. This is more of a novella with illustrations (and what beautiful illustrations!) by Yoshitaka Amano, the designer of the Final Fantasy game series.
Apparently Gaiman was researching for his translation of Hayao Miyazaki’s film Princess Mononoke and discovered the world of Japanese fables. In his afterword, he writes that he was struck by the tale ‘The Fox, the Monk, and the Mikado of All Night’s Dreaming’ in Fairy Tales of Old Japan and its similarities with his Sandman series. Gaiman also mentions Y.T. Ozaki, in whose tale the onmyoji is a central character. Interestingly, in 2007, Gaiman wrote on his blog: ““I learned from Wikipedia that Sandman: The Dream Hunters was actually based on Pu Songling’s Strange Stories From A Chinese Studio, which I thought I ought to read. Will report back” Couldn’t find any other mention of that on his blog though. So is this a Japanese fable? A Chinese one? I haven’t a clue. Nevertheless, what a great adaptation.
His collaboration with Amano resulted in this novella, as Amano does not draw comics.
Dream Hunters begins with a wager between a badger and a fox, on who would be able to scare a monk away from his temple. The winner gets to keep the temple for its home. The fox takes on the form of a woman in its bid and falls in love with the monk. Meanwhile in Kyoto, onmyoji, Master of Yin-Yang sends his demons to take over the monk’s dreams, to kill him. The fox overhears and enters the dream world to save the man she loves.
Morpheus doesn’t feature as prominently here as in the other books in the series, but I loved that Gaiman got to describe the Sandman (at least more than the graphic novels allow):
“The King of Dreams had skin as pale as the winter moon and hair as black as a raven’s wing, and his eyes were pools of night inside which distant stars glittered and burned. His robe was the colour of night, and flames and faces appeared in the base of it and were gone. He began to speak, in a voice that was gentle, yet as strong as silk.”
Dream Hunters was a gorgeous read. The paintings and drawings were lush, dark, mesmerising and not merely an accompaniment to the text but that which told the story on their own. As Amano writes in the afterword: “It was almost destined that our paths would cross. This is only the beginning.”
Dream Hunters is also available in graphic novel form.
Book provided by – my library