Oh, My Pop Culture Unchristianity: Sandman’s Humanizing Subversion of Common Christian Tropes

Dream keeps telling me to shut up about him, but I refuse!

Dream keeps telling me to shut up about him, but I refuse!

See, I told you I was going to keep talking about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic series! Today I’m going to discuss three ways in which the series subverts the expectations of readers familiar with Christian lore. These tropes are the Mystical Pregnancy, the Death of the Son of God, and God Dying for Our Sins. I think these departures from Christian canon are ultimately more “human”—more relatable and thus, perhaps, more believable.

Major spoilers for The Sandman series below!

  1. Mystical Pregnancy Does Not Result in a Savior

The Mystical Pregnancy trope did not begin with Christianity—for instance, there were several virgin or one-parent births in Greek mythology, and it could be argued that Isis’s conception of Osiris in Egyptian mythology was pretty mystical—but the Christian story of Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus is likely to be the most familiar instantiation of the trope to readers of Sandman. In Volume 2, The Doll’s House, we find out that Desire, one of the Endless, impregnated Unity Kinkaid, a woman who suffers from an illness causing her to sleep most of the time.

Now, first, let’s get one thing out of the way. In Sandman, Gaiman is careful to make a distinction between the seven Endless—our main character Dream as well as his siblings, including Desire—and gods. In the Sandman universe, gods only exist because people believe in them (which is an intriguing concept that merits its own OMPCR post). The Endless, says the narrative, are not gods because they exist whether you believe in them or not. Now, this is not the typical definition of a god. And the Endless are powerful enough that, according to most mythologies, they would count as gods. So when I map them to these Christian tropes, just realize that I understand Gaiman’s distinction between gods and Endless, but I’m choosing to ignore it for purposes of making parallels.

This means, then, that Unity was impregnated by a god. And it was in fact a virgin birth, because Desire admits much later that ze never had sex with Unity, but just tricked her body into producing a fetus. In most traditions (Christianity included), the progeny of a mystical pregnancy is supposed to go on to do great things, such as save the world. But Unity’s child did nothing of the kind (that we know of). In fact, she’s so insignificant to the plot that I can’t even remember her name.

Instead, it’s Unity’s granddaughter Rose who ends up becoming a major character. But she doesn’t save the world either. In fact, she almost destroys it. You see, Rose is a Dream Vortex, capable of driving the world mad by tearing down the walls between dreamers. Dream Vortexes are the only mortals whom Dream is allowed to kill. Fortunately, Rose’s grandmother Unity saves her from death by revealing that she—Unity—was in fact the original Dream Vortex. Somehow, through Desire’s interference, the Dream Vortex trait was passed down through Unity’s genetic line.

Rose Walker with her "divine" grand...father....thing... Desire.

Rose Walker with her “divine” grand… father… thing… Desire.

So here we’ve got the product of a mystical pregnancy being insignificant, the important but typically-conceived granddaughter of a mystical pregnancy as a world-destroyer, but then not important after all, and the virgin mother herself being the actual important one rather than her children. Unity even takes on the sacrifice that, according to the Christian tradition, her child was supposed to make, and chooses to become the Vortex once more and let Dream kill her to prevent damage to the world. This whole situation subverts so many Mystical Pregnancy expectations that we don’t even know where to look! But it doesn’t end there…

  1. The Death of the Son of God Saves No One

Dream’s son Orpheus (yeah, that Orpheus) is born not by a mystical pregnancy, but through fairly typical means; his mother was the Muse Calliope, who was Dream’s wife for a time. Despite his typical conception, he’s still a son of our most prominent god figure, Dream, so we would expect Orpheus to be some sort of savior. Surprise: he’s not.

Those of you familiar with Orpheus’ story from Greek mythology will recognize this next part. Orpheus’s wife Eurydice dies on their wedding night. Devastated, Orpheus makes his way into the Underworld to try to bring her back. His beautiful music-playing convinces Hades, lord of the Underworld, to let Eurydice return with Orpheus, but as he leaves the Underworld, he’s not allowed to look back at her as she walks behind him. He resists this temptation until he arrives back in the mortal world. Thinking they’re both safe now, he turns to look. Eurydice is still just within the threshold of the Underworld, so he’s broken the rule, and she must return. Orpheus then loses the will to live and eventually lets himself be ripped apart in the frenzy of the Baccheae.

The myth goes on to say that the women throw Orpheus’s head into a river, where it continues to sing and to call out his lost wife’s name. What Sandman adds to this is that Orpheus in fact never died after that, because he initially was only able to enter the realm of the dead because he made a deal with his Aunt Death (another Endless) in which she agreed not to let him die. Dream could have circumvented this deal by killing Orpheus, but he refuses to do so. So… Orpheus spends the rest of his life as a severed head, not doing much at all, let alone being a savior. It’s true he kind of had a resurrection when he entered the Underworld and was able to come back out of it, but his journey there was meant to save one person, not all people, and it was a failure rather than a triumph. 

In the end it becomes clear that Dream is the only one who can end Orpheus’ suffering by killing him. With much heartache, he does so (I’m skipping a ton here; go read Brief Lives if you want to shed some tears). And… nothing momentous happens, neither then nor three days later. Orpheus, like most dead people, doesn’t save anyone or come back to life, or, well, do anything. This death of a son of god doesn’t save the world. In fact, it only saves one person—Orpheus.

*commence weeping*

*commence weeping*

So, the son of god is no hero and no savior. He doesn’t love everyone, but rather only one particular person. His “resurrection” is an utter failure, and his punishment for his failure is to live eternally as a disembodied head, in contrast to Jesus’s reigning eternally at the right hand of the Father in heaven. And Orpheus’ eventual true death is for no one’s sake but his own. It was all set up for him to be like Jesus, but once again, the tables are turned on us readers.

  1. God Dies Not to Save Us from Our Sins, but to Save Us from His Sins
*more weeping*

*more weeping*

There is one huge effect that Orpheus’ death had. The Endless, though nearly omnipotent, live according to a set of rules, and if they violate those rules, there are dire consequences. One rule is that they’re not allowed to spill family blood, or else the Furies will seek vengeance. Well, by killing Orpheus, Dream spilled family blood, all right. This eventually leads to Dream’s own death.

Can we view Dream’s death as a sacrifice? At the most basic level, it was a sacrifice for the sake of his son. Showing mercy to his son—even if thousands of years too late—turned out to be more important to Dream than his own life.

But if we dive more deeply than that, we can see that Dream was kind of setting up his own death as early as Volume 2, if not earlier. There, he ensures the existence of a successor by “claiming” a child who was gestated in the Dreaming (i.e., the World of Dreams). His successor will become a new aspect of him when he dies. If he wasn’t expecting to die, then why would he set up a successor?

Okay, then, so why was he expecting to die? I don’t think it was because he knew he’d eventually have to kill Orpheus. I think many events all combined to show him that his current state was not best for the sake of the world. I discussed in my review of Sandman: Overture 1-3 that Dream has a notorious history of mistreating his lovers. He was harsh towards his own son as well, and wholly unsympathetic towards Hippolyta, the mother of his eventual successor. Even back in Volume 1, he confronts his own weakness when mortals keep him imprisoned for 80 years. Once he escapes and regains his lost power, his sister Death helps him realize he is far too fond of revenge. And the list goes on. Dream recognizes the darkness within himself, and decides it is too late and too deeply entrenched for him to change it. His only option, then, in order to be a better version of himself for the sake of all the dreamers he’s supposed to have responsibility for, is to die and let a new aspect take over. And that’s what I mean by “God Dies Not to Save Us from Our Sins, but to Save Us from His Sins.” It was indeed a sacrifice to save us, but not a sacrifice of an innocent the way Jesus was. “God” sends his “son”—his successor Daniel—to become the new Him, in order to save us, because the son will be better than the father was.

And you know what? Looking at the contrast between the Old Testament God of wrath and vengeance, and the New Testament God of love and forgiveness preached by Jesus, I can almost believe that’s what Jesus’s purpose was. An imperfect God is easier to believe in. Just as a mystical pregnancy that doesn’t result in special children (because statistically, so few people are likely to become Great; why should children of mystical pregnancies be any different from typical humans?), and the death of a son of god being much more personal than a momentous world-saving act is easier to believe in. Sandman takes these familiar Christian tropes and humanizes them, so we get gods and children of gods that really don’t look that much different from us mere mortals. It’s easier to believe, perhaps more comforting (i.e., if God isn’t perfect after all, why should we try to be), and more relatable. And probably easier to write than a perfection that remains unknowable to us as imperfect humans.

I don’t think the purpose of Gaiman’s subversion of these common Christian tropes was to attack anybody’s faith. But, inevitably, these unexpected twists force you to interrogate your beliefs about God, and to come to your own conclusions about what kind of God you believe in and why. I know for me, I find the Endless to be amazing characters, but I could never accept anyone like them as gods worthy of worship (though, of course, they don’t care about worship). They, and all the flawed gods of various mythologies, seem too close to my own imperfect state. But that’s just me. What about you, dear readers? How did Sandman affect your ideas about divinity?

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19 thoughts on “Oh, My Pop Culture Unchristianity: Sandman’s Humanizing Subversion of Common Christian Tropes

  1. I caught only the second and third examples; the first trope subversion was so subtle (or I was so dense) that I missed it. Thank you for bringing it up! My favorite one though, is the last one; you really dissected it quite well. It made Dream’s death all the more resonant for me. *tears*
    What do you think about the mystical pregnancy of Hippolyta Hall? I mean, she wasn’t mystically impregnated, but it was a really weird-ass pregnancy all the same which resulted in a wonder baby.

    • Thank you! Since Morpheus’s death was so upsetting for me, I need to keep thinking of ways to make it seem more okay! XD

      I could have discussed Daniel Hall as a counterexample to my point, because I think he fits the tropes pretty well. Like, all three of them! Yes, his pregnancy was weird, and as often happens in Mystical Pregnancies, things were far more negative for the mother than they ever were for Mary (see the two other LGG&F articles that I linked to above about Mystical Pregnancies). Morpheus pretty much stripped Hippolyta’s agency as a mother when he “claimed” Daniel. She tried to make up for it by being Ultra-Mother, but that just made it seem like her life revolved around her son (and more importantly, keeping him away from Morpheus) rather than having her own character arc. Later, Daniel died when Loki and Robin threw him in the fire (*shudder*), but that just set it up so he could become Dream’s successor, so he really did Die to Save Us. And then, of course, as I already noted, he was a “son” of god who *became* god for our own good. So, you see, it’s much more complicated than any “bashing” of beliefs. This whole story is just super-charged with cultural resonance.

  2. Hi, I really enjoyed the article (although it’s been a while since I’ve read Sandman so I’m not quite sure I got all of it) but I was bothered by your dichotomy of the wrathful “Old Testament” God and the “New Testament” God. Drawing a line between different Gods in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures is a really anti-Semitic idea (and a heresy that was thrown out of the orthodox Christian church in the third century), and a lot of the anti-semitism that’s inherent in Christian theology stems from that false dichotomy.

    The idea of an imperfect God is a very interesting way to look at Christian theology – and in fact, in the Gospels, you can see an imperfect God, particularly in the story of the Canaanite woman (Matt 15: 21-28) where Jesus is confronted with a decision, makes the wrong choice, and then changes his mind – so I’m not arguing with that concept, but I’m not sure that calling the God of the Hebrew scriptures nothing but wrathful is fair to Jewish theology. There is wrath and vengeance in the Hebrew scriptures, but there is also love and the promise of redemption and reconciliation with God. I don’t know of any Jewish people who view God as just wrathful, so I don’t think it’s fair to refer to their scriptures as teaching about a wrathful and vengeful god only. I can’t say for certain, because I’m speaking from a Christian perspective, but I also know that the dichotomy of wrathful/loving is something that Christians created and have used to harm Jews, so I hate to see that language continue to spread.

    • Speaking as a non-observant Jew, it’s hard to escape the idea of our wrathful God, though I do appreciate the concern.

      The Jewish relationship with God is complicated, at least with a close eye on the text. Much of it is stories about God urging our ancestors to exterminate the tribes that stood in their path. It’s terrifying – kill every man, woman, and child, and all the livestock. God doesn’t even do this: we are commanded to do so for him, for our Nation. It’s led to some very troubling history.

      But the other side of it is that we are not necessarily bound to God’s own morality, which is not necessarily the same as God’s law. Job is big in this regard – God is plainly acting immorally, considering he killed Job’s whole family on a bet. And Job refuses to accept that God is either moral or “has a plan.” He stands on his own morality, and demands a fair hearing. He doesn’t get it, but he at least gets a mistrial, and ultimately, God settles with him out of court (doubling his old wealth). Job is the moral party there.

      Likewise, we have Abraham talking God down on the number of righteous men he need find to spare Sodom and Gomorrah. And after all, what gets us kicked out of the garden is the knowledge of Good and Evil, which will make us like God, in the deity’s own words.

      • I’m very sorry if it came across as harmfully dichotomous. The truth is, my Church *does* believe that the Old and New Testament Gods are the same. I just personally have trouble squaring my beliefs about God with some (not all) of what happens in the Old Testament. It’s a very personal struggle, and not something that I apply to anybody else’s beliefs about God. In the end I worship the Old Testament God too, so it would be very hypocritical of me to judge anyone for doing the same.

        I guess… the way I see it is, as imperfect humans, we can never perfectly portray an ineffable God. The depiction of God that ends up surviving is the one that is most useful and necessary to people at the time. We still have both Testaments, meaning they’re both useful and necessary, and this doesn’t even begin to get into the depictions of the Divine in other religions that have endured through the ages. I guess this is akin to the idea in Sandman about the “Great Stories” that continue to be propagated throughout the universe.

        • Thank you both for your responses! As I said, I’m speaking from a Christian (Lutheran) standpoint, so I really don’t know how Jews interact with God, and I appreciate that insight, Mikely. I actually deliberated for a while over whether or not I wanted to post that, because obviously I can’t speak for Jews, but I just really feel that Christians don’t accept enough (or any) responsibility for antisemitism, and I figured if I said something incorrect I’d just have to accept correction.

          And as for the separation of the Hebrew/Christian God in Christian theology, syngraphea, I do believe that most churches teach that they are the same and we, as Christians, worship the Old Testament God. My issue is that we still separate them in this strict dichotomy of wrath and love which is what I think makes it very difficult to interact with the Old Testament and leads to very weird perceptions of Jews by Christians. I hope that makes sense?

          • I do appreciate the deferral! In the same spirit, please correct me if I make any incorrect statements about Christian theology.

            I do not believe there is considerable disagreement on the idea that Christians and Jews identify the same God. But even just looking at Christianity, there’s still a long character arc for God, which necessarily includes the Old Testament. It requires some harmonization, because I think the narrative really changes. Not least, of course, because that’s one of the things Christ was for in the first place.

            I’m a lawyer, so that may skew any of my readings of the text, but the Torah in particular and the Old Testament in general is surprisingly legalistic. The relationship between God and Israel is defined not by love but by a covenant – literally a contract. We still talk about “covenants” in contract law, so the word itself doesn’t have a holy connotation.

            What are the terms of that contract? God, having brought the Hebrews out of Egypt, promises to make Israel his chosen people out of all nations, and favor them, in exchange for exclusive worship (and, possibly, identification as the Only God), and obedience to a set of laws. Some of these are abstract acts of worship – ongoing acknowledgements that God is first. But a lot of them are civil law, too, dealing with various crimes, punishments, inheritances, or business.

            So there are two primary roles, then: a divine patron, who gives Israel what is needed to win its battles, and a lawgiver, who allows the formation of a state by a tribe of wanderers. It’s important to note that these are the acts of kings, who will remain absent for generations after Moses, when the Jews are ruled by judges i.e. interpreters of the law. The Law. Kings come later, with Saul and David and Solomon, and with them, a swing of power from Divinity to State. They used to carry around the Ark of the Covenant, essentially worshiping the Law. Solomon builds a temple, and puts the Ark there, which kind of suggests his own superiority.

            I know hubris when I hear it, but Solomon gets away with it! He’s been remembered for 3,000 years as the wisest of all kings, and the greatest judge of all time. He gets to author three books of the Bible all by himself, and they seem to pay more lip service to God than actual worship. Some of it is dedicated to the charms of the 1,000 wives and concubines he brought to Jerusalem, most of them shiksas. Worse, he builds them all temples for their own gods; no conversions here. God isn’t happy about it, but he doesn’t punish Solomon; the punishment is civil war after Solomon’s death. Why does God stay his hand against the greatest threat?

            This got to be a bit of a tangent, but I think the point is that the Hebrew Bible presents a God who shows signs of being vulnerable, and jealously guards a very specific place in Jewish society. With Jesus, the game between humans and God changed significantly, but it’s worth noting that Jesus’s line is traced back to Solomon, and that he takes on titles of both Son of Man and King of the Jews. As a Jewish messiah, there’s a hint of opposition between Jesus and God which I don’t think is part of Christianity. But Jesus gets to tangle with the Covenant, which is a very big deal. And as he focused more on works, it changes the covenant to be far more humanistic.

            Anyway, it fits with the idea of successor deities, who rise because their forebearers lose their grasp on humanity, like Morpheus –> Daniel.

            I apologize for the rampant blasphemy of the above.

            • That’s really interesting. And it definitely supports the points in the articles and explains why I was confused by it. I definitely saw it as subverting Christian tropes, but I saw it doing so in a way that reverts back to sort of reshapes ancient Greek tropes, but instead it looks like it is really more Jewish, which would make sense, since Neil Gaiman is Jewish.

              And I won’t claim to be able to correct you on or speak for any Christian theology other than Lutheranism, but I will say that from what I’ve been taught, our interactions with the Hebrew scriptures are very different. We look at them and see law, of course, but our focus is less on the law (which Jesus erased as the Messiah) and more on looking for God’s faithfulness to God’s people in spite of their violations of the covenant, and I think that’s the way most Christians would look at the situation with Solomon there. Humans are unable to live up to God’s standards, but God still sets standards and expectations for us, then allows us to fail, but does not leave us as we fail.

              Then it gets a little weird because different denominations harmonize the Hebrew and Christian scriptures differently. All Lutherans, I think, when we read the Old Testament, read it (or should read it) through Martin Luther’s lens of grace (which are not his words; I forget what he said precisely), which basically means that we look at the Old Testament specifically seeking promises of God’s love and grace. Luther’s idea was that, since the Messiah has already come and we are saved, the only usefulness we now have from the Hebrew scriptures is the promise of God’s love. But this is also me coming from a background that does not view the Bible as inerrant or, in fact, the Word of God. When I read the Bible, I consider not only the impact Christ has on the meaning of it, but the cultural and historical context for it, and consider how what’s written would be useful in that time and place, but not useful today. So, there’s the real blasphemy, and other denominations (and other subsets of Lutherans) would blast me for it, but I don’t see any part of the Bible as The Actual True and Inerrant Acts of God, but instead a growing human understanding of God that has gone on for thousands of years. Which I think might be why I look at the Old Testament and see love and not wrath.

              And of course, there are denominations of Christianity which believe the Bible IS inerrant and infallible and every word therein is true and uncorrupted by humans, and they would probably have a much different view of the Old Testament God than I do.

              • We’re going to be too-deeply nested soon!

                I keep coming back to a few points in the Old Testament: when Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden, God says “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…” and mid-sentence, he closes the Gates. It’s not disobedience being punished here, it has the feel of a power struggle. Knowledge of good and evil is too much. Fast forward to Babel. The tower is going up:

                “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” And he confuses the language and scatters the people. Again, it’s not hubris, or blasphemy that gets punished, it’s a defensive maneuver against a humanity which threatens to overthrow the kingdom.

                And lastly, Jacob: And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Jacob, apparently, wrestled God not only to a draw, but prevailed, and demanded a prize. Jacob gets a new name, Israel, the meaning of which is unclear but it suggests a struggle with God – and that’s the name the entire tribe takes. It’s not an easy alliance, between God and Israel.

                All together, the suggestion seems to be that there is a real capacity for human power, and what we need to do is cooperate (Babel), think (the Tree) and struggle for that vision (wrestle). God uncomfortably stands in the way of that goal, but the Covenant is a new balance of power. But the covenant, too, goes stale, and I think that’s the need for messiah in Judaism that is seen as fulfilled by Christians. Jesus, in a way, fulfills the promise of Babel. And his attacks on the Pharisees and Sadducees, my fellow lawyers, is about a vision of justice away from the Law. Jesus does not leave you when you fail, the God of the prophets did – He says to the Jews that they “You played the harlot with the sons of Egypt, your neighbors great of flesh, and you increased your harlotry to provoke Me…And I shall deliver you into their hands, and they will demolish your eminent place, and they will break down your lofty places and strip you of your clothing and take the vessels of your glory and leave you naked and bare.” It’s deeply uncomfortable stuff, and it at least kind of suggests that the Jews deserved the Holocaust. People avoid it.

  3. 1.) What I find so interesting about the final moments between Unity, Rose, and Dream is that Unity is the one who puts it all in motion herself. Dream knows no means to spare Rose, though he wants to. Other powerful entities, like Fiddler’s Green, do no better. Unity is the one who figures it out, and makes it happen. The human does what the gods thought impossible. It recalls the Virgin Mary, who manages to come out of the New Testament as more than just a vessel, despite her relatively thin presence in the text. I’m not familiar enough with that figure to say more, but I’m intrigued at the idea that the Virgin Mother is interesting, rather than the Virgin Born.

    Total side note: we don’t have enough pop culture stories about mothers. Not mothers who just unconditionally love their children, or fail to do so, but mothers who bring their daughters (and sons!) up in the way that fathers do, to follow in their footsteps. Mother-mentors (biological or otherwise) are depressingly rare.

    2.) Orpheus is such a heartbreaking story – such an amazing quest to end so completely pointless. Because Orpheus does, at least momentarily, defeat Death herself. That’s the promise of the Messiah as well. But it fails, and fails so dramatically that he ends up destroying himself, only. Except it’s worse than self-destruction, because he manages to take only himself away from Death, and live on as a head in a box. That’s the Greek way, after all, immortality is only bad news (who ends up a cricket, again?) But then the mercy of Dream is to kill him. Which is such an upside down version of a Messiah – yielding back to the God that created him, to restore the old order.

    3.) And of course, that fails too. But what Orpheus/Dream does give us, then, is a real apocalypse. The Dreaming is torn down and rebuilt in a new image. The dead do rise (Merv, Cain/Abel, Lucien), and the World is restored, only just a little different. Not necessarily better, though? The World to Come is not paradise, just the next iteration of this one. Is that the story of the imperfect God? The one who just takes us from one world to the next. An infinite sequence, rather than a rise. A world that exists to purge the deity of his sins, rather than our own, but of course, that quest is unending.

    • You’re so right; we need more stories about mothers! Too often they’re just fridged to propel the narratives and tragic backstories of their (usually) sons. And even if they are constantly haunting the narrative in a very significant manner, such as in Full Metal Alchemist and Harry Potter, I still would rather see them alive, actively being good mothers and mentors as you say! (still holding out hope that we’ll actually meet the mother of the Endless in Overture…)

      And as for the “infinite sequence” of the imperfect God…it makes you wonder, what role would we mere mortals have in all of that? If it’s all about the sins of God, well… what are we supposed to do about our own sins? I’m still having trouble applying the message of Morpheus’s death to ordinary human life, which, of course, can’t be replaced the way Morpheus was replaced by a new version of himself. What are we supposed to *get* out of it, what are we supposed to *do* in response?

      (I enjoyed the rest of what you wrote too! Just don’t have much to say about it right now. 🙂 )

      • Lily Potter could be amazing, and Harry’s care for her and her memory is nice. But he’s never met her; she’s just a self-created memory for him, mostly. The only real mother we have in the series is Molly Weasley, right? I love her to bits, but she’s very much a mom of hugs and ill-fitting sweaters and warm meals, punctuated by a mama-bear moment of defending Ginny. Moments of Narcissa Malfoy, but not a ton. Neville’s mom is mad, Hermione’s is a dentist, the others all unseen. Oh, and Petunia Evans Dursley, she’s practically a grotesque. I really like Catelyn Tully in GOT for this: she serves as her son’s top advisor and skilled diplomat, and he (spoiler) mucks it up by not listening to her, in her capacity as a leader and not as a mom. It’s not like he dies of not brushing his teeth.

        Hmmm. Humans are always perceived to be in the image of the gods, and I think it makes sense that our sins are reflected from there as well as our virtues. What we get to do is listen to stories, where the gods are doomed to create them. We don’t get to reincarnate, but we get to change. What’s the quote about books? A reader lives a thousand lives before the end of her own? Something like that. That’s what we get. The gods only get the one, even if they’re long.

        • Hmm… Catelyn’s a good one. If I think of any more mother-mentors, I’ll be sure to send ’em your way!

          Your quote about books seems to give the lie to Death’s favorite line, “You get what anybody gets. You get a lifetime.” And it also reminds me of an interpretation of Morpheus’s death that I came up with soon after reading it. His death and the subsequent mourning period in The Wake are like the sadness you feel when you reach the last page of your favorite book. It’s not as if the book has ceased to exist; we can always go back and read it again. And there are also lots of other great stories out there, and really it’s all the same story (just like Daniel is really and truly Dream). But none of this makes it any easier to accept that your favorite story has to end sometime. It’s sad, but you’re right, what we can do with that is to let these stories help us to grow and change. So, ultimately uplifting. 🙂

    • The dichotomy has always worked the other way for me. Although the Old Testament God is cruel, jealous and savage (he commands his people to perform genocide and blood sacrifice), he doesn’t threaten people with eternal torture in Gehenna (the Lake of Fire). Except for one brief reference in Daniel (which shows strong Eastern Dualism influence) mostly, the worst the Old Testament God will do is kill you (or make you wish for death like Job).

  4. So I personally had my ideas reinforced, I cannot believe in a perfect anything. I follow the philosophy of Discordia Concor, or Harmonious Discord. The core principle is that the conflict of contrasting ideas creates a more interesting whole, better for it’s flaws not in spite of them. There fore to me all creation is the discordia concor maximus glory in discord, gods would be nothing more than facilitators of that, they’re own flaws and conflicts being simply a greater scal of our own. By that, mortals may ascend, and by that gods may fall, a concept not alien to mythology particularly eastern faiths.

    • So glad that we’re all able to get something meaningful out of it, each in our own way! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your perspective; it’s not one I had heard of before.

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