We’re just under two weeks away from Netflix’s Sandman adaptation. It’s slated to release on August 5th, bringing Morpheus and his mystical companions to our screens for journeys through the Dreaming, the Waking World, and every realm in between.
Based on the casting and trailers to date, it appears we’ll be treated to some core Sandman stories. Preludes & Nocturnes (Volume one) and The Doll’s House (Volume two) seem likely to make up much of season one. I’m also holding out hope Gwendolyn Christie’s casting as Lucifer means we’ll get Season of Mists (volume four), a marvelous arc about Hell and its rule.
But for all the epic, world-hopping Sandman stories in the series, Neil Gaiman also gives us more self-contained moments—highly memorable, impactful tales worthy of adaptation on their own. The Sandman pantheon brims with smaller tales begging for the screen treatment, even if they might not nestle neatly into the momentum of the larger narrative. They’re side quests of a sort, offering insight into Morpheus and his wide-reaching realm. I’m hoping Netflix and Gaiman see fit to bring a few of these stories to the screen along the way; they’re an opportunity to tell genuinely unique tales of a sort hardly seen on screens, even in the age of peak TV.
The stories of the Sandman are myriad, but today I’m choosing just three of Morpheus’ shorter adventures that I hope the show will adapt…
“Men of Good Fortune”
Hidden within the pages of The Doll’s House (itself an excellent yarn) lies “Men of Good Fortune,” one of my favorite Sandman stories.
Morpheus meets Englishman Hob Gadling in a pub. The man is fed up with death, and simply doesn’t have time for it: “It’s rubbish, death. It’s stupid. And I don’t want nothing to do with it.”
Gadling and Morpheus chat for a while, discussing death and its implications. They agree to reunite 100 years later, which shouldn’t be a problem for a man who has no time for death.
100 years go by, and the companions meet again, discussing death and having chance encounters with historical figures. The cycle repeats; Morpheus and Gadling meet every 100 years, and the world changes around them. Gadling doesn’t always find himself on the right side of history, as his discussions with Morpheus reveal. But the two still meet every century, no matter the sweeping changes occurring around them.
What a premise for an episode. We can experience history in fast-forward through a deathless man’s eyes while Morpheus revels in their centennial meetings. This type of story is what Sandman does best: Take history and human experience, run it through the filter of Morpheus, the Endless (his siblings), and a unique perspective like Hob’s, then see what comes of it. “Men of Good Fortune” could prove an exquisite detour from the show’s main narrative.
“A Dream of a Thousand Cats”
I never expected any Sandman volume to contain an entirely cat-led story, but Neil Gaiman has never been one to abide by my expectations. Sandman Volume 3: Dream Country offers multiple quick-hit stories, and if “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” isn’t your favorite among them, I’ll assume you’re just a dog person.
In this story, hundreds of cats, domestic and feral alike, gather in a graveyard to hear one feline tell her tale. The cat tells of a world dominated by her fellow felines, a world ruled by cats, in which humans are tiny beings akin to their pets. But the humans, through one gargantuan collective dream, reversed the roles, becoming dominant and subjugating cats.
I had as much fun reading “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” as my cat does when I wiggle a bit of string in front of his face, and found it just as compelling. A congregation of cute kitties gathering to hear one super-cool cat telling her story is the weird, weirdly touching story we need to see from Netflix’s Sandman show.
For what it’s worth, I think this is one of the least likely Sandman stories to make the cut. But we can dream.
From Sandman Volume Six: Fables & Reflections comes “Ramadan,” a tale about preserving the magic of a moment in time, and what it costs.
Haroun Al Raschid rules Baghdad, a magical city replete with mystical marketplaces, whimsical performers, and a general buzz of activity. He is in awe of his city’s beauty when he is overcome with a deep sadness. None of his normal escapades can snap him out of his funk, so he ventures into deep chambers beneath his palace where demons rest, imprisoned. He threatens to release them all unless Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, answers his call.
Morpheus and Haroun Al Raschid wander the streets of the city while the latter explains he’s worried about its future. He’s seen crumbled empires in the desert and fears the same outcome for his city. He pleads with Morpheus to preserve the city’s legacy, to keep it from disappearing into obscurity like the fallen kingdoms beyond Baghdad’s borders.
I won’t spoil the ending, but “Ramadan” is a remarkable standalone tale within the Sandman universe; at the same time, it’s one of the tales that might benefit most from an update on its way to the screen, offering an opportunity to bring different voices and perspectives into the way the story is told, and consider anew the questions it asks about history, colonialism, culture, and storytelling. If the showrunners were willing to engage with the material in the original story in a thoughtful way, it could be an intriguing addition to the Netflix show.
For now, I continue my journey through the Dreaming—next up, I’m reading Sandman Volume 8: World’s End. I’m on track to finish the series before the show premieres! As we await the adaptation, ponder your favorite Sandman arcs and let me know which you’d like to see on screen…
Cole Rush writes words. A lot of them. For the most part, you can find those words at The Quill To Live or on Twitter @ColeRush1. He voraciously reads epic fantasy and science-fiction, seeking out stories of gargantuan proportions and devouring them with a bookwormish fervor. His favorite books are: The Divine Cities Series by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune.