A while back, in the comments section on my post about the five best comics deaths, I asked people to remind me to talk about my Sandman theory. Nobody did in all this time, but I’m going to tell you all about it anyway. This is, quite possibly, the Essence Of Blogging.
This theory has to do with a plot development that, strangely, never seemed to be the subject of much speculation, despite the fact that it would seem to be one of the key developments in the series. Perhaps this is because it happened so late in the series’ run, or because there never seemed to be much chance to get an answer on the topic–apart from a cryptic comment or two in the book’s afterword, I don’t believe Gaiman has ever discussed it. In ‘The Kindly Ones’, Loki and Puck kidnap Daniel Hall, with the apparent intent of driving his mother Lyta mad and sending her on a quest for vengeance against Morpheus. Which, to all intents and purposes, they succeeded magnificently at.
I say “apparent intent”, because it’s clear that they had greater intentions than merely framing Morpheus for kidnapping. They had some sort of plan that involved burning away Daniel’s mortality, leaving just the part of him that gestated in dreams, and they hinted that they were working for someone else. But the identity of the mastermind behind the plan was never uncovered in the series, and to the best of my knowledge, Gaiman has never revealed his or her identity in any subsequent source. So who was it that was behind the plan to abduct Daniel? Who set the events in motion that ended in Morpheus’ tragic death?
I think it was Morpheus.
Think about it. Everyone assumes that Lyta was being irrational for leaping to the conclusion that Morpheus was responsible, but really, how irrational was it? He out and out said, “Take good care of your baby. One day I will come back for it.” The two actual kidnappers were both connected to Morpheus (Loki says, “I will be under an obligation to no-one,” which seems, on the surface, to suggest that he’s getting rid of Morpheus to get out from under his debt…but which could equally mean that he’s performing a service to pay it.) And the plan to burn away Daniel’s mortality does seem to suggest that his gestation in dreams was why he was chosen…exactly why Morpheus was interested in him.
What if Morpheus wanted to take Daniel for some purpose, something that involved burning away the child’s mortality, and “hired” Puck and Loki to do the job? What if they saw it as an opportunity to do mischief to their “employer”, necessitating Morpheus to send the Corinthian after them? And what if, on a subconscious level, he knew the act would be self-destructive? Perhaps he had two plans for Daniel…the plan he let himself know about, and the plan that prepared his successor. “But the stuff you do, where you do it, and you won’t even admit to yourself it’s what you’re doing. What would you call it?” That’s how Death described him, at the end. It fits the theory pretty well, doesn’t it?
Of course, we may never know. As I say, Gaiman’s never explained it. But it’s what I’ll always believe. Dream couldn’t let go of his kingdom the way Destruction did, but he couldn’t go on the way he was. He needed a successor, and found one in the most devious way possible. Death was his escape, and he planned it so meticulously that even he couldn’t stop him.