Our assignment was to read the final two issues from The Doll’s House: Into the Night and Lost Hearts. Mike Schilling does the honors this week.

Glyph’s introduction to Sandman, in three parts, here, here, and here.

Preludes and Nocturnes recaps here: Glyph and Patrick tackled the first four issues, I tackled the fifth, Glyph recapped six and seven. Mike Schilling recapped number eight.

A Doll’s House recaps here: KatherineMW took on the first two issues, then the next two issues. KatherineMW and Jason Tank then reviewed the fifth and sixth, respectively.

It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one ofter that, or the one after that), if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.

We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you after the cut!

We have now arrived at the last two installments of The Doll’s House, which complete the story and tie up a number of loose ends, though perhaps not all of them.  Both are very plot-driven, and seem to me to lack the unity of the previous issues, especially the last two, but they provide some nice moments along the way.  Here we go:

Into the Night

Rose  is back at Hal’s house.  Jed is the the hospital, comatose, with no assurance he will ever wake up.  Rose’s grandmother Unity has suffered a stroke,  which troubles Rose both because of the prospect of losing a grandmother she has just found, and because it prevents Rose’s mother from coming to help  with Jed.  Rose’s housemates are sympathetic, each in their own way: Hal motherly, Barbie and Ken superficial, Chantal and Zelda weird. (Gilbert is absent, for the moment.)

Rose is too stressed to sleep, but the rest of the hose is dreaming, each in their own way:

Ken dreams of sex, money, and power. Barbie dreams of being the hero of a fantasy quest.  It’s kind of sweet to see the real Barbie behind the phony perkiness, but the faux-Tolkien cheesiness of her dream is fairly biting satire. Chantal is lost in words and powerless to control them. Zelda dreams of a horrible childhood from which she needs Chantal to rescue her. Hal dreams of his idols Marilyn, Judy, and Bette, and the mystery behind them.  (Judy Garland begins as Dorothy, removes her mask to become the wicked witch, and removes that mask to become .. I’m not sure.  The wizard, perhaps?)

Rose still can’t sleep, troubled by Jed’s condition, Unity’s illness, her close call at the convention, and her vague recollection of meeting Dream.  The only one who might be able to comfort her is Gilbert.  Where is he? He’s at the hospital, watching over Jed.  Next we see Dream and Matthew the Raven adding some suspense.  (Matthew used to be a man, so I’m guessing he’s yet another comic book character. I don’t know. There’s also probably a pun here on Matthew Corvnius, a 15th-century king of Hungary.)  Rose is a vortex who threatens the dreaming just as previous vortexes have, but is somehow different. How will this all turn out?  Stay tuned.

The housemates continue to dream:

Ken is now focused on sex. Barbie’s quest is becoming perilous, seemingly because she’s becoming aware of Ken’s obsessions. Chantal’s thoughts are caught in a recursive loop. Zelda, apparently aware of Chantal’s problems, begins to tell her a story. Hal dreams of an lost love.

Rose is now aware of all of these dreams and continues to break down toe walls between them. Not stopping there, she begins to knit together the dreams of the entire city, until Dream suddenly brings it to a halt, telling her who he is and that she’s caused a great deal of damage that he needs to repair.   Ken and Barbie are driven apart by learning who the other one really is, while Chantal and Zelda are brought closer together.

Back in England, things aren’t easy for Miranda (Rose’s mother) either, with a dying mother and a son who may never recover.  Her one consolation is that Rose is OK.  Though, since Dream has taken her away, “OK” may not be strictly accurate.  Matthew, at Dream’s request, comes to Jed’s room at the hospital, where we find out that while Matthew is a dream who was once a man, Gilbert is a man who was once a dream.  (Gilbert also quotes from Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta: “But that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead” .  As you might recall, we met Marlowe a few issues ago, talking to the would-be playwright Shakespeare.)  Matthew tells Gilbert that Rose is a vortex, and Gilbert tells Matthew that part of Dream’s job is to kill vortexes.  And on that portentous note, this issue ends.

Lost Hearts

Rose is now in the Dreaming, where Dream informs here that she’s a vortex and thus he needs to kill her.  She’s very angry and upset at first, but then realizes that, since it’s all a dream, she’ll wake up and be fine.  Dream further informs here that that’s not true.  She never will wake up.  He’s sorry about that.  In fact, he apologizes to her over and over, another sign that he is no longer the arrogant, disdainful spirit we had come to know.

Now we visit Matthew and Gilbert, who have traveled to the Dreaming together.  Gilbert reveals that he is the fourth missing member of the Major Arcana, Fiddler’s Green, which is a place, not a person.  (Fiddler’s Green is an old legend of an afterlife of perpetual joy, enlivened by unending music and dancing.)

Back to Rose and Dream, who explains that a vortex ‘s power to break down the barrier of dreams is a danger that can destroy worlds, which is why she needs to die.  He apologizes some more.  Gilbert arrives and offers to die in Rose’s place.  That won’t work, unfortunately.  Now to England where Unity , close to death, finally recalls the stranger who impregnated her, and begins to dream.    Back to the Dreaming, where everyone is doing what they can for Rose: Gilbert expresses his love for her, Matthew tells her that death isn’t so bad, Dream feels so sad for her that he forgives Gilbert for deserting him.   But even so, Dream is ready to kill her …

When another visitor arrives: a young, beautiful Unity, who informs Dream that she would have been the vortex had Dream not been imprisoned.  If that confuses you, it’s OK, it confuses Dream too, to which Unity responds:

“You’re obviously not very bright, but I shouldn’t let it bother you.”

And, yes, Dream does let himself be spoken to that way.    Unity asks Rose to give her her heart, which she can do because they’re both dreaming, after all.  (The heart looks very much like the glass shard that the young tribesman found in the prologue.)  This makes Unity into the vortex.  Now she dies, ending the threat to the Dreaming and allowing Rose to live.  Dream promises to heal Jed, and Rose wakes up.

We see Rose after six months back in the waking world with her family.  She has a letter from Hal, detailing the changes the roommates have undergone after the night of the shared dreams: Hal seems to have found a lover, Barbie and Ken broke up (Ken has found another Barbie), Zelda is now speaking.  Rose has become a recluse, barely leaving her room, still in shock from all the horror: even more horror than we knew, since before we met Rose, her best friend had been killed  in the diner massacre.    Even more than that, Rose is paralyzed by what she’s learned: that the world isn’t real, that people are just dolls in a dollhouse.  And she hasn’t slept in six months because she’s afraid to dream.

Enough!  Rose chooses to believe that her weird dream was just that: a weird dream.  She cuts her hair, washes out the dye, and returns to the land of the living, looking remarkably like the young Unity.  She shares a normal moment with her family, and then she and Jed run off to spend some time outside in nature.  The end of Rose’s story is “And then she woke up.”

But Dream’s story isn’t quite done.  He goes to confront Desire (holding her sigil, which is yet another heart.)  He confronts her, accusing her of manipulating things so that he would kill a relative (he’s clearly aware that Desire is Rose’s grandfather.)  This would be very bad, though we’re not told why.  He then lectures her that humans are not the Endless’s dolls, but the other way around: it’s for humans to control them.  (This is a very different Dream than we’ve seen before.)  Since she seems unimpressed by that, he leaves her with a simple threat about what he’ll do if he catches her interfering again.    Desire, being shallow and silly, draws only one conclusion from all of this: I really pissed him off that time!  This pleases her immensely.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. Matthew the raven is indeed another comic book character, albeit one somewhat closer to home than the Horror Hosts that populate the dreaming. He was Znggurj Pnoyr, n Qrgrpgvir jub hfrq gb punfr Fjnzc Guvat.

  2. For people who wondered why Dream let the serial killers off so relatively easy, things should be clearer. Apparently he is forbidden from killing mortals except in rare situations (eg. when they’re a Vortex). Under the circumstances, the punishment he meted out seems fitting.

    And I love the way the various dreamers’ dreams are depicted. I love Chantal’s very stylized literary dreams. Ken’s creepy (to me, anyhow) sex n’ power dreams are also very well-depicted. Naq bs pbhefr jr xabj jr’yy frr zhpu zber bs Oneovr’f.

  3. I didn’t pick up on Desire being Rose’s grandfather the first time around (I guessed it as a possibility, but wasn’t sure).

  4. The other thing these parts tell us is why Dream didn’t kill any of the people who wronged him or interfered in his territory thus far – he’s not allowed to kill. To do so would presumably intrude on Death’s portfolio (be cerfhznoyl Qrfgehpgvba’f).

      • Vf gur gur zlfgrevbhf zvffvat bar jr’ir frra n srj pelcgvp ersreraprf gb?

        Be vf ur gur Nqnz bs gur enpr bs ur Raqyrff? (Juvpu jbhyq znxr uvf zngr gur Rir bs Qrfgehpgvba.)

      • Vf gur gur zlfgrevbhf zvffvat bar jr’ir frra n srj pelcgvp ersreraprf gb?

        Be vf ur gur Nqnz bs gur enpr bs ur Raqyrff? (Juvpu jbhyq znxr uvf zngr gur Rir bs Qrfgehpgvba.)

          • Lrf, Qrfgehpgvba vf gur bsg-zragvbarq ohg guhf sne hazrg Raqyrff fvoyvat.

            Juvyr V gehyl qb ybir “Fnaqzna” naq gur jubyr Tnvzna brhier, V zhfg nqzvg V svaq gur pbyyrpgvir Raqyrff vqragvgvrf, jura ivrjrq va nttertngr, abg jvgubhg n ovg bs fvyyvarff.

          • Well if you’re not worried about spoilers, here’s a chunk of text from Frank McConnell’s introduction to The Sandman: Book of Dreams, a collection of stories based on Gaiman’s Endless; what he says is based on Gaiman’s own explanation. And again, spoilers spoilers spoilers.

            “Gur snzvyl vf pnyyrq gur Raqyrff, frira fvoyvatf, va beqre bs ntr – “ovegu,” jr’yy frr, vf abg na nccebcevngr grez – Qrfgval, Qrngu, Qernz, Qrfgehpgvba, Qrfver, Qrfcnve, naq Qryvevhz (jubfr anzr hfrq gb or Qryvtug). Gurl ner gur raqyrff orpnhfr gurl ner fgngrf bs uhzna pbafpvbhfarff[1] vgfrys, naq pnaabg prnfr gb rkvfg hagvy gubhtug vgfrys prnfrf gb rkvfg[2]…

            “Gb or pbafpvbhf ng nyy vf gb or pbafpvbhf bs gvzr, naq bs gvzr’f neebj; bs qrfgval. Naq gb xabj gung vf gb xabj gung gvzr zhfg unir n fgbc; gb vzntvar qrngu. Snprq jvgu gur pregnvagl bs qrngu, jr qernz, vzntvar cnenqvfrf jurer vg zvtug abg or fb… Naq nyy qernzf, nyy zlguf, nyy gur fgehpgherf jr guebj hc orgjrra bhefryirf naq punbf, whfg orpnhfr gurl ner ohvyg guvatf, zhfg varivgnoyl or qrfgeblrq[3]. Naq jr ghea, qrfcrengr va bhe ybff, gb gur crevfunoyr ohg qryvpvbhf wbl bs gur zbzrag; jr qrfver. Nyy qrfver vf, bs pbhefr, gur ubcr sbe n shysvyyzrag vzcbffvoyr va gur irel angher bs guvatf, fb gb qrfver vf nyjnlf nyernql gb qrfcnve[4], gb ernyvmr gung gur jvfurq-sbe qryvtug vf bayl, nsgre nyy, gur qryvevhz[5] bs bhe zbegny frys-qryhfvba gung gur jbeyq vf ynetr rabhtu gb svg gur zvaq.”

            [1] Npghnyyl, nyy pbafpvbhfarff; nf jr’ir frra jvgu W’baa W’baam, naq jvyy ntnva jvgu bgure aba-uhznaf yngre.

            [2] Frr Gur Obbxf bs Zntvp, nyfb nhguberq ol Tnvzna; gur sbhegu obbx/vffhr unf n fprar ng gur raq bs gur havirefr, jurer jr zrrg Qrfgval naq Qrngu nf rirelguvat jencf hc.

            [3] Qrfgehpgvba nyfb ersyrpgf bhe pubvprf; gb pubbfr gb qb be znxr fbzrguvat vf gb qrfgebl rirelguvat ryfr gung pbhyq unir orra qbar be znqr jvgu gur fnzr zngrevnyf naq gvzr. Va Oevrs Yvirf Qrfgehpgvba fnlf fbzrguvat fvzvyne.

            [4] Qrfver naq Qrfcnve ner gjvaf.

            [5] Gurer ner uvagf guebhtubhg gung Qryvevhz xabjf zber guna nal bs ure fvoyvatf (cbffvoyl rkprcgvat Qrngu), orpnhfr gurer ner snpgf gung pnaabg or tenfcrq ol engvbany gubhtug.

  5. OK. My thoughts are scattered here, but I am going to try to put them in some semblance of order.

    So I mentioned before that I had read elsewhere that Sandman arcs alternate between “male” and “female” stories, and that this book supposedly sort of does both, appropriate to a story about Desire. But using that lens, I have to say it really, really seems “female” to me.

    What we have here appears to be a not-so-veiled metaphor for Rose’s (and is there a more cliched flower associated with romance and feminine eros than that name?) sexual awakening, shortly after, let’s recall, Rose (as Little Red Riding Hood) is almost “taken” by the Big Bad Wolf (wink wink nudge nudge) in the prior book.

    In these stories, the sexual imagery is all over the place; in Rose’s dream, she is basically nude and there is a panel of her, from a low angle, with legs spread – not in a crude way, just in a sort of easy, confident way (Desire, upon granting audience to Dream is also in a sort of sexualized lounging pose); she flies with Morpheus (the dialogue here making explicit reference to sex); her housemates’ dreams, with the exception of Barbie’s (and that is certainly indicative of…something….about Barbie), all have a romantic or sexual component to them at one point; heck, a “vortex” is a sort of…feminine…shape. When she is in Fiddler’s Green, she may as well be in the Garden of Eden.

    What it may mean that this “vortex”/Rose of great power (and having tasted a few dreams, she wants more – “And she can touch them. Touch all of them…across the city the dreams begin to join and integrate and, in so doing, they change the dreamers forever…There are so many dreamers. So many.“) must be destroyed to maintain the Dreaming, I don’t know.

    But the vortex is passed on to the “crone”, for its destruction.

    Randomly – I like Dream’s threat to Desire at the end. He can be a scary motherfisher when he wants to be.

    And I like the story’s end – with Desire assuring itself (mistakenly, it is implied) that s/he is in control of itself, in a neat turnabout/confirmation of Dream’s assertion that the Endless are in fact humanity’s dolls. The comic predates this by a lot, but on this re-read, I found that last page makes me think of a song, “Life Like Weeds” off Modest Mouse’s “Moon & Antarctica” (a terrific record, a sort of concept album about fate and gravity and entropy and death and love and all the things that humans are controlled by):

    In this life like weeds eyes need us to see
    Hearts need us to bleed
    So you think you’ve figured out everything
    But we know that our hearts are just made out of strings
    To be pulled
    Strings to be pulled

    The implication that we are just puppets – to our bodies, to our emotions, to forces beyond our control at all times – heady existential stuff for a comic book, and a rock record.

    • Another thought upon reflection about this:

      this “vortex”/Rose of great power…must be destroyed to maintain the Dreaming

      I guess that Desire fulfilled, will always be destructive to the elder (brother) Dream that predates it, one way or anther. You either get what you’ve dreamed of, or you don’t; either way, the dream is destroyed.

      This could partly explain Desire and Dream’s antagonistic relationship – Desire has no patience for Dream’s dreamy mooning around, and always wants to force him to action (and therefore, trouble for him).

    • The vortex reminds me of the end of Evangelion where everyone’s AT fields are removed and the entire species dissolves into one another like a big blended ocean.

      • I was going to make a snarky joke about how this comment appears to be in English, yet is incomprehensible to me. 🙂

        Then I looked it up on wiki. Is this worth my time (and, how much of my time will it take? Looks like 25 or so eps, are they 1/2 hr.)?

        • Evangelion is a really interesting ride especially if you like anime. At the start it’s a pretty cool sort of anime; it’s got all the characters, the painfully self effacing protagonist with family issues, the girls, the silly pet, the goofy funny things but it’s also got this superstructure of mysterious dark narrative running underneath it. Then it starts peeling off or criticising its own conceits.
          The series creator went through some dark personal times and the silliness and standard tropes burned away as the series proceeded. People started dying, weird stuff started happening and it got kind of intense. I found it enormously depressing on the first watch through and borderline nihilistic. On the second watching and some pondering I found the darkest parts also the most interesting and curious. I think you might like it.
          The music is also deployed to highly effective ends.
          The episodes are a half hour long and there was a bit of a muddle at the end so they made a couple different endings, all neat in their own ways. I’d certainly recommend it.

          • Cool, maybe I will check it out. I don’t have a lot of anime experience other than some of the better-known movies (Akira, Ghost In the Shell, Metropolis, Miyazaki & Kon if they count). Never really watched a series.

            Sometimes I find that the concepts or references just don’t make much sense to my western-cultured-mind. If the animation is spectacular enough I can sometimes overcome that, and just enjoy it as a visceral experience.

  6. Late to the party, but I don’t think Unity remembered Desire. She talks about a man with stars in his eyes, and it sounds to me more like a description of Morpheus.

    And thinking about evocative names… Unity has to be the best name for a dream-blending vortex, wouldn’t you say?

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