Literature Study GuidesThe SandmanThe Kindly Ones Summary

The Sandman | Study Guide

Neil Gaiman

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The Sandman | The Kindly Ones | Summary

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About the Title

Another name for the Furies is the Kindly Ones though they are far from kind. This is the series' climactic volume, with the Furies taking the vengeance on Morpheus for the death of Orpheus.

Summary

Lyta Hall

The Hecateae, in the form as the Fates, sit in a parlor and spin, weave, and cut the threads of people's lives. They speak of their work while they have tea. Lachesis opens a fortune cookie with the fortune, "A king will forsake his kingdom. Life and death will clash and fray. The oldest battle begins once more." The fortune speaks of things to come.

Lyta Hall, as a single mother, is taking care of Daniel. She talks to her friend, Carla, who encourages her to go out and talk to a man about a possible job. Lyta is afraid to leave Daniel alone. She hasn't left him alone since he was born, but Carla convinces her to take a night for herself. Lyta tells Carla she will kill anyone who hurts Daniel. She goes on her date/job interview at Lux (the restaurant Lucifer owns and works at as a piano player). There she gets a horrible feeling Daniel is in danger and rushes home to find him gone.

Matthew, Morpheus's raven, wings through the Dreaming, talking to Mervyn Pumpkinhead, Lucien, and Nuala. He finds Morpheus in the process of recreating the Corinthian. He asks about the ravens who have come before him, but Morpheus does not tell him of their fates. Knowing he will get no more from Morpheus, he flies back to Eve's cave.

Lyta is questioned by two policemen, Lieutenant Luke Pinkerton and Gordy Fellowes, but she is lost in her own head. She says when she came home, the girl she had hired to babysit Daniel, Rose Walker, was asleep and Daniel was gone. Once they leave, Lyta falls deeper into madness. She dreams she walks into her cellar where she comes upon the Hecateae. They greet her as "granddaughter" and tell her they will see her again.

Meanwhile, in the Dreaming Cluracan arrives to visit his sister, Nuala. Even though the gatekeepers warn him to stay on the path, he strays. In a mirror he sees an image of Dream in white. Then he vomits up a stag, his Nemesis, which runs off when Nuala appears to fetch him. Cluracan tells her he is here on behalf of Queen Titania to retrieve Nuala and take her back with him to Faerie. She insists Morpheus will not let her go since she was a gift from the queen, but she and Cluracan go ask him. Morpheus readily releases her, hurting Nuala who is in love with him. Before she leaves, Morpheus touches her necklace and tells her to call on him any time and he will answer to grant her one boon.

The Search

Loki and Puck feed wood onto a fire. They are the ones who kidnapped Daniel. They place the boy in the flames.

Hob Gadling stands at the grave of his latest lover, a woman killed by a reckless driver while she crossed the street. As he leaves the cemetery, he sees Morpheus and they go to a tavern to talk. Morpheus quickly leaves after Hob tells him he smells of death. The other Endless are also behaving strangely. Destiny sees another Destiny walking his garden. Desire shuts them in their realm. Despair notices her twin's sigil is dark. Delirium leaves to search for her dog, Barnabas, who she has lost somewhere.

Lyta Hall learns Daniel is likely dead via a photograph of a charred child. She thinks back on all of her encounters with Morpheus and concludes he was the one who stole Daniel. She sets off to find the Kindly Ones.

Remiel visits Lucifer on Earth to ask if he'll take back Hell. Lucifer dismisses him, disgusted. In another area of Los Angeles, Lyta Hall seeks the Furies in the waking and dreaming worlds. She encounters a number of strange creatures, ending up in a house occupied by two sisters. They are Stheno and Euryale, the Gorgons and sisters of Medusa. They want Lyta to stay and be their third sister. She goes out to the garden and finds an apple tree and the three-headed serpent, Geryon, who advises her against eating from the tree. Lyta ignores him and takes a bite of the apple.

Meanwhile, Carla goes to speak to Rose to ask if the police have spoken to her. Rose is only in Los Angeles to take care of a sick friend, and tells Carla that no one has been by. Carla looks at the card the two officers gave her only to find it blank. In the Dreaming Morpheus finishes the Corinthian.

Lyta awakes in Stheno and Euryale's house to find she has snakes for hair. If she stays with the sisters, she will become Medusa. Lyta leaves to continue her search. Elsewhere in Los Angeles, Rose visits Zelda who is dying of AIDS. Rose is paying for her care with her inheritance from Unity. Zelda wakes from a dream to tell Rose her Unity wants her to return to England to get her heart back.

Morpheus revives the Corinthian and sends him and Matthew on an errand. They are to find and retrieve Daniel and bring him to the Dreaming. In Faerie Titania asks Nuala if Morpheus passed any messages on for her. When Nuala tells the queen he did not, Titania is not pleased and notices the necklace Nuala wears. Asked if she would give the necklace to her queen, Nuala tells her it is not hers to give.

Carla tries to get in touch with Pinkerton and Fellowes, but no one on the police force has ever heard of them. Hearing of this, Pinkerton stops Carla as she is getting ready to pull away in her car. Pinkerton is Loki, just as Fellowes is Puck. Fearing Carla is close to figuring out what is going on, he burns her in her car.

Rose goes to England to visit the rest home where Unity spent most of her life. There she meets Paul McGuire (last seen in Preludes and Nocturnes) and Jack Holdaway, her family's attorney. Rose encounters three women: Amelia Crupp, Magda Treadgold, and Helena. They tell her a story as they take tea, trying to convey a message to her. When Rose leaves, she runs into McGuire who takes her to his comatose lover's room. This is Alex Burgess (last seen in Preludes and Nocturnes) whom Morpheus cursed with Eternal Waking. Rose sets her grandmother's ring on Alex's pillow.

The Furies

Thessaly searches for Lyta on the streets of Los Angeles. Lyta is still on her dream quest for the Kindly Ones, though she is currently sleeping in an alley. Thessaly takes the comatose Lyta back to her room and places her in a protective circle to watch over her.

Morpheus receives a visit from Odin, who has recently discovered Loki never returned to his prison beneath the earth. He knows Morpheus has something to do with it. When Morpheus explains himself, Odin warns him Loki will be beholden to no one and Morpheus will regret his actions. Meanwhile, Delirium ends up in Destiny's garden. She notices Dream's statue has changed position—he has his head in his hands—and asks Destiny if she should go see him. Two Destinies counsel her not to go to him.

Finally, Lyta finds the Furies. She says she has come seeking revenge on Morpheus for killing her son. The Furies tell her she is wrong, that Morpheus did not kill her son. They tell her even if he had, they would still be unable to intervene. However, he did kill his own son, activating their blood debt.

In the Dreaming Morpheus meets with Delirium. They argue over his devotion to his duty and responsibilities. Delirium leaves to continue her search for Barnabas.

While over in England, Rose sleeps with her attorney, Jack Holdaway, and seems to suddenly fall in love with him. Later she discovers he is married.

The Corinthian and Matthew continue their search for Daniel in Los Angeles. They find Carla's dead body in the morgue, and the Corinthian eats her eyes to see what she saw last. He learns she was killed by Loki and he senses Daniel is no longer in the waking world. Back in the Dreaming, Morpheus receives a visit from the Hecateae in their Furies form. They kill the Gryphon, one of the Castle's door guardians. Morpheus orders the remaining two to let the Ladies pass. Morpheus assumes they are Lyta Hall, but they quickly inform him they are the Kindly Ones, the Erinyes. They are there to hound him for spilling family blood. They warn him he must submit to them or they will destroy the Dreaming and everything in it.

Rose visits Fawney Rig, Roderick Burgess's old home. While alone, she finds the basement and the cell in which Morpheus was kept. She falls asleep and meets Desire, who reveals they are Rose's grandfather. Rose rants about hating love because it makes one vulnerable. Paul McGuire wakes her, and they find an art deco lighter in the shape of a heart left by Desire.

Matthew and the Corinthian journey to Svartalfheim on their way to find Daniel. They come upon Loki who tries to fool them by appearing as Morpheus. The Corinthian snaps his neck and eats his eyes. He and Matthew find Daniel.

Back in the Dreaming, the Furies begin their attack. They kill Gilbert/Fiddler's Green among others within the Dreaming. Morpheus goes to find Lyta Hall in the Waking World only to find her under Thessaly's protection. Thessaly reveals she is the woman who left Morpheus at the beginning of Brief Lives. Unable to do anything to Lyta, Morpheus returns to the Dreaming.

The End

The Corinthian finds Puck hiding among the rafters as they take Daniel. Puck decides to return to Faerie rather than fight the nightmare. Once the Corinthian leaves with Daniel, Odin and Thor arrive to return Loki to his prison beneath the earth.

In the Dreaming the Furies continue their destructive assault. They kill Abel and then Mervyn Pumpkinhead. Lucien wonders why Morpheus is not magically restoring the dead members of the Dreaming. The Dream Lord replies the Furies will not stop until he is dead, by his hand or someone else's. Since he can't get to Lyta Hall due to Thessaly's interference, he is contemplating his next move.

In Faerie Nuala learns Morpheus is in danger. She uses the charm to summon him to her, removing him from the Dreaming. He tells her he was aware of the threat, but while he remains in the Dreaming, no permanent harm can occur. They realize she caused more harm than good by removing him from the Dreaming.

The Corinthian returns to the Dreaming with Daniel and meets up with Cain who informs him they are under attack. While the Furies continue to wreak havoc, Nuala and Dream remain in Faerie. She tells him he seems like he wants to be punished for his son's death, to which he does not respond. As he is leaving her, he asks what boon she'd like from him. She wishes he would stay with her and love her, but knows he does not. He leaves.

Rose returns to Los Angeles to discover that Zelda has died in her absence. The Corinthian, Cain, Lucien, and Daniel sit in the throne room and await Morpheus's return. Destiny walks in his garden, reading his book. He sees a number of other Destinies that begin to coalesce into one.

Morpheus returns to the Dreaming. The Kindly Ones meet him, striking him in the face with a scorpion whip, scarring him as his ex-lover Alianora from Brief Lives predicted. The Kindly Ones disappear and Morpheus readies himself for their final meeting.

Morpheus holds an emerald in his hand. He tells Matthew that it is one of many dream stones he created long ago. Daniel plays on the floor in front of them. Morpheus is dressed for battle in his cloak and helm and gloves. He gives the emerald to Daniel and leaves with Matthew to confront the Furies.

Delirium arrives at Lux, Lucifer's club, still looking for Barnabas. She threatens Mazikeen who works as a hostess at the club to gain entry. Rose goes to visit her old landlord Hal, now known as Vixen, to inform him of Zelda's death. She asks him to come to Zelda's memorial. Matthew and Morpheus arrive at the borders of nightmare for the final battle. Matthew finally finds out what became of the ravens who came before him. Some died, one returned to humanity, and Lucien—the first raven—stayed in the Dreaming to become the librarian. The Kindly Ones arrive and Morpheus realizes they will not be satisfied with anything less than his death. He gives Matthew his pouch of sand and his helm and asks him to take these to the castle. Mathew is to ask Death to meet Morpheus. Reluctantly, Matthew does.

Death meets Morpheus on top of the cliff he's sitting on, giving a brief nod to her first appearance in "The Sound of her Wings." Morpheus explains he is very tired. Death tells him he could have asked for her help. She tries to talk him out of his course of action, but eventually realizes Morpheus is determined. She understands she is the only one who can help him. Death asks Morpheus to take her hand, which he does.

The death of Morpheus is felt throughout the realms: by Titania in Faerie, Delirium (who just found Barnabas), and Lucifer in Los Angeles. Hal and Rose attend Zelda's memorial service. In England Alex Burgess finally wakes up after five years. Lyta Hall awakens, returning to sanity. Thessaly, upset at Morpheus's passing, threatens Lyta's life before she leaves.

In the Dreaming Daniel plays with the emerald dream stone. The emerald flashes and then changes into a pendant on a chain. Daniel appears again, all in white with the emerald around his neck. He is the new incarnation of Dream.

Analysis

Fate

Aspects of the Fates have appeared before in their guise as the Hecateae. Clotho is the maiden and spinner of the threads of fate. Lachesis is the mother and measurer of those threads. Atropos is the crone and the one who cuts the threads. Lachesis complains about people's unhappiness with their endings and wonders why they even bother. Clotho says, "because we have no choice. Because this is who we are, in this aspect." Even the Fates themselves are bound by their fate, by the responsibilities of their position. Clotho also brings up the idea of aspects. Readers see one aspect of Dream in Morpheus, but there are others as they will soon learn.

Fate implies an inevitability to the outcome, that no matter how hard one may fight against it, there is nothing to be done to stop it. The Kindly Ones offers up questions as to how much choice Morpheus had in what happened to him.

The series has been leading up to Morpheus's ending, seeding references and foreshadowing to the ultimate ending in all of the story arcs. Though Morpheus acts like he doesn't have much say in how things play out, that isn't the case at all. Morpheus saw two different entities give up their responsibilities—the idea of how he was going to do it had been churning within him. Family blood being shed was mentioned in the second story arc when Morpheus talks to Desire. Readers saw Lucifer give up his kingdom in Season of Mists, followed by meeting Destruction in Brief Lives who did likewise.

Morpheus told Lyta Hall in The Doll's House her child, Daniel, had gestated in dreams and was therefore his. He told her one day he would come for Daniel. It is not clear whether he meant to have Daniel replace him or just meant he would have him as some kind of denizen in the Dreaming. But Morpheus had something in mind. Releasing Loki also served a purpose beyond just releasing a captive. When Odin visits Morpheus to tell him he knows of his duplicity and to warn of Loki's inevitable double-cross, Morpheus is not surprised. It turns out he was counting on it, as Loki's realization once he's back in his prison attests. Morpheus recreates his greatest nightmare in preparation of sending the Corinthian after Daniel.

He does try to deny his complicity in his own demise when he speaks to Death at the end. He tries to blame Nuala, a return to his old ways of shrugging off responsibility for his own actions. Death calls him on it and he admits he had a choice. He gave Nuala a boon and a means of calling for him, knowing she had feelings for him. Perhaps he was counting on her to call him from the Dreaming at a momentous time. He could have decided to break the rules—but that's really why Morpheus is in this situation with the Kindly Ones to begin with. This incarnation of Dream has become trapped by the rules he put in place and he's seeking a way out. He admits as much to Death. His choices are his own and he has changed, but he feels trapped. When Death says he could follow in Destruction's footsteps, he simply tells her he could not. Taking a moment, she agrees with him. Abandoning his responsibilities is not something Morpheus can do, so he manufactures his own downfall.

Finally, there is a sense of escaping fate in one of the final panels of The Kindly Ones. The first instance of the phrase is foreshadowing. It says: "All around me darkness gathers, / Fading is the sun that shone, / We must speak of other matters: / You can be me when I'm gone." There's a dark finality to it that hints of Morpheus's death and Daniel's ascension to the role of Dream. But that same coda is repeated in the fortune cookie Lachesis (the measurer of the Fates) opens. It says: "Flowers gathered in the morning, / Afternoon they blossom on, / Still are withered by the evening: / You can be me when I'm gone." The Fates seem irritated or bothered by the fortune, in part because it seems to remind them of their failure. Dream is never really dead. The aspect that was Morpheus is gone, true, but his punishment was of his own devising. Morpheus, bound by rules, found a way around them. He basically recreated a version of himself that isn't so tethered to them in Daniel, the new aspect of Dream.

Greek Myth

The inclusion of Orpheus as a character is an obvious callback to Greek myths. But there is a lot more The Kindly Ones owes to them. Orpheus's tragic life and death lead to the events in this volume, but a lot of other references appear in this penultimate volume of Sandman.

The most obvious insertions are the Fates. The three-in-one have been with Morpheus from the beginning in their guise as the Hecateae. Note their name is a nod to the Greek goddess of the paths, of witchcraft and crossroads. In the first panels of The Kindly Ones arc, they appear in their guise of the Fates or the Moirai: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. In Greek mythology they spun, measured, and cut the fates of mortals and, in some texts, gods alike. Lachesis holds a skein of thread, indicative of her role as the measurer. Threads follow Daniel throughout the volume, signifying his thread of mortal life is over.

Hippolyta "Lyta" Hall is a woman with a name of the Queen of the Amazons and a daughter of Ares, the Greek god of war. Lyta is the daughter of DC Comics's Golden Age Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. She possesses her mother's powers. After the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" story line in 1985, Lyta Hall became the daughter of Helena Kosmatos, the Golden Age Fury. This character is an avatar of the fury, Tisiphone. Lyta takes up the mantel of her mother, Helena. In comic history Lyta is already equated with the Furies. It is only natural she become the physical manifestation of them in their harrowing of Morpheus.

The Furies (Erinys or Eumenides) were three goddesses—Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone—of retribution. They punished crimes against the natural order, specifically familial homicide and offenses against the gods. A victim seeking justice could call down the curse of the Furies upon the criminal. This is exactly what Lyta Hall does, mistakenly believing Morpheus to be responsible for Daniel's kidnapping and death. She petitions the Furies, known as the Kindly Ones (which is a translation of Eumenides), to punish Morpheus. They know Morpheus did not have anything to do with what happened to Daniel. But they still take the opportunity to punish Morpheus for his killing of Orpheus. A father killed his son, going against the natural order and setting him in their sights.

Stheno and Euryale are two of the three Gorgon sisters (the most famous Gorgon being Medusa). Medusa was the only mortal of the three, killed by Perseus. The route to their location was guarded by their three sisters, known as the Graeae (the Grey Ones) who shared one eye and one tooth. In The Kindly Ones Lyta meets the two remaining Gorgons in their old house. They ask her to fill in for their missing sister, Medusa. At one point Lyta imagines she has snakes for hair, a sign she is turning into the Gorgon. She realizes this aspect of three is not the one she seeks and leaves to continue her search.

While with the Stheno and Euryale, Lyta meets Geryon, a serpent in an apple tree. In Greek mythology Geryon is the grandson of Medusa. Depending on the depiction, Geryon either had one body and three heads or three bodies. Either way, the triple symbolism is still in play, despite the biblical overtones of the scene.

Change

The Kindly Ones illustrates the biggest change within all of Sandman: the changing of aspects of Dream. All of the previous volumes have led to this. All of the foreshadowing in past stories and many of the characters introduced culminate in the final conversation between Morpheus and Death. It is not just Dream that changes.

Rose Walker has felt disconnected from her emotions since her experience as the dream vortex. She complains she isn't affected by the failures of her relationships. She just doesn't seem to care as much as she should. It isn't until her one-night stand heartbreak that she reconnects with that aspect of herself. Soon after realizing that she allowed herself to fall in love after an ill-advised dalliance, Rose meets with Desire of the Endless, her biological grandfather. Rose went to England after Zelda gives her the message from Unity to go there and "get her heart back." This is a reference to when Unity asks for her heart in The Doll's House to remove what made Rose the dream vortex. Rose gave Unity a crystal heart. In return Desire leaves behind an art deco lighter in the shape of a heart.

Lyta experiences her own series of changes after her fateful night out (in itself a change to her routine). After her breakdown, she becomes the personification of the Furies. Her inward journey changed her and brought about the downfall of Morpheus. Even when she changes her mind because she realizes she was wrong, there is no recalling the Furies once they've set upon their target. The thing Lyta was trying to avoid—losing Daniel forever—is no longer possible once she sets herself on the path of vengeance.

Nuala undergoes her own change upon returning to Faerie. She realizes her time in the Dreaming changed her and she is no longer suited for a life of idleness. Her fae glamor feels strange to her, and she offends Titania when she appears in her true guise. Nuala has moved beyond the pretensions of Faerie and can no longer be satisfied with the shallow endeavors of Titania's court.

She made herself useful in the Dreaming. When Matthew asks her why she cleans the throne room, her reply is, "I must do something." She could have spent her time in Morpheus's castle doing what she always did in Faerie. She could have kept to her room. But she chooses to do something with her time besides feeling sorry for herself. With the autonomy Morpheus provides her comes a freedom she hadn't experienced before. That freedom, that fundamental change in expectations and desires is what drives Nuala away from Faerie.

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