The Sandman Reader VII: Convergence

The ‘Convergence’ arc marked a return to single-issue stories, not unlike those told in “Distant Mirrors,” but this time focusing a tiny bit more directly on Morpheus’s history. The arc’s title referred to characters having multiple meetings, with the story narrators often becoming part of the stories they told, and Morpheus’s dream world converging with their reality in some fashion. In all cases, the central character was on some manner of a journey.

Those reading the series via the “Absolute” reprints would note that issues 40 and “Sandman Special #1” appeared in “Absolute Sandman Book III.” Those issues were traditionally grouped into the “Fables and Reflections” collection, but that collection’s contents were split up between “Absolute Sandman” volumes II and III.

Sandman #38: “The Hunt”

June 1992

Story Artist: Duncan Eagleson (penciler), Vince Locke (inker)

Issue #38 focused on a story that a teen named Celeste was told by her Polish grandfather. The story was about a boy named Vassily who encountered a gypsy while wandering through Eastern Europe. Despite a warning about the gypsy from his father, Vassily was helpful to the woman, and she thanked him by gifting a locket with an image of the Duke’s daughter inside. The gypsy also planned to tell Vassily’s fortune but ended up fleeing from him after finding Vassily’s fortune to be terrifying.

Vassily eventually went off in search of the Duke’s daughter. Along the way, he came across the dead body of the gypsy and subsequently escaped death at the hands of an innkeeper. Later in Vassily’s journey, he encountered Morpheus’s librarian Lucien. Lucien repeatedly inquired about Vassily’s price for a book that Vassily had taken from the possessions of the dead gypsy. Despite different offers, Vassily kept demanding the Duke’s daughter in exchange for the book. Even after Vassily was imprisoned by the Duke and poised to die, he refused Lucien’s offer for help due to a continued focus on the Duke’s daughter.

The entire situation was resolved when Morpheus appeared on the scene and Lucien admitted that he had lost Christopher Marlowe’s sequel to “Doctor Faustus” from Morpheus’s library. That was the book from the gypsy that Vassily had been holding so dear. That book never existed in our world, hence its value. It had been previously established that Lucien was in procession of unfinished versions of books normally believed to have never been completed by their authors. After Vassily shared his demand to meet the Duke’s daughter in exchange for the book, Morpheus agreed and took him to her bedroom. Vassily gave the beautiful girl his locket and Morpheus then returned Vassily to the forest.

Earlier in the story, Vassily had encountered a young wolf-woman in the forest to whom he had lost a deer. He again encountered that woman, and the pair became mates, Vassily also having been revealed to possess the ability to become a wolf.

In the framing story, Celeste argued with her grandfather about the story’s meaning. While departing, Celeste’s grandfather revealed in coy fashion that he had been Vassily, and that Celeste’s grandmother had been the wolf girl from the story.

Sandman #39: “Soft Places”

July 1992

Story Artist: John Watkiss (penciler), John Watkiss (inker)

Issue #39 offered a stark contrast to Vassily’s story, shifting to the 12th century and a historical figure: Marco Polo, trekking through the vast Gobi Desert (formerly known as the Desert of Lop) in central China.

Polo was wandering on his own, having become separated from his father and uncle – Niccolo and Maffeo Polo. While dreaming, Polo encountered Rustichello da Pisa. Polo would later collaborate with da Pisa on his memoirs, and the version of da Pisa in the dream appeared to already know that future Polo. Following some discussion, both men concluded that they were characters in their dream and neither resolved who was the person having the dream. After the pair encountered an unusual man with a fire and wine to offer, Polo related his recent exploits. Polo’s separation from his father and uncle came about while returning to Asian ruler Kubilai Khan empty-handed, having originally been tasked with bringing 100 Christian miracle workers to Asia to face Khan’s Buddhist priests.

The unusual man explained that the group had come together as a result of the edges of dream and reality happening to blend. Exploration of the Earth had diminished the number of ‘soft places’ where such things could occur. These revelations were accompanied by the unusual man identifying himself as Fiddler’s Green – aka Gilbert. Readers would recall Green from “The Doll’s House” arc.

After Green and de Pisa departed, Polo encountered Morpheus in the desert. Morpheus had just escaped from the imprisonment shown back in “Sandman” issue #1 and had little ability to help Polo due to his weakened state. After Polo offered Morpheus some of his remaining water, though, Morpheus was taken by the gesture of kindness. As a result, Morpheus did indeed use his little available power to return Polo to his family.

Sandman #40: “The Parliament of Rooks”

August 1992

Story Artist: Jill Thompson (penciler), Vince Locke (inker)

The final part of the “Convergence” story arc came in issue #40. It featured a glimpse into the lives of Lyta Hall and her son Daniel, last seen shortly after Daniel’s birth in issue #22.

Shortly after Lyta put him to bed, infant Daniel found himself transported to the realm of the Dreaming. He was led to tea with Abel by Matthew the Raven and the literal Eve, but the affair was soon interrupted by Cain.

Cain suggested that each of those present tell a story. Cain’s story was about the Parliament of Rooks, from which the issue took its title. It referred to a mysterious gathering of a flock of rooks around a single rook. After that rook made specific calls, the others either flew away or pecked the single rook to death. The reasoning behind either choice remained a mystery.

For Eve’s story, she told the tale of the three women in Adam’s life. The first woman mentioned was Lilith, a popular legendary figure who was banished from the Garden of Eden after refusing to be subservient to Adam. The second woman was unnamed and rejected after Adam viewed how she was constructed. One could say that Adam did not want to see the innermost details of the creation act. The final woman was Eve, who was made from Adam’s rib and who continued to live in secrecy.

Abel told the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, but with an outcome that explained how the brothers had ended up living together post-death (or, rather, post-meeting with Death). This story was lighter hearted in a way, showing the origin of these characters in Morpheus’s pantheon.

The issue ended with Abel defying Cain and telling Daniel and Matthew the secret behind the parliament of the rooks. The noises made by the single rook involved telling a story. If the flock liked the story, they moved on. Otherwise, they killed the storyteller. Daniel was then woken by Lyta, who wondered about a raven feather from Matthew that had been left behind in Daniel’s crib.

A couple of curiosities involving issue #40 involved the brief presentation of Death and Morpheus in Japanese-style ‘Super Deformed’ form. The parliament of rooks’ behavior has been explained as having to do with killing off weak or diseased members of the flock.

The first and third stories of “Convergence” were the strongest, with the story involving Daniel having the most significance. While the Polo story resonated with its connection to the series’ beginning, it did not leave as lasting an impression compared to the others. This foray into short stories was not unsuccessful for Gaiman, but it was not as focused or compelling as the earlier “Distant Mirrors” grouping.

D.S. Christensen
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