On Sandman, or how to properly retell a story

The concept of retelling stories is a significant aspect in all forms of media. Whether it is retelling The Taming of the Shrew through a modern re-adaptation 10 Things I Hate About You to the retelling of general themes, like the story of star crossed lovers that are doomed to fall because of their love. The goal of the author in retelling a story is to change the story. Not a drastic change that the original story becomes something that is completely different, but one that adds the author’s own interpretation to the narrative, giving a story a new light and help us better comprehend both the stories of the past and of the present.

In Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Bryan Talbot and Mark Buckingham, our story revolves around Morpheus, the being who governs over dreams and a member of the Endless, god-like figures that govern certain realms of reality. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, revolves around the character of Orpheus a mortal whose musical talent is the stuff of legends, and his personal quest to rescue his wife from death. They are two completely different characters, but artfully woven together to produce a stunning interpretation of the old myth.

We begin the story with a wedding, including introducing the family.

But then tragedy struck, leaving Orpheus alone without his wife.

Orpheus then goes to his aunt, Death, in order to find the way to the underworld in order to retrieve his wife.

A rather strange deviation from the myth, but one that helps further moves the story along, leading to the underworld.

And the tragic end of the story that we are all familiar with.

The comic stays faithful with the original myth, albeit with embellishments in order to fit it with the overarching narrative. The story is not just a separate story but one of a greater whole that fits with the rest of Sandman. Gaiman doesn’t try to force the myth as a part of the narrative, but rather tries to weave the myth into the story of Morpheus. Even with the addition of Morpheus as his father and his interactions with the other Endless, we can identify the myth of Orpheus. In that way, we can recognize what is happening if we are familiar with the myth and to understand what is going on if we do not.

We also get to better understand the story of Morpheus in this matter as well. Particularly, the inevitability of fate, the consequences that comes with choice with and that the rules that govern the world must be obeyed. These themes come up throughout the series, so it is fitting that the myth of Orpheus is included, as we observe a mortal fighting against death itself, but being ultimately defeated by it.

This story itself is a part of a larger narrative, one that significantly impacts Morpheus and would significantly spoil the story to people who may want to read the series. The myth of Orpheus becomes a part of the continuity of the Sandman series. And the themes of the Orpheus myth are added to the themes of Sandman. It also connects our past to our present. The stories that provided lessons, inspiration and explored the possibilities and questions about life in the past are connected to to the present and how we choose to interpret them. When a storyteller uses stories of the past, it is a means to better understand the story about ourselves.

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