Dream in Conflict:

“The Kindly Ones,” Chapters 7-9

It is revealed in The Kindly Ones Part 8 that the identity of the furies has lain in the titular designation all along. When Lyta Hall comes upon them in a solitary shack, deep in the desert of another world, they reveal themselves to her as the very same Wyrd Sisters that she encountered before the disappearance of her son Daniel. Only now, as she speaks to them, their forms have changed into something fearsome and horrid, illustrating their fluid dimensionality. The Three Fates conform to different capacities, serving their purpose as needed, yet the concept offered here illustrates that both fate and fury are one and the same. Parts 7 through 9 of The Kindly Ones introduces Dream into their entanglement, which appears to be an insurmountable obstruction to his soverignty. The situation thwarts for the first time in the entire series the expectation of Dream’s comic book finesse and his ability to escape compromising situations. In the words of Odin, who comes to demand why Dream has loosened his command over his affairs, “You’re a deep one. But how deep? What’s illusion? That’s the question… and this is a bad place to talk of illusion…” How deep do Dream’s affairs go? How deep exactly determines whether or not Dream has made a mistake that he cannot escape or if this has been one elaborate scheme to fit his own ends all along. Using the supporting cast of Dream’s story, Gaiman sheds light on possible answers.

Dream’s nature is one that doesn’t personally intervene in the affairs of others. Though he has done this for the bulk of the series thus far, each escapade is framed with awkward tension, illustrating that even when possessing god-like capabilities, Dream can still feel out of his element. Dream’s talent for delegation of duties and responsibilities explains the usual protocol that he exercises in times of need. This arc features Dream in his element, carrying out his tasks in proxy as he must have done for the duration of human history. Therefore the assignment he gives to Matthew and the Corinthian explains Dream’s absence and cryptic prescience for the majority of the arc. The Kindly Ones, being an arc capturing the creeping anxiety of those around Dream, is not a story of the Endless, but one about the allies, friends, lovers, and enemies of their kind. It is fitting to end a series through revisiting the social environment that Dream enjoyed before his life changed and he was captured by Roderick Burgess.

Even so, this character development is framed via the changes that Dream has undergone throughout the series. Dream’s concern and humanistic dimensions have expanded to allow more complex emotions. After meeting Odin before the front gate like two waring kings, Dream is undercut by the High One. Dream’s capability to rule is questioned, and Dream regretfully lowers his head in pause, muttering his agreement. Later, Gilbert accuses him of the same thing, causing Dream injury. A fearful awareness of his inability to reign in his duties stirs Dream to anger. Destruction, who left because he felt redundant in the created order, had offered earlier in the series the idea that the Endless weren’t really needed. Dream’s fatigue and distance is apparent throughout parts 7-9 of The Kindly Ones, and these emotions give way to sadness and bitter grief when the Furies arrive and slay Gryphon, who valiantly defended his master’s hold to the end. Dream’s thorough pursuit of activities and duties in his kingdom can be interpreted via two angles. First, one may assume that Dream is only meticulously carrying out his duties as he always has. His methodology and precision is consistent with other issues before The Kindly Ones, despite the apocalyptic bent. The alternative to consider is that Dream is getting his affairs in order before his final departure, which hangs over him like a heavy cloud. If Dream has pushed his luck too far, very soon will he understand the consequences of his doings.

After the death of Gilbert and Gryphon, it is clear that Dream has made a critical error in judgment concerning his dealings with Lyta Hall. Though he is not the one who took Daniel, his past tendencies to meddle in human affairs have damned his reputation, which Lyta fixates on. Though this is not good news for Dream, his transparency and blunt honesty with Thessaly gives the reader an opportunity to explore Dream’s weaknesses. Far better than a god without faults or errors, Dream can be relatable. When she visits Dream to ask for help in finding Barnabas, Delirium offers a strangely coherent string of arcane wisdom that clarifies Dream’s predicament. This wisdom is further contextualized by Thessaly later on in Part 9 when she tells Dream that the primary reason for his troubles is because he cares too much about people, and therefore nets their problems. Delirium implies that the Endless naturally exist as totems or overseers to their kingdoms, and that any invasion into the waking world consequently alters existence forever, their actions rippling down the paths of history. Dream’s excuse for not aiding Delirium is that he determines his responsibilities at that particular moment more important than her quest. Delirium’s critique of Dream’s excuse is to the point, saying, “our existence deforms the universe. That’s responsibility.” What she means is that Dream’s ongoing quests and oversight into the waking world and surrounding pantheons is actually detrimental to the created order. Much like Destruction’s reason for leaving his post, Dream’s involvement, if left unfettered, can only mean ill omens.

Gaiman takes great pain to veil the extent of Dream’s emotions in The Kindly Ones. Why he does this lies in the practical explanation that Dream’s final exploit is meant to underscore the acts of his minions and cohorts. Like a tale out of Grant Morrison’s repertoire, parts 7-9 follow a non-linear progression, interweaving personal interactions together into a larger narrative. When looking in between the lines however, the actions of the players describe and illuminate what is racing through Dream’s mind. Lucifer, who plays in the lounge of the Lux, ruminates over his decision to step down from Hell. Again he is ready to move on, but where to remains unsaid. Hell or not, it was his home and now he is without. Dream experiences the same emotions considering that he too is about to lose his home to the Furies. Sitting in her room, Thessaly pensively reads a book. She looks irritated and consumed with frustration; even though she has brokered a deal to extend her life once more, the deal has come at a cost. Now she is forced to be intertwined in Dream’s affairs once more, much to her chagrin. Dream, too, feels regret over his invasions to the waking world. Now he is in over his head and feels obligated to see out the impending outcome of his meddling. At the edge of the forest of Tir-na-nog, Nuala sits in her rose bush bower, reflecting on her time in the Dreaming and the purpose she had there. After years spent acting foolishly and living shallowly, she regrets her departure, knowing that there her work was embraced and appreciated by the Dream Lord. Just like Nuala, Dream has lived a primarily selfish life. He looks back on it and wonders what he was done that has had meaning and purpose midst his meddling. Lastly, as Gilbert dies filled with grief, surprise, and dismay, he contemplates the nature of his death. He wonders aloud what he will miss most about life, and treasures all the rich complexities of his time existing as Fiddler’s Green. He concludes that, “only things that are truly unreasonable have reasons,” after wishing that he could have died on his own, or for a reason. Dream’s time is coming to an end and, deep down, he desires to die for a reason as well.

Dream, now backed into a corner, is desperate. All around him his friends perish, and the same deflowering of Lyta’s world occurs in Dream’s own, as the Furies rapaciously invade the Dreaming, killing and laying waste to everything Dream ever loved. Dream contemplatively must confront his actions and choices, to accept his fate and move on. Is there still fight left in Dream? What is his ulterior motive? These questions and are soon to be answered as The Kindly Ones enters the climax of the arc.

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Stuart Warren is the former managing editor and webmaster for Sequart Organization. Stuart earned a BA in English with an emphasis in Early Modern Studies at University of California Santa Barbara. An avid reader and historian, Stuart researches Nordic mythology and paganism and is self-taught in the Norwegian language (Bokmål). He is a novelist and comic book writer. Spirit of Orn, his breakout Science Fantasy epic is now available for purchase via Amazon Kindle and iBooks.

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