I think Fables and Reflections just might be my favorite Sandman book yet. It contains a series of vignettes that are not technically related but all somehow develop Dream’s/Morpheus’s character and complexity. I’m eager to continue the rest of the series, especially if Gaiman goes forward in several different directions at once.
I’d like to talk about two of my favorite stories or episodes in this collection: “The Song of Orpheus” and “Ramadan.” Both involve a retelling of mythology in a way that seems new or fresh. Gaiman has previously established Orpheus as Dream’s son, but here, we see the myth and the Sandman story connected. If you’ve read the story of Orpheus, you know what happens—his wife dies and he must go to the Underworld to save her. Dream strongly decries this scheme, but of course, Orpheus must go. And in what happens, you understand why Dream is the kind of person that he ends up being. I don’t know if “Ramadan” borrows from an Arabic myth or tale, but it sure feels like it. A ruler makes a wish to save and preserve his beloved city, but all that glitters is not gold. Here, the beauty of the art really resonates with the story being told. It’s a story-within-a-story, really, and you enjoy the telling as it unfolds.
I feel like the art and storytelling have gotten progressively more sophisticated as the novel winds on. I’m interested to see how Gaiman continues it and whether we learn more about Dream’s own family, as I’ve seen in this vignette here. Also, I feel like Gaiman should do a retelling of The Odyssey or some other such classic myth. The story of Orpheus feels fresh and new, even though it’s an ancient classic. That’s the sign of great writing.