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The Sandman is a mythical character in central and northern European folklore who puts people to sleep and brings good dreams by sprinkling magical sand onto the eyes of people while they sleep at night.
Representation in traditional folklore
Traditionally, he is a character in many children's stories. He is said to sprinkle sand or dust on or into the eyes of the child at night to bring on dreams and sleep. The grit or "sleep" in one's eyes upon waking is supposed to be the result of the Sandman's work the previous evening.
Hans Christian Andersen's 1841 folk tale Ole Lukøje introduced the Sandman, named Ole Lukøje, by relating dreams he gave to a young boy in a week through his magical technique of sprinkling dust in the eyes of the children. "Ole" is a Danish name and "Lukøje" means "close eye". Andersen wrote:
There is nobody in the world who knows so many stories as Ole-Luk-Oie, or who can relate them so nicely. In the evening, while the children are seated at the table or in their little chairs, he comes up the stairs very softly, for he walks in his socks, then he opens the doors without the slightest noise, and throws a small quantity of very fine dust in their eyes, just enough to prevent them from keeping them open, and so they do not see him. Then he creeps behind them, and blows softly upon their necks, till their heads begin to droop. But Ole-Luk-Oie does not wish to hurt them, for he is very fond of children, and only wants them to be quiet that he may relate to them pretty stories, and they never are quiet until they are in bed and asleep. As soon as they are asleep, Ole-Luk-Oie seats himself upon the bed. He is nicely dressed; his coat is made of silken fabric; it is impossible to say of what color, for it changes from green to red, and from red to blue as he turns from side to side. Under each arm he carries an umbrella; one of them, with pictures on the inside, he spreads over the good children, and then they dream the most beautiful stories the whole night. But the other umbrella has no pictures, and this he holds over the naughty children so that they sleep heavily, and wake in the morning without having dreams at all.
E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822) wrote an inverse depiction of the lovable character in a story called Der Sandmann, which showed how sinister such a character could be made. According to the protagonist's nurse, he threw sand in the eyes of children who wouldn't sleep, with the result of those eyes falling out and being collected by the Sandman, who then takes the eyes to his iron nest on the Moon, and uses them to feed his children. The protagonist of the story grows to associate this nightmarish creature with the genuinely sinister figure of his father's associate Coppelius. In Romanian folklore there is a similar character, Mos Ene (Ene the Elder).
In popular culture
A popular character in folklore, the Sandman is frequently referenced in popular culture. Some noteworthy examples include the following:
- The Walt Disney Silly Symphonies cartoon film Lullaby Land (1933) ends with the Sandman putting the baby to sleep.
- The Laurel and Hardy film Babes in Toyland (1934) depicts the Sandman putting Little Bo-Peep and Tom-Tom Piper to sleep.
- In the Disney Short "Cat Nap Pluto" (1948), a representation of the sandman wearing a comic Vietnamese straw hat and pushing a cart of golden-colored sand appears to both of Pluto and Figaro, as he sprinkles their eyes. The hat may be a mistaken reference to the song "Japanese Sandman" (1920).
- The Sandman (portrayed by Michael Dorn) appears in The Santa Clause 2 (2002) and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006). He is seen as a member of the Council of Legendary Figures alongside Cupid, the Easter Bunny, Father Time, Jack Frost, Mother Nature, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy, . Sandman has a habit of falling asleep during the meetings of the Council of Legendary Figures.
- The Joe Wright action film Hanna (2011) draws heavily on European folklore, with a deadly antagonist of the teen-aged lead character ironically associated to the benevolent Sandman, also through the Chemical Brothers soundtrack.
- The Dreamworks film Rise of the Guardians (2012) features the Sandman (nicknamed "Sandy") as a main character. Although the Sandman does not speak, he uses his sand to communicate with the other Guardians.
- Susan Holton's short poem, "I'm Looking for the Sandman", written in 1928 and debuted by the Methodist Book Concern, was the first appearance of the Sandman in American literature.
"I'm looking for the Sandman. He's somewhere 'round 'tis said; But as I'm rather sleepy, I think I'll go to bed."
- Neil Gaiman's graphic novel series, The Sandman, depicts the Sandman as the protagonist, Dream
- The Sandman is a 2012 novel by Lars Kepler
- In William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson's 1967 science fiction novel Logan's Run (the basis of the 1976 movie Logan's Run (film)), the protagonist, Logan 3, is a Deep Sleep Operative, also referred to as a Sandman.
- "The Japanese Sandman" (1920) by Raymond B. Egan and Richard A. Whiting
- "Mr. Sandman" (1954) was popularized by The Chordettes.
- "Morningtown Ride" (1957), recorded by The Seekers among others, features the Sandman as a character
- "Lullaby in Ragtime" (1959), by Sylvia Fine, mentions the Sandman
- "In Dreams" (1963), by Roy Orbison, mentions the Sandman, described as a "candy-colored clown."
- "Sandman" (1971) by America
- "Winter Wine" (1971), by Caravan, mentions the Sandman
- "Overjoyed" (1985), by Stevie Wonder, mentions the Sandman
- "Enter Sandman" (1991) by Metallica
- "Sandman" (1993) by Peace and Silence
- "Mr. Sandman" (1994) by Method Man from the album Tical
- "Blood Red Sandman" (2004) by Lordi
- "Sandmann" (2009) by Oomph!
- "Sandman" (2013) by HURTS, from their album Exile (2013)
- "Sandman" (2013) by Kirsty McGee
- "Pretty Angry" (2001) by Blues Traveler
- "Song of the Sandman" (2001) by Enya
- The Rugrats episode "Sleep Troubles."
- In the Apollo Theater talent television show, the Sandman is a stage name for Howard Sims, who comedically ushered failed acts offstage with a shepherd's crook.
- The supernatural series Charmed featured the Sandman in an episode entitled "Sand Francisco Dreamin'" (2002).
- The animated series Courage the Cowardly Dog featured the Sandman in the episode "Stormy Weather/The Sandman Sleeps" (2002).
- The Family Guy episode "Baking Bad" (2014) portrays the Sandman in one of the cutaways
- The Canadian part-animated/part-live-action Christmas television special Nilus the Sandman: The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas (1991) featured the Sandman, whose name is revealed to be "Nilus". This version of the Sandman returned in two subsequent Nilus the Sandman TV specials in 1994 and 1995, and a Nilus the Sandman TV series airing from 1996 to 1998.
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "Dream Scheme" (1999) features the Sandman, who creates a machine with which to put the entire world to sleep forever.
- In East Germany on Deutscher Fernsehfunk, the children's television program Sandmännchen survived through the end of the Iron Curtain.
- The 2013 TV series Sleepy Hollow depicts the Sandman in the episode "For the Triumph of Evil".
- The Sandman appears in The Fairly OddParents episode "Beddy Bye" voiced by Jackie Mason. The Sandman is a mattress retail magnate and is referred to as Harvey Sandman and the Mattress King.
- In 2005, the TV late-night talk show The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson theme song mentioned the Sandman.
- In The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Steven the Sandman is a version of the Sandman (voiced by Daran Norris) who resides in the dream world.
- The animated series The Real Ghostbusters featured the Sandman in the episode "Mr. Sandman, Dream Me a Dream" (1986).
- The Sandman appears in The Smurfs episode "Darkness Monster", voiced by Frank Welker. Papa Smurf and the Smurflings travel to the Land of Nod to obtain some sand; there they meet a grouchy Sandman who has only recently taken the job from his retiring predecessor. The Sandman demands chocolate from the Darkness Monster's cave in exchange for the sand.
- Morpheus – Greek God of Dreams
- Wee Willie Winkie – A Scottish nursery rhyme's personification of sleep
- Andersen, Hans Christian. Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
- Tatar, Maria (2003) . Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-01487-6.
- Hoffman, E.T.A. (1817). "Der Sandmann". Die Nachtstücke.