Clarissa Johal: #FolkloreThursday - The Sandman #European

Thursday, June 29, 2017

#FolkloreThursday - The Sandman #European

De Zandman. Frontispice uit de Nederlandse vertaling
'Sprookjes: tweede verzameling', 1847

Most think of the Sandman as a benevolent character from European folklore. Sprinkling magical sand onto the eyes of children, he was responsible for good dreams. His appearance was usually that of an old man wearing golden robes, and carrying a small bag of sand. Innocuous enough, right? But there were other folkloric versions of the Sandman who were quite different, and creatures you wouldn't wish to encounter.

A "less-beloved" version of the Sandman had long fingers, sharp teeth, and discolored skin like a that of a dead person. Hiding in the dark, it whispered, "tik-toc, tik-toc" in order to lure its unlucky victims into a deep sleep. Once asleep, this Sandman would come out of hiding and devour its prey. It only needed to feast once per night, but would sometimes choose to kill for fun.

Yet another version was used to scare children. If a child refused to go to sleep, this Sandman would sneak into their bedroom and throw sand into their eyes, causing them to itch. When the child rubbed, their eyes would fall out onto the floor in a bloody mess. The Sandman would then collect those eyes to feed to his pet bird.
Sleep well, little children.

By the late 19th century, the Sandman had transformed from a monster, into a more benign character. This led to the belief that there were two Sandmen, perhaps brothers. One brought good dreams, while the other had more evil intentions. In some folklore, their powers were even more varied. There were family Sandmen who offered special dreams, power over dreams, or glimpses into the future.

Over the years, the folklore has continued to change due to popular culture. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Sandman fifty years from now.

So...which Sandman will be visiting your dreams tonight?

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