Thursday, 11 August 2016

"Do I Wake Or Sleep?"

See here.

I do not set out to recount the entire story; merely to reflect on certain passages while rereading them.

There is a reference to Samuel Gompers that I do not fully understand. (p 231)

In his dream, the narrator goes to bed at night, sleeps happily and wakes up the following morning. Is this possible?

I have remarked on the wind as a powerful symbol and sometimes almost a protagonist (and here) in Anderson's works. Here it is again. When the narrator wakes back into his dream, a tall woman is tidying the house:

"I did not try, then, to look upon her. In my drowsiness, she might as well have been the wind." (p. 232)

The narrator has entered the mind of a young woman in a coma who is still mentally a young girl. Her dream has a consistent environment like a virtual reality. Within the dream, the girl sleeps yet her environment persists. The tall woman - the girl's dead mother? - sings to her and converses with the narrator. Is there a hereafter? Does it border on the inner landscapes of dreamers and of people in comas? Eerie and unsettling, like the tall woman's words which are differentiated from ordinary speech by lacking inverted commas:

" cannot stay or ever return, who looked beyond the Edge." (p. 233)

Like Elijah hearing the "...still small voice...," the narrator covers his eyes.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I would say it's at least possible for a person having a dream to dream that he was sleeping in that dream.

    Yes, I too thought the tall woman was the child's dead mother. And I think Poul Anderson was saying the narrator had indeed looked beyond the "Edge" of our current life into the next world.

    And I'm interested in how you seemed to have caught yet another Biblical allusion or metaphor used by Poul Anderson. Elijah covered his eyes from awe and respect for God's majesty; the narrator of "The Visitor" because he had looked beyond the Edge.


    1. Sean,
      In THE SANDMAN, Death is Dream's older sister. In a Scandinavian fairy tale, Ole Close-Your-Eyes reads bedtime stories. Older people go with his brother, the other Ole-Close-Your-Eyes, who also reads stories...

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Hmmmm, Death is FEMALE? I've long thought Death was personalized as male.


    3. Sean,
      This was Gaiman's innovation. I mentioned it before when I said maybe we can encourage other authors to feminize Death for a change. Gaiman reasoned that his central character, Dream/Morpheus/The Lord Shaper/Oneiros was already a dark brooding presence. Death should be one of his siblings but we don't need an even darker, more brooding presence. Why not a young beautiful woman because she defines her opposite, life?
      There is some brilliant dialogue. Death: Mostly they aren't too keen to see me. They fear the sunless lands. Dream: And I am far more terrible than you, my sister.

    4. Full dialogue -

      Death: Mostly they aren't too keen to see me. They fear the sunless lands. But they enter your realm each night without fear.
      Dream: as above.

    5. Kaor, Paul!

      Understood, what you said about personalizing Death as female, simply for a change. And I can tell you are a big Neil Gaiman fan! Alas, manga style books never much appealed to me.