Spoilers for Sandman follow, so if you haven't read this two-decade old story, well, quit reading.
Sandman is a series that follows Dream of the Endless, one of seven beings who have existed since the beginning of time and fulfill the basic functions of the universe. Dream isn't the personification or representation of the concept of dream; he is Dream, in all that entails. But the Dream we see and follow in the series, who goes by the name Morpheus, is only an aspect of a larger being/concept. At the end of the series, Morpheus dies, giving way to another aspect (or a different "point of view") of Dream to rise, named Daniel. In the world of Sandman, death is equivalent to change. The current point of view is a fixed thing; we kill it to give way to a new one. It's all very metaphorical and blah blah blah whatever, a lot of people much smarter than me have written about the academic virtues of this series.
What's not written about enough is a very simple, shallow question: Who Killed Dream?
See, metaphors and deeper meanings are great and all, and Gaiman left this vague on purpose, but hey, that's what a mystery's for, and it's fun to speculate.
The thing that kicks off Dream's death is the fact that he kills his own son, Orpheus of Greek myth. By ancient law, when an Endless spills family blood, the Furies (also of Greek myth, also known as the Erinyes) are given the power to hunt them down and kill them once they are invoked. They end up being invoked by a series of events that involves Lyta Hall (DC's heroine, the Fury), DC's version of Loki (closer to the Norse version than Marvel's, who happens, ironically, to have many similarities to the Sandman), and the Puck from Faerie (from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream). The Furies hunt Dream down, and Dream lets them.
The common theory is that Dream, who wanted to die/change, kicked off the whole series of events himself, essentially committing suicide. He clearly didn't resist it, and at the point in the story when everything starts going down, Loki was indebted to Dream. But that's always felt too pat for me, too cut and dried. I like to think that while Dream did nothing to avoid the bullet, he wasn't the one who actually pulled the trigger.
Sandman ran for 76 issues and Dream didn't have any shortage of enemies, so there's no shortage of suspects. Desire of the Endless, Dream's sibling who promised to get him eventually, and Lucifer are both logical, prime suspects.
But no, as far as I'm concerned, this guy did it.
Auberon is the King of Faerie, husband of Titania. He showed up in the entire series all of once. And he killed Dream of the Endless.
He doesn't lack for power. Faerie itself has been established as a different entity altogether, equidistant to the waking world and the Dreaming and Hell.
Nor does he lack for motivation. Titania is strongly inferred to have been one of Dream's lovers over the centuries. To add, Auberon has horns, a classic symbol of cuckoldry.
|Everyone else who gave a eulogy in this issue, including the two people|
with Titania here, was a former lover of Dream's.
In the end, who killed Dream isn't important to Dream's story. Dream had an opportunity to die and he took it, choosing to let another, more optimistic, fresher version of Dream take over. But Auberon being the one who fired the gun serves to highlight one of the series' biggest strengths: the feeling that even when you don't see a character, that character is still doing something. There's a whole world in that series ripe for exploration, and Auberon being the mastermind adds texture to the mythos.
Why, who do you think killed Dream of the Endless?
This article wouldn't exist without a much more comprehensive one entitled Who Killed Dream of the Endless?, from a website that apparently no longer exists. If anyone finds a re-post of it, feel free to send it to me for a link.