The Sandman's Dream with a helmet

Who are The Endless in ‘The Sandman?’

And you think YOUR family's weird...

The Sandman, Netflix’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s classic DC comics saga, is premiering in August. With 11 episodes in season 1, the series promises to have the same vast scope as the comics, with Morpheus of the Endless traversing history as the ruler and personification of dreams. But who—and what—are the Endless, exactly? Who are Morpheus’s siblings, and what are their domains? Here’s what you need to know!

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Covering volumes 1-3 of the original graphic novels, the Netflix series will kick off with a group of occultists, the Order of Ancient Mysteries, botching their attempt to imprison Death and grant themselves immortality. When the Order captures Dream, AKA Morpheus, instead, Morpheus must repair the damage to the Dreaming and the mortal world that’s been wrought during his imprisonment. Morpheus will also contend with mistakes he’s made throughout the long eons of his existence. Although not all of them have been cast yet, the other members of the Endless will make appearances throughout the series.

The Endless, Explained

In the world of The Sandman, all of existence is shaped by seven natural forces: Dream, Death, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Delirium, and Destruction. Each force is personified by a figure who appears in the comics as a godlike humanoid being, and each member of the Endless has their own domain that they rule over while they perform their duties throughout the universe. Along with the concepts implied in their names—that is, Dream governing dreams and nightmares, Death shepherding people to the afterlife, and so on—the Endless also define their own opposites, with Death defining life, Despair defining hope, and so on. The Endless all consider themselves siblings, and are the children of Night and Time.

The Endless were all born near the beginning of the universe, one by one, as their functions came into existence. Despite their name, the Endless will, in fact, cease to exist when the universe eventually dies. In The Sandman Volume 7: Brief Lives, Destruction describes himself and his siblings thusly:

The Endless are merely patterns. The Endless are ideas. The Endless are wave functions. The Endless are repeating motifs. The Endless are echoes of darkness, and nothing more… And even our existences are brief and bounded. None of us will last longer than this version of the Universe.

Dream

Dream from Sandman lets sand run through his hand.
image: DC

Dream, the protagonist of The Sandman, is the ruler of dreams, imagination, inspiration, and anything that’s not real. In governing the unreal, he defines reality. Dream’s sigil is a large helm that he wears into battle.

Generally dour and moody, Dream has been deeply involved in the human world for centuries, falling in love with some humans and developing long-term quasi-friendships with others, and this involvement has gotten him into trouble numerous times. Dream’s domain is the Dreaming, which contains, among other things, a library full of every book that was never written. The Dreaming is also home to a lively cast of characters who will make their onscreen debut in the Netflix series.

Death

Death from The Sandman, wearing a tank top and smiling. A word bubble reads, "All the time, and then some. Would you like a cup of tea? I've got the kettle on."
image: DC

Death, the second-oldest of the Endless, is Dream’s sister. Death takes all things across the threshold when they die, but she’s not the grim reaper one might expect. Instead, she’s the warmest, kindest, and arguably wisest of the Endless, and Dream frequently comes to her for help and advice. Along with governing death, Death gives everything in the universe the breath of life when it’s born. Death generally takes the appearance of a young woman dressed all in black. Her sigil is the Anhk, the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph meaning “life,” which she wears as a pendant around her neck.

Destiny

A man in a hooded robe hold a huge book in his hands.
image: DC

Destiny is the firstborn and oldest of the Endless, and he was created when the first being capable of having a destiny came into existence. Destiny governs the fates of all beings from his domain the “Garden,” which is a castle surrounded by mazes. Destiny appears as a blind man in a long robe and hood, with a book chained to his wrist. The book contains the stories of every being in the universe.

Destruction

A man with red hair and a beard holds a bindle over his shoulder.
image: DC

As the embodiment of destruction, Destruction governs all change and transformation in the universe. In the comics, Destruction observes humanity at the beginning of the Enlightenment and realizes that, with their rapidly developing understanding of science, humans are on the path to ultimate destruction through tools like the atomic bomb. Not wanting to contribute to that kind of mass destruction, Destruction abdicates his post and walks away from his duties as one of the Endless. Destruction takes the form of a muscular man, and his sigil is a sword.

Desire

Desire, an androgynous person in a white suit with black hair, puts a hand in their coat pocket.
image: DC

Desire, one of the younger siblings of the Endless, is a vain, self-centered, and capricious being who governs all forms of desire. Their appearance is that of a beautiful androgynous person, and their domain is a giant statue of themself. They frequently meddle in the affairs of mortals. In the comics, Desire has a rocky relationship with Dream, and the two often find themselves in conflict. Desire’s sigil is a glass heart.

Despair

An old woman glowers while brandishing two small hooks.
image: DC

Despair, Desire’s twin sister, governs misery and the absence of hope. She appears as a naked woman with her sigil, a large hook, which she uses to carve her own skin. Her realm is a gray place full of mirrors that she uses to watch people struggling with despair. As Desire’s twin, she and Desire often plot together to interfere in the lives of mortals. Interestingly, the Despair who appears in the comics isn’t the original Despair from the beginning of the universe. The first Despair died at some point in the distant past, and was reborn in her current form.

Delirium

A girl in a leather jacket and rainbow hair sits at a table and holds out two chocolate people. A multicolored speech bubble reads, "Look, these two are making lo-ove ... K.I.S.S.I.N.G."
image: DC

Delirium, a fan favorite back in the comics’ heyday, is the youngest sibling of the Endless. Appearing as a young girl with wild, multicolored hair, mismatched clothing, and two different colored eyes, Delirium governs all aspects of madness. Her duties are reflected in her loopy, unmoored disposition, and the things she says often don’t seem to make any sense. However, there’s often a hidden logic underneath Delirium’s chaos. In the distant past, Delirium was Delight, but no one knows how or why she changed into her present form. Unlike her siblings’ sigils, which are all tangible objects, Delirium’s sigil is a multicolored abstract swirl.

Dream and his siblings will make their onscreen debut on August 5, when The Sandman premieres on Netflix.

(image: Netflix)


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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>