Sandman on Netflix: sleeping sickness is a true story!

In Sandman, available on Netflix since August 5, the hero’s capture causes sleeping sickness. An event based on a real epidemic that took place between 1916 and 1927.

In the first episode of Sandmanthe capture of Dream – embodied by Tom Sturridge – causes a global epidemic called sleeping sickness. But this is nothing of a fantasy dreamed up by neil gaimanthe author of graphic novels The Sandman, who participated in its adaptation for Netflix. This fact is based on events that actually happened.

The Dream Lord’s disappearance wreaks havoc on the waking world and Morpheus’ realm, the Dream World, which has begun to crumble. In the aftermath, several dreams and nightmares, such as the Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) left the kingdom and their functions to carry out their own projects.

Meanwhile, in the waking world, a sleeping sickness spread and affected millions of people, who simply fell asleep and did not wake up. One of them, Unity Kincaid (Sandra James Young), was meant to become the dream vortex of its day. Instead, that power passed to his granddaughter, Rose Walker (Vanesu Samunyai).

To tell this story, Neil Gaiman was therefore inspired by a real epidemic which occurred from 1916 (the year in which Dream was captured) to 1927. Known as encephalitis lethargic, the sleeping sickness struck between 5 and 10 million people worldwide, killing half of them in a short time. The virus responsible for lethargic encephalitis has never been clearly identified.

Sandman on netflix: sleeping sickness is a true story!
Netflix © 2022

Dream (Tom Sturridge) wearing his mask

Many sleeping sickness survivors appeared to recover, but were incapacitated years later by a crippling Parkinson’s-like syndrome. Dr Oliver Sacks wrote the book Awakenings (Awakening in French), on which is based the movie of the same name with Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, on sleeping sickness and its victims. Ingeniously, Neil Gaiman has created a link between the real epidemic and The Sandman and blamed sleeping sickness on Dream’s imprisonment.

End of the epidemic in 1927

After more than a decade, the sleeping sickness epidemic suddenly ended in 1927 for no apparent reason. Thousands of those affected have been housed in institutions for decades, still alive but trapped in their bodies, much like Unity Kincaid in Sandman.

Many patients returned to normal life after treatment, but their miraculous recovery turned out to be short-lived. Most patients reverted to a catatonic state within days or weeks. Although the lethargic encephalitis epidemic of 1916-1927 has not reoccurred since, there have been rare cases, leading doctors to assume that the lethargic encephalitis virus is only dormant.

Sandman on netflix: sleeping sickness is a true story!
Netflix © 2022

Unity Kincaid (Sandra James-Young) after recovering from sleeping sickness

In Sandman, the story is different. Dream was imprisoned for a hundred years and the sleeping sickness continued until Morpheus escaped at the end of Episode 1. While Dream was held captive, even those who were not victims sleeping sickness like Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman), suffered from terrible recurring nightmares.

Morpheus’ return to his kingdom ended sleeping sickness and put the world back in order until John Dee (David Thewlis) threatens all of reality by taking possession of Dream’s ruby ​​and altering it. And this, until Morpheus stops him.

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