It was well past the witching hour on a night when a hard rain was beating against the windows in our Pub when the stranger clad in her woollen cloak dyed a black so dark that I wasn’t quite sure I could see it started her story: ‘The Sandman is a far more dangerous, feral creature than modern folk think of him as being. The Sandman of old didn’t make children sleepy. No, he gave them nightmares that harmed them deeply for years after they became adults.’
I asked why had The Sandman became a fairly harmless bogeyman. She reminded me and the other listeners that the original versions of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm were full of incest, murder, and even cannibalism, but were watered down substantially by the Victorian Era translators who brought them first into the English language.
So The Sandman as she told the story was a creature cloaked in darkness whose face is so hideous that it made children scream. He would get very close to them and whisper in a voice so low that only his victim, and yes they are his victims, could hear the awful things he said to them. Whatever it was that he said, it made children wake up screaming.
There is a much darker version of this tale that says that The Sandman was so hideous that his victims became literally blind from seeing him. Call it nightmare creature induced blindness. I hadn’t heard this version but it sounded plausible. It’s surely a scary idea. She added that there was a rare variant of The Sandman myth that said he induced the fear in children so that he could be the last thing they saw before he tore their eyes out leaving them blind, and also so he could savour the salty tears of fear in their eyes as he ate them down like treats.
She drank deeply of her Winter Ale and ended by saying ‘Pleasant dreams, everyone.’