When Death and Dream Became Sister and Brother

1988

Text excerpted from Milorad Pavic’s The Dictionary of the Khazars (1984 in Serbian, 1988 in English). The second paragraph of this excerpt was used by singer-songwriter Peter Murphy in lyrics to the song Shy [Deep (1989/90)]. This creation was simultaneous to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman universe, which first began to publish October of 1988 (cover dated January of 1989). In Gaiman’s archetypal system, Dream and Death are brother and sister.

Akshany, Yabir Ibn (17th Century)

Anatolian minstrels (lute and tambourine players) believed that Satan used this name for a while and that he appeared under it before one of the most celebrated lute players of the 17th century – Yusef Masudi. Ibn Akshany was himself a very deft player. There exists a written record of his fingering for a song, so we know that he used more than ten fingers to play his instrument.

He was a good looking man; he carried no shadow, and his shallow eyes were like two trampled puddles. Although he declined to make public his opinions about death, he conveyed them indirectly through his tales, advising people to read dreams or to gain knowledge about death from the dream hunters. Two proverbs are ascribed to him: (1) “Death is the surname of sleep, but that surname is unknown to us”; (2) “Sleep is the daily end of life, a small exercise in death, which is its sister, but not every brother and sister are equally close.”

He once wanted once wanted to show people just how death operated, and he did so by using a Christian military commander whose name has been preserved: he was called Avram Brankovich, and he fought in Walachia, where, Satan claimed, every man is born a poet, lives like a thief, and dies a vampire.