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The Sandman is a mythical character in Western folklore who brings good dreams by sprinkling magical sand onto the eyes of children while they sleep at night.
Representation in traditional folklore
Traditionally he is a character in many children's stories, invoked to lull children to sleep. He is said to sprinkle sand or dust on or into the eyes of the child at night to bring on dreams and sleep. The grit or 'sleep' in one's eyes upon waking is supposed to be the result of the Sandman's work the previous evening.
Ole Lukøje, one of Hans Christian Andersen's more obscure folk tales, told of the different dreams the Sandman gave to a young boy in a week.
E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) wrote an inverse depiction of the lovable character in a story called Der Sandmann, which showed how sinister such a character could be made. According to the protagonist's nurse, he threw sand in the eyes of children who wouldn't sleep, with the result of those eyes falling out and being collected by the Sandman, who then takes the eyes to his iron nest on the moon, and uses them to feed his children. The protagonist of the story grows to associate this nightmarish creature with the genuinely sinister figure of his father's associate Coppelius.
Depictions in modern fiction
- A traditional folklore-styled Sandman is the main focus of The Book of the Sandman and the Alphabet of Sleep, authored by Dutch writer Wil Huygen and illustrated by his collaborator Rien Poortvliet.
- The character of 'Karla', the Russian master spy in John le Carré's Smiley's People is nicknamed the Sandman. As George Smiley explains "You know why they call Karla the Sandman, don't you? He has a way of putting to sleep [killing] whomever gets too close to him."
- Sandman appears in the Specter dark fantasy "The Myth Hunters" by Christopher Golden. He is a vicious character that kills children and steals their eyes.
- In Logan's Run, the police force dedicated to killing those who had reached 21 (30 in the film and TV adaptations) were called "Sandmen".
- In Dragon Rider, Sandmen are portrayed very differently. Here, they are portrayed as hybrids of a camel and its rider which are composed of sand.
- In Jagged Alliance 2 computer game, the hired gun 'Scully' says "Time to talk to the sandman" when he is too tired.
- In Fallout 3, the "Mr. Sandman" perk gives the ability for stealthy characters to kill sleeping NPCs instantly.
- In Team Fortress 2 computer game, the unlockable weapon for the Scout class, "The Sandman", is a baseball bat that hits a baseball that upon hitting the enemy's head, stuns him for a couple of seconds.
- Nintendo's Punch-Out series of video games features a boxer named Mr. Sandman in nearly all of its games. He is aptly named for his brutal punches being able to put his opponents out "for a nap", which he boasts between rounds.
- in SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2: the main character's Codename is "Sandman".
Depictions in film and television
- "Eye of the Sandman" (2008) a feature film (HD 720p, 82 mins, 28 sec; color), based on "Der Sandmann" by E.T.A. Hoffman, directed by Dennis Belogorsky, M.T. Cozzola, and Jeff McHale; produced by Dave Evans & Split Pillow.
- The Sandman (1991) short movie (35mm; 9 min, 17 sec; color; puppet animation); based on the Der Sandmann by E.T.A. Hoffman; directed by Paul Berry.
- In the Kidsongs video, "Good Night, Sleep Tight", the Sandman named Sandy has an apprentice named Dusty, and unlike previous incarnations, Sandy and Dusty do not actually sprinkle sand or dust into the kids' eyes. Instead, as Sandy reveals, "The mommies and daddies actually put the kids to sleep. We just supervise the proceedings to make sure the night-nights go off without a hitch."
- In the television series Baby Looney Tunes Although the Sandman does not actually appear, Granny tells the kids about how the Sandman will put sand in your eyes if you go to sleep. Daffy stays up all night to make sure he doesn't get sand in his eyes. He ends up doing so and everyone becomes afraid of the Sandman. Granny reveales it was just a story and she made a mistake
- In the television show Sabrina the Teenage Witch , Sabrina gets a job as a sandman putting people to sleep in the mortal realm through an Other Realm job agency. She breaks the rules of her job, however, by interfering with her boyfriend Harvey's dreams, and also those of her headmaster, Mr. Kraft. Mr Kraft has nightmares about stacking peas and as revenge for giving Sabrina detention, she uses a pea-shooter to terrorise him.
- The Sandman makes an appearance in an episode of Bobby's World. Bobby has lost a tooth and is lying awake in bed waiting for the Tooth Fairy, when all of a sudden the Sandman enters his room. The Sandman asks where Bobby's sister's room is because he has a dream about a boy she likes to give to her. Bobby lies to the Sandman and gives him directions to his brother's room instead.
- A depiction of the sandman appears in the WB television series Charmed, in the episode San Francisco Dreamin'. In the episode, the Sandman (played by Henry Gibson) is shown as a positive magical creature who allows beings to work out their subconscious problems through their dreams.
- The Powerpuff Girls once battled the Sandman after he decided to force the entire world to sleep, so he wouldn't have to keep putting them to sleep himself. This Sandman was presented as a small, fairy-like old man in comically exaggerated pajamas. This episode was unique among the series because the entire dialogue rhymed.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog encountered the Sandman, trying to make him give back Muriel's ability to sleep. He was depicted as a skinny man in a mask and purple pajama-like tights. He threw glowing blue sand into people's eyes, causing them to immediately fall asleep.
- In the 1980s cartoon The Real Ghostbusters a renegade sandman goes on a lunatic rampage intending to put Manhattan's people to sleep for 500 years in order to force peace on Earth. When confronted he turned all the living dreams into nightmare as a defensive strategy. He was eventually defeated and trapped by Winston Zeddemore, a dream manifestation of Janine Melnitz, and Slimer.
- In the animated series Martin Mystery, an episode featured the Sandman as a creature who trapped people in their nightmares.
- In the Big Wolf on Campus, the Sandman enslaves the students of Pleasantville High inside of their dreams and makes them dig for magic sand that can put someone into an eternal sleep. He is not only a Sandman in the sense that he has traditional Sandman powers but he is also a man made of sand.
- Sandmännchen is a German TV series about the Sandman. Before reunification in 1991 there were two versions - one West German and one East German. The East German version is the better known and popular, and it was also the only one to be continued after the German reunification. The GDR version of Sandmännchen has been seen as depicting an idealised version of communist society and technological progress in the GDR and other communist countries. When the first GDR citizen (Sigmund Jähn) went to space in 1978 he brought a Sandman doll and held a televised speech to the children of the GDR. The USSR cosmonauts had brought a female doll named Mascha. This was depicted in the movie Good Bye Lenin!, where the main character is also a fan.
- In the Special Unit 2 episode "The Grain", the Sandman is depicted as a link, made out of sand, who enters a person's body while they are sleeping, possessing them and unleashing their Id.
- In the 2000-2002 series Dark Angel (starting in Season 2), a character known as Sandman (whose true last name was "Sandeman") was noted as being the father of all the transgenics.
- Jim Fullington, a wrestler formerly contracted to World Wrestling Entertainment and Extreme Championship Wrestling, wrestles under the ring name of 'The Sandman'. He is known for smashing a can of beer on his forehead prior to matches, sometimes cutting himself open and bleeding. Also, he has a tradition of using a Singapore Cane to hit his opponents on the head during Hardcore matches.
- Nilus the Sandman is the main character of a same-named children's television show (1991-1997)  and a Christmas movie, "Nilus the Sandman: The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas". 
- Blue Velvet has a scene where Ben (Dean Stockwell’s character) lip-syncs the Roy Orbison tune, "In Dreams," which features the Sandman in the opening lines.
- The Northern Exposure TV series included an episode called "Mr. Sandman", 10 January 1994 (Season 5, Episode 12). The episode was built around a strange effect that the Aurora Borealis had to the dreams of a small Alaskan community, with people seeing other people's dreams.
Depictions in contemporary music
The sandman character has been portrayed in different guises in a number of songs:
- "Sandman" by Arizona Baby
- The Residents' 2007 album, The Voice of Midnight is an updated re-telling of E.T.A. Hoffmann's Der Sandmann.
- "The Japanese Sandman" (1920) by Raymond B. Egan and Richard A. Whiting
- "Mr. Sandman" by the Chordettes
- "Enter Sandman" by Metallica — The Sandman is portrayed as an evil entity out to give children nightmares.
- "Blood Red Sandman" by Lordi — In this song the Sandman is impersonated and represented rather sinisterly.
- "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison — The sandman is mentioned in the opening line.
- "Mad Man Moon" by Genesis (album: A Trick of the Tail) — The sandman speaks in one passage of the song.
- "Mein Herz brennt" by Rammstein
- "Mr. Sandman" by Blind Guardian (which conveys a very different tone)
- "Mrs. Sandman" by The Nits
- "Sandman" by George Winston
- "St Petersburg" by Supergrass
- "Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder
- "Please Mr. Sandman" by Jimmy Donley
- "Cotton Candy Sandman" by Harper's Bizarre
- "Sandman" by America (album: America)
- "Wonderful Baby" by Don McLean — This song refers positively to the Sandman in the chorus: "Sandman says maybe he'll take you above".
- "Song of the Sandman" by Enya
- "Sleep Song" by Graham Nash
- "Cast a Shadow" by Beat Happening
- "Tupelo" by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
- "Today's Lesson" by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
- "Monarch of the Sleeping Marches" by Disincarnate (specifically about Neil Gaiman's Sandman).
- ETA Hoffman's story was adapted into a chamber musical titled, "The Sandman", by Northwestern University performance studies major, Tyler Beattie.
- "Mr. Sandman" by Method Man
- "Rock and Roll Lullaby" by 10cc ("The Sandman's going to get you.")
- "Mister Sandman" by Emmylou Harris
- "The Late Late Show Theme Song" by Craig Ferguson, it mentions Sandman in the chorus: "And you got the sandman at your door".
- "The Sandman Enters" by The Sandman
- "Ballad of a Dead Soulja" by 2Pac,"Maybe I'm a madman. A pistol grabbin figga unleash the Sandman".
- In Cassidy's song "come on baby" he said "the heat put 'em to sleep, like sandman".
- In Fall Out Boy's song "Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet", the first verse is "Mr. Sandman, showing his beams".
- "The Sandman, the brakeman and me" by Monsters of Folk
- "Mr. Sandman" by Oranger, which was featured in the game Stubbs the Zombie in "Rebel Without a Pulse"
- "Sandmann" by Oomph!
- The song "John O'Dreams" by Bill Caddick (performed by Irish Folk artist Christy Moore) is also a reference to the Sandman
- "Fireflies Take Flight" by Ed Harcourt mentions the Sandman in verse two: "The Sandman you must trust; he sprinkles golden dust."
- The Seekers' song, "Morningtown Ride" refers to the Sandman swinging the lantern to show all is well as the children ride the night train to Morningtown.
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- Tatar, Maria (2003) . Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691014876.
- Hoffman, E.T.A. (1817). "Der Sandmann". Die Nachtstücke.