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February 2019

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Three Septembers and A January

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Three Septembers and A January

Post by President Roosevelt on Sun Jul 05, 2015 2:25 pm

This is one of my absolute favorite stories from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.

Death, Destiny, Destruction, Dream, Desire, Despair, Delirium....these are the family of The Endless, siblings who are anthropomorphic personifications of metaphysical entities...in other words, humans perceive them like humans carrying out their functions.

Once upon a time in America, a man named Joshua contemplated suicide. So Despair calls her brother, Dream (also known as Morpheus, the King of Stories), to look at him. "This man, Joshua, has entered my domain. His life has fallen apart. He sits in this little room contemplating Death; but he lacks the courage even for that," she says. "Life has hurt him. What can you do, with your little dreams, to redeem him?"

Dream is reluctant to play this childish game. It's a bet between the sisters: Despair, Desire, and Delirium, to prove that dreams have no power like theirs. They guilt Morpheus into playing the game by blaming him for not caring about his family and saying that's the reason their older brother, Destruction, gave up his function and left The Endless (but this part is for another story Wink )

So Morpheus takes up the challenge and sends Joshua to sleep with his grains of sand. "Who are you Joshua? What makes you what you are? What do you dream?" asks Morpheus.

"I dream of the dark day that fortune dealt me an evil hand. A ship full of rice...it was meant to make me truly rich. Instead it wiped me out. I dream of that. Sometimes I dream that I am still respected, still a man of worth...but then I wake. Sometimes when I sleep I am a boy in Africa once more, dreaming of the new world, where I shall make my fortune. But I came to America: The Land of Possibilities. And it is a land of chaos and confusion. A country without a king...A country without a king!" yells Joshua.

"But there's nowhere to go anymore. Nothing to dream. I don't have anything," laments Joshua.

"What are you doing?" asks Despair.

"I'm walking with him in dreams. I am trying to understand him," says Morpheus.

"Dreams? What are dreams? Dreams are nothing my brother," says Despair with a miserable smile.

But Morpheus is defiant. "Dreams are "nothing," sister? Without dreams, there could be no despair."

"I have my hook in his heart. He's mortal. he's nothing," says Despair.

"No," says Morpheus. "Then I will give you a dream, Joshua."

And so it was that on Sept. 17th 1859, a San Francisco newspaper printed Joshua's letter:

"At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity."

   —NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.

And Death questioned what Dream was doing:

People laughed at Emperor Norton, even though he demanded a bridge be built across the bay to Oakland, even though he made his friend, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) official spinner and teller of stories to the United States by royal proclamation. Emperor Norton has no money so Sam buys him breakfast as part of his "imperial tax". They talk of stories. "Why don't you write down the story of the frog?" asks the Emperor. "People would like to read about the frog. People like things that make them laugh. People laugh at me you know, Sam."

"Don't you mind that Your Majesty?," asks Mark Twain.

"Why should I mind? Let them laugh. I am still their Emperor."

Delirium, Dream's youngest sister, arrives to the restaurant as Dream overlooks Emperor Joshua to discuss the challenge. She tries to see why Joshua is not hers because he would seem crazy..."He ought to be mine, but he isn't is he? He's so sane...Except about being Emperor, of course...And I'm not even sure about that. He's not mine...is he? His madness...His madness keeps him sane," says Delirium.

"And do you think he is the only one, my sister?" says Morpheus.

Over the years, people come to love Emperor Norton. They see him as a lovely public figure even if he might seem crazy and has no official government title. Yet people still treat him like a King.

So Desire sends the King of Pain to tempt Emperor Joshua with the possibility of children. "Joshua, you don't have an Empress! You may be Norton I but where are Nortons II to XVI going to come from? The stork isn't going to bring them."

"I have proposed to a number of eligible ladies, but alas, I fear that they are all intimidated by my rank, and to date they have all refused me," says Emperor Joshua.

So the King of Pain proposes that he can give Joshua a beautiful young woman of his choosing and build him a magnificent tower to replace his shoddy apartment. All Joshua has to do is want.

"Look at her," says the King of Pain as he points to a picture of a beautiful woman. "Isn't she beautiful? She could be yours, Joshua. All yours. All you have to do is want her. All you have to do is want."

"I am the Emperor of the United States," says Emperor Joshua. "It is true that my rent is but 50 cents a week. It is true that my clothes were a gift from the city council. I exchange the federal currency for my own, and thus I live. Many restaurants and eating houses now accept my scrip..."

"I am content to be what I am. What more than that could any man desire?"

"Warm flesh, writhing beneath your own? Young, scented, moist female flesh? Power? Money? Don't you want anything!" the King of Pain screams.

"Sir, this conversation is unfitting and is at an end," says Emperor Norton.

So the King of Pain goes back empty handed to an infuriated Desire.

"How did you do that Dream? Norton lusts after women. I can feel it. He wants so badly...There was no way that he could say no. He had no protection. He should have been mine!," shouts the humiliated Desire.

"He has his dignity. He is, after all, an emperor," says Morpheus.

And so it was that Dream won the challenge. Joshua never despaired. He died on January 8th 1880. And Death came for him...

Well, there you have it. One of my favorite stories from one of my favorite comic books. I don't know what it is about this story I like so much. I guess I see a lot of myself in both Morpheus and Joshua. In the larger scope of the series, I think Morpheus saw a lot of himself in Joshua as well as his story unfolded. We all have a need to create our own stories, to find our own dignity in dreams. And Emperor Norton was actually a real person who walked around San Francisco, exchanging his own brand of imperial currency for U.S. dollars, parading as Emperor even when others laughed at him, but never giving giving a damn because he was really the Emperor.  Smile

President Roosevelt
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Re: Three Septembers and A January

Post by Lotus ♥ on Wed Jul 08, 2015 1:40 am

How come no one answered this yet? Probably because it's really too lengthy, man. Very Happy Besides, no one seems to know or remember this fascinating Norton. But hey, I'm personally amazed. This is probably the most brilliant line I read this year: "His madness keeps him sane." Wow! Smiley

You don't know what it is you like so much? Everything, President. It's wonderful. I personally love this kind of story; this kind of weird, incredible mix of fantasy, symbolism, and history—after all this man was real, and his life story was a unique epic in its own right. (Not to mention the beautiful drawings, of course). Thank you so much for sharing this, President. Saved and bookmarked. Very Happy

* * *

Lotus ♥
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