The Legend of The Sandman
E.T.A. Hoffmann 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.

In 1991, director Paul Berry animated this dark and unnerving stop-motion short film based upon an embellishment of Hoffman's story. This amazing piece of work was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film, Animated. It generates an astonishing and terrifying atmosphere and Berry's depiction of the Sandman is a perfect realization of childhood nightmare, with monsters lurking underneath your bed or in the shadowy corners of your room. The animator and director, Paul Berry, died tragically in 2001 of a tumor. This video is viewable on the Music Video page.

The Sandman is based on the old bedtime story that parents used to tell their children, hoping it would lull them to sleep. The actual origins of this tale are lost in the sands of time, and may predate written history, as one generation to the next passed along in variations the following fable:

There is a creature that comes to you in that space of time just before you fall asleep. Some time after your eyes close for the last time that night, and some time before you fall into a state of unconsciousness, he materialises over you. Is he an angel or a devil? No one is sure because no one has ever got a good look at him. Some claim he has a head shaped like the crescent moon, and dark eyes with stars inside them. He carries with him a bag of magic sand, and he sprinkles a very small amount over your face. Some say it twinkles in the moonlight, like a thousand tiny stars just over your face as they fall. Some say the sand actually sounds like a music box, or the flitter of faerie wings. No one has ever really heard the sound however, for by the time the sand touches your face and alights about your eyelids, you're on your way to dreaming.

The grit or 'sleep' (rheum) in one's eyes upon waking is supposed to be the result of the Sandman's work the previous evening.

The connotation of a benign figure who induces quick and painless "Sleep" with pleasant dreams is in many ways analogous to modern Anaesthesia. It is not uncommon for patients undegoing surgery or surgeons to refer to their anaesthetist as the "Sandman".