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Tear Jerker / The Sandman

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As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

  • Morpheus returns to the Dreaming after being imprisoned for more than seventy years... only to find his land barren, his castle in ruins, and nearly all of the dreams, nightmares, and servants are gone, save Lucien, the librarian (now sans a library) and the few who couldn't go anywhere else. His shocked, heartbroken expression when he sees the remains of the castle is startling, as is how utterly defeated he looks once he realizes what's happened.
    Lucien: Hurts me too, lord.
    Morpheus: yes... hurts...
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  • In "24 Hours," a diner waitress is an aspiring writer who gives all her stories happy endings. In her internal monologue, she says this is because if you take any story to its conclusion, everyone dies. She has no idea how true this is for her, nor for the series in general.
  • An off-hand remark in an early book does this. Shakespeare's son bemoans that the only way his father'd care about him is if he died, because then he'd make a play about it. The boy's name is Hamnet and he did die, aged eleven.
    • Even worse is that his father did care about him. When Shakespeare meets Dream for the last time, one of the first things he asks if Hamnet would have lived if he had never made the deal with Dream.
  • During "The Sound of Her Wings," a mother ducks out of her baby's room to get a bottle for her child, who's dead by the time she returns two panels later.
  • The end of "Ramadan," with its flash-forward from Harun al-Rashid's Baghdad to a little boy hearing stories about it in a bombed-out area of present-day Baghdad.
  • "August" follows Augustus Caesar as he pretends to be a beggar for a day in order to avoid the gods' attention. A central aspect of his character as presented in the story is his continued, unprocessed, and severe trauma over his brutal and repeated rape as a teenager by his uncle, Julius Caesar, whom he initially had idolized; he is still having nightmares about it into his seventies. Realizing that the societal expectations of him at the time, especially given his status, would have prevented him from ever talking about this to anyone makes it worse.
  • Orpheus' story, which was already a massive Tear Jerker outside of the series. Particularly the moment when Dream abandons him.
    • There's a line near the end about how when Dream walks off, he doesn't look back. You could take that to mean that Orpheus should have had that much willpower, and then he wouldn't be in this mess. Or you could take it the other way: By not looking back, Dream reveals a level of cold-heartedness completely opposite the temperament of his son (at least on the surface). It makes Orpheus's failure more forgivable... and because you don't judge him as harshly now, the punishment seems even worse.
  • The scene in Brief Lives where Despair reminisces on her last meeting with Destruction, then bursts into tears. Desire attempts to contact her, but Despair doesn't react.
    • The ending to Brief Lives, a montage of the minor characters met during the tale, each of them coping with a loss underscoring just how brief a life really is. With Andros at the end realizing he will not live long enough to taste the cherries that will bloom from Orpheus' tree.
    • Just before the ending to Brief Lives Morpheus views at his memories, remembering how heartless he was towards his son. If you look closely, you can see that he's crying.
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  • From The World's End: "I think I fell in love with her, a little bit. Isn't that dumb? But it was like I knew her. Like she was my oldest, dearest friend. The kind of person you can tell anything to, no matter how bad, and they'll still love you, because they know you. I wanted to go with her. I wanted her to notice me. And then she stopped walking. Under the moon, she stopped. And looked at us. She looked at me. Maybe she was trying to tell me something; I don't know. She probably didn't even know I was there. But I'll always love her. All my life." Especially when you consider he's talking about Death.
  • The fates of Dream's griffin, Dream himself ("Dream? Give me your hand."), and Orpheus, among others.
    • What about Fiddler's Green? His demise is the one that always gets me. Those last words reflecting on the small pleasures of his life - "A kiss once...from a friend..." - and then slumping dead. Almost as tear-jerking is the revelation that, following Daniel's reincarnation as the new Dream, he offers pretty much all of the casualties of the Kindly Ones new life. Fiddler's Green is the only one who refuses, as he feels that this would cheapen the whole point of death.
    • Or Abel...poor Abel, with the grieving Goldie perched on his chest.
      • For that matter, Cain, who does clearly love his brother in their opening scene, but cannot change the nature of their relationship.
    • Lyta Hall telling a pregnant Rose Walker to "kill [the baby] now. Kill it before it breaks your heart."
    • The realisation that when Death asks where her brother is. It's been foreshadowed for a while now what would happen, and this just makes it all the more real.
  • Morpheus's death.
    • Specifically, the expression on Death's face when she utters the below line: sad for him personally, but no more sentimental about his death than for any of the others in the entire saga.
      Death: Dream? Take my hand.
    • Also Matthew's speech, and the guilt and rage he felt.
    • As well as Thessaly's speech "...And I swore...I swore I would never shed another tear for him," right while she's crying and showing us she actually has feelings other than rage and spite.
    • Delirium's speech: "He was my big brother. He really was. I was always a bit scared of him. But I'm not scared of him any more. I'm a bit sad of him instead. Okay. That's all."
    • Hob waking up weeping was one, and the speech right when Daniel-Dream opens the door "...And then, fighting to stay asleep, wishing it would go on forever, sure that once the dream was over, it would never come woke up." With Dream's Star shining in the sky and that feeling that after ten was over. Amazing.
      • Arguably, also heartwarming, if only a little. Every brilliant series ends eventually, and you have to say goodbye, but it isn't often that the series itself says it back. Which is what "The Wake" arc really is.
    • I am tearing up just thinking about the scene in The Wake when Hob dreams about meeting Morpheus and a "pavement artist" (who is very obviously Destruction) somewhere.
    • Hob Gadling's reaction to Morpheus' death. This is particularly bad when you consider that it comes right after the death of his girlfriend, and that Morpheus was the one person he must have been certain would not go and die on him. You'd think an immortal man would have become used to the people he's close to dying, but instead, his mourning at the grave of his most recent love is painful because of how real it is.
    I thought we'd have longer. It never gets any easier. People you love not being there any more.
    • Something that's both a Tear Jerker and Fridge Horror is the idea that Morpheus may very well have been orchestrating this ending since before the main timeline of the comic began, as far back as what happened with his son, Orpheus. Death and Nuala both lampshade this, and the story supports it, repainting the events of the comics as an elaborate and subconsciously planned suicide, every event lining up to bring about the ending.
  • Morpheus' confession to Shakespeare in the final issue: "I am... in my island."
    • What's even more sad and beautiful about that moment is that he couldn't be more wrong. Over all the issues of The Sandman, we see Dream change, and love and need other people and act like a man, and finally leave his kingdom - through death - because at last he realised that he had changed.
  • Nuala's realization of Dream's motivation for everything post–Brief Lives. "You... you want them to kill you, don't you? You want to be punished for your son's death." The look on Dream's face the next panel is heartwrenching.
  • Throughout the series, it's implied that killing one of the Endless brings about terrible punishment, even under good intent. After the climax of The Kindly Ones, Lyta Hall, Morpheus's killer is expressly reminded this, with the further warning that the person who'd done so previously would suffer for all eternity when his motives were purer by far. The penalty handed down is to be allowed to walk away with no further harm done to her — a Cruel Mercy, as her efforts were All for Nothing, and everything she's done ensured she'd never see her son again, as he'd been reincarnated into the new Dream.
    • Turns into a Heartwarming Moment when Daniel!Dream forgives her in the Wake.
    • Gets a bittersweet sequel in JSA: Lyta and a reincarnated Hector are killed by a maddened Spectre, and Daniel welcomes his parents' souls into the Dreaming forever.
  • In The Wake, when Despair receives the message for Dream's funeral, we can see the pictures in her gallery, of those who have been struck by despair. One of them is Destiny.
  • "15 Portraits of Despair" in Endless Nights. Chances are one of them will be much too close to home for you to shrug off.
    I am Despair - and all those who despair are me.
  • When Lucifer is asked if he would return to Hell, he looks dead for a moment before laughing hysterically.
  • Rose is a Dream Vortex - a being that by its very nature tears apart the Dreaming, and the only way to stop terrible and permanent damage from happening (again) is to kill her. Dream's quiet apologies as he attempts to do just this are almost as heartbreaking as Rose's defiance and ultimate acceptance of her fate.
    Rose: FORCRISSAKES! Look, just do it. Stop friggin' apologizing and just do whatever you're going to do.

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