Monday, 18 April 2016

The Dreamers of Dreams

The Dreamers of Dreams by Addy Farmer 

We are the dreamers of dreams - Roald Dahl

My grandmother used to tell me that I was dizzy-dolly-daydream. She said it quite a lot and I began to wonder if this was a good thing, so I finally asked her what it meant.


She said that me being in my own funny little world was a bit frustrating for her; however, she thought that that dreamers were important. The important bit made me feel ten feet tall but with little idea of what she was on about since most of my mental meanderings were to do with going to Sweety Land where I could eat everything in sight or jumping into a puddle which took me to the seaside or rescuing a sad donkey/mouse/rabbit from certain doom.
A real donkey being rescued! Don't worry - he was fine and happy
Then Granny being the pragmatic woman she was, added, 'But you do need to do something with your dreams, dear.' Thanks, Granny.
Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages. Terry Pratchett
We can range free in our daydreams, slip the surly bonds of earth and all that, though we are strangely constrained by some inner logic in our night-dreams and nightmares. Whatever they are - daydreams, night-dreams, nightmares - maybe the stuff that dreams are made of can make a story ... and turn the insubstantial into substance. You must have had dreams you remember? I have had dreams in which I'm falling off a tall building, only to land on a squashy car (I've had this at least three times) and the embarrassing dream in which I find myself swimming in a public pool with no costume on (please do not analyse). I have also had dreams which rehearse an important event and woken with a sense of security about what's to come (quite useful but uncontrollable).

It was all a dream ...
I have also dreamed of the dead. I have done this twice. In my dreams I talked to those lost ones, forgetting that they were dead until waking when the memory of loss returned with the most crushing sadness. So my dreams are rubbish for plotting but they have on occasion been wonderful for feeling.
And then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again. Caliban, The Tempest, Shakespeare
Back to Granny. When I was about eight I had an incredible experience. I so loved being with Granny at her house and I would frequently dream about being there. One night, I dreamed about my bedroom in that house - the perfumey scent, the sunshine on the bed, the creaking wardrobe door. I woke up and for a glorious few seconds I was there - in that bed, in my granny's house and my happiness was like sunshine. It lasted no time and I woke up again, confused and with a terrible weight of disappointment and a fierce yearning to be back there. Sometimes, I think that this it is what being a ghost might feel like - a tremendous yearning to get back to life. I haven't knowingly used this experience in my work but I recognise it in other stories.
Don't let her in, you fool
Like Cathy's ghost in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch: instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand. The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, "Let me in—let me in!"
Set on the wild and windy moors, Bronte’s Victorian classic has lots of dream-like qualities. There are several occasions when characters are guided by their dreams. The character Lockwood has an unsettling dream about a brawl at an endless church sermon while staying at Wuthering Heights, while Catherine accepts a marriage proposal from Edgar after connecting a dream about going to heaven with their union.
‘I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind. And this is one: I’m going to tell it – but take care not to smile at any part of it.’ the Housekeeper
There are those books which deal directly with dreams like one of my favourites, 'Marianne Dreams' by Catherine Storr.

Ill and bored with having to stay in bed, Marianne picks up a pencil and starts doodling - a house, a garden, a boy at the window. That night she has an extraordinary dream whereby she is transported into her own picture, and as she explores further she soon realises she is not alone. The boy at the window is called Mark, and his every movement is guarded by the menacing stone watchers that surround the solitary house. This story is creepy, disturbing and I realised that it echoed one of my own childhood nightmares where a witch lived in the house next door and I had to devise lots of ways to escape her attentions. 
Soooooo atmospheric and dreamlike in quality
How about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. There is a door at the end of a silent corridor. And it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?

 

As with Agamemnon’s dreams, courtesy of Zeus (I've waited a long time to reveal that nugget of knowledge), Harry is also led astray by subconscious thoughts implanted by a villain. 
I love a spooky door
And, as if you ever needed an affirmation of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore’s wisdom, he also has something to say about dreams:

I cannot write about dreams without referring to Alice in Wonderland by the peerless Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll really took full advantage of the limitless possibilities of writing within a dream setting. The 19th century author used Alice’s ability to get lost in the dream state and make connections and observations in her real life – much like we all actually do when dreaming.

‘Yes, that’s it! Said the Hatter with a sigh, it’s always tea time.’

Then there's, Mary Shelley's, Frankenstein


With a head full of an evening’s talk of reanimation and galvanism, Mary Godwin did not sleep well: “My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie?.I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out?” She realized she had found her “ghost story.” “What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow.”

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer



In June of 2003, suburban Arizona mother Stephenie Meyer woke up from an intense dream in which two young lovers were lying together in a meadow, discussing why their love could never work. On her website, Meyers says, “One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.”

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

His horror classic also sprang into existence because of its writer’s graphic nightmares. In this case, a “fine bogey tale” tormenting him as he slept grew into one of the most famous and genuinely scary English-language novels ever penned — most especially considering its all-too-human antagonist and protagonist.
"In the small hours of the morning," says Mrs Stevenson, "I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had a nightmare, I woke him. He said angrily, 'Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.' I had awakened him at the first transformation scene ..."
Stuart Little by E.B. White:


One of the most memorable and beloved characters from children’s literature entered into E.B. White’s subconscious in the 1920s, though he didn’t transition from notes to novel until over two decades later. From there, the tiny boy with the face and fur of a mouse became a classic.

Dream on, dreamers! (And thanks, Granny)

16 comments :

  1. Way to make someone yawn, recount your incredible dream. Yet some of the best literature hits that spot of satisfying or resolving some unconscious longing in the way that dreams do. It gifts you back your granny's bedroom.

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  2. Such is the power of fate - if Mrs Stevenson had not woken her husband at that point, he would have most likely forgotten the whole thing by the time he woke up!

    HP Lovecraft was another writer much inspired by dreams, though in his case they were awful night terrors and I personally wouldn't want that kind of inspiration, no matter how imaginative the stories he produced.

    In my own childhood, I suffered from terrifying recurrent nightmares where an evil witch would literally break into the dream I was having and drag me away to her lair. I developed the ability to wake myself up from inside a dream and can still do this today! I also wonder if these dreams indirectly contributed to my ongoing fascination with the metafictional and the story within a story?

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    1. interesting: I can make myself up if a dream is alarming me, also - and also learned to do this to deal with nightmares at a young age.

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    2. *SIGH*
      WAKE myself up, that should say...

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  3. That is an amazing ability, Nick! Your witch dream sounds deeply scary and reminiscent of one I used to have as a young child but could not escape. It could well be that your dreams sparked your interest but since our dreams are our inner thoughts maybe your interest was inevitable. It is a fascinating subject!

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  4. How interesting. I especially liked that Stuart Little came from a dream. Maybe because it wasn't a nightmare? I don't often remember my dreams so I'm stuck with my daydreams. It isn't wasting time. Honestly.

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  5. How lucky you were to have such an understanding Granny. I was only ever told off for daydreaming, both at home and school! But, with hindsight, I wonder if that's why I loved reading so much. The grown-ups around me thought I was doing something useful, but it gave me the opportunity to discover other people's dreams and fuel my own.

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    1. I actually think that daydreaming should be on the curriculum

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    2. what a happy school life that would be if it were!

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  6. What a wonderful piece of writing. I have a terror and fascination for vivid dreams that make you wake up with a strong emotion. I don't understand why we fiction writers are always warned not to end a story with "and it was only a dream" ... the story is always better when it turns out it was all true! (Sorry for the late comment - I've been in a cave)

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    1. Thanks, Candy. The cave is the place to be!

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    2. me, too!! the cave, I mean

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  7. Addy, you've blogged on one of my favourite topics. I love using dreams in stories; stories in dreams; lucid dreaming - where you direct the action in your dream - to play with stories and characters.
    Also, Slated began with a dream - the prologue is pretty much word for word a vivid dream that I had and wrote down on waking on morning way back in 2009.

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    1. You are a true dreamer of dreams, Teri. How wonderful to translate such whispy scenes into something compellingly real.

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