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The Sandman – The Oldest Story I Have Ever Read

As written in the title, The Sandman by E.T.A Hoffmann is, as far as I remember, the oldest story I have ever read. I thought Sherlock will remain as my oldest story (it was first published in 1887)…but the Sandman set a new record in my reading life.

The Sandman is considered as a short story, but it wasn’t as short as I expected it to be. It took 3 days for me to finish it. The first day was the hardest because somehow I was bored with it…the level of boredom could easily be traced by falling asleep. I couldn’t pass 2 paragraphs without falling asleep. It was probably because of the language. I am used to read nowadays book, with The Lord of The Rings being the oldest (I read Sherlock in my native language). The Sandman is a translation from Der Sandmann, a book written in German. I am used to read book translated from Japanese translation but this book was my first book from German. Somehow those rows of sentences didn’t get into my imagination; I couldn’t build up the world Nathaniel was talking about in my brain. This situation always resulted in falling asleep.

However, I was glad that the story finally kicked in when I get to this part:

“Eh, Natty,” said she, “do you not know that yet? He is a wicked man, who comes to children when they will not go to bed, and throws a handful of sand into their eyes, so that they start out bleeding from their heads. These eyes he puts in a bag and carries them to the half-moon to feed his own children, who sit in the nest up yonder, and have crooked beaks like owls with which they may pick up the eyes of the naughty human children.”

A most frightful image of the cruel Sandman was horribly depicted in my mind, and when in the evening I heard the noise on the stairs, I trembled with agony and alarm

The images started to build up and the story created scenes in my head. From that moment on, I fully enjoyed the story. I could have finished the story in one day (after the falling asleep moment) but time was clearly not my advantage.

The Sandman began with 3 correspondence letters, from Nathaniel to Lothaire, from Clarato Nathaniel and from Nathaniel to Lothaire. Nathaniel left his town to study, he always wrote to Clara, his loved one, and to Lothaire, Clara’s brother. Nathaniel hadn’t written to them for quite some times, when he finally sent them a letter, it was about his paranoia over The Sandman. He believed that a man named Coppelius was the Sandman and he had killed his father. Coppelius was a bitter man who often annoyed Nathaniel when he was a kid. Nathaniel told Lothaire that a man named Coppola appeared before him and he reminded him so much of Coppelius.

When Nathaniel went back to his town, his stories became grimmer and grimmer each day. It bothered Clara so much because she loved the cheerful Nathaniel more.

Nathaniel’s problem was not only Coppelius and Coppola, he encountered another problem when he found himself completely in love with Olympia and forgetting that Clara ever exist in his life. Poor Clara didn’t deserve Nathaniel at all.

Whatever happened to Nathaniel, Clara, Olympia and The Sandman is something you have to read for yourself.

The story on Olympia was a bit unusual but considering it was made over century ago, it was okay to imagine something like that. I am a bit confused with The Sandman himself. What was his purpose, why he was called as Sandman, and was Coppelius really the scary sandman? The story left some unanswered questions. I guessed I can’t expect much detail from short story after all.

Overall, The Sandman is a dark story. Not as scary as nowadays story but we can clearly feel the dark atmosphere. Nathaniel is not a fun character to read but he is interesting to read. The Sandman makes me curious with Hoffmann’s other stories.

I have to thank Caroline for introducing The Sandman to me, she gave me a link too, but I used other link instead because I can’t read long story in computer and the link she gave me needed a lot of editing before I can print it. If you are interested, give the link in the Story Detail section.

By reading this, I am officially joining German Literature Month which is hosted by Caroline and Lizzy. It’s fun joining this event because I got to read book I don’t normally read🙂

Story Details:

Title: The Sandman (Der Sandmann)
Author: E.T.A Hoffmann
Language: English (Original: German)
Source: Read Book Online
Rating:
Other Review: Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat

About Novroz

I actively maintained 2 blogs. My personal blog is about things that I love: Turtles, Books, Movies, Music, Larc en Ciel, Muse, Cillian Murphy, The Mighty Boosh and many more. I also help my 3 super cute turtles, Kroten, Papoe and Kurome, to maintain their own blog: http://kamekroten.wordpress.com

17 comments on “The Sandman – The Oldest Story I Have Ever Read

  1. Caroline
    November 21, 2011

    I was curious to read your thoughts on the book. I’m sure if you are not familiar with such old books, it takes some getting used but you have to see it like that, to some extent he is a precursor of King. Without poeple like Hoffmann or Poe King wouldn’t write what he writes. the technique is somewhat similar The Sandman is really a folk belief, ususally positive, when children get sleepy, it’s said The Sandman is coming and throwing sand in their eyes but it isn’t negative. It’s like the puppets and other things in King, a chlidhood belief, games etc turned around and made scary for adults.
    He has written quite a lot, this is the scariest o his stories and it’s alos one of the more accessible ones. His novel The Devil’s Elixirs is quite readable too. I remember I liked it but maybe it would make you doze even more.🙂

    • Novroz
      November 22, 2011

      Yup the problem is clearly in the language…I am not used to read such old book. But I am glad that I got it done, I finally could enjoy the writing and of course the story.

      I know how King likes Poe, I don’t remember about Hoffmann…he probably had said it too. The story does sound like one he would write.

      Have I told you that I dozed off too reading the English version of Sherlock? I will give it a try again one day. It’s a matter of getting used to.

      thank you for introducing this Caroline🙂

  2. KatiesCameraBlog
    November 22, 2011

    Great review of this. And so glad you did finish it!🙂

    • Novroz
      November 22, 2011

      Thank you Katie🙂
      That makes both of us, I am glad I can finish it and enjoy it. I had once read a book where I must finish but didn’t enjoy it. That was hard.

  3. Castor
    November 23, 2011

    Wow Novia, you are reading a lot of books lately!

    • Novroz
      November 23, 2011

      I read a lot every year Cas😉
      I am both a reader and watcher

  4. Danielle
    November 24, 2011

    I wonder if Hoffmann was retelling the Sandman story (I had only heard references to it) or if he made it up? It sounds quite different from his Nutcracker, but I suppose in a way the Nutcracker is also something of a fairy tale. I very much like short stories (though some end up being so long it also takes me several sittings to read them), so I will have to see if I can find this one as well.

    • Novroz
      November 24, 2011

      This is the first time I heard of the Sandman, so I am clueless to where the tale originated from.
      I could actually finished this in a day, but I don’t have much free time as I used too anymore.

  5. praymont
    November 24, 2011

    The sandman is a character a long folk-lore history. I highly recommend the 1950s movie, “Tales of Hoffmann” by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Parts of it are drawn from Hoffmann’s “The Sandman”. Here’s a clip on YouTube: http://youtu.be/Jh55lh4qooY
    Also, there’s a creepy and disturbing animation short called “The Sandman” at http://youtu.be/UjgHbRrnjhU

    • Novroz
      November 24, 2011

      Thank you for explaining that Praymont. I will check the link as soon as I have enough free time.

  6. Tony
    November 24, 2011

    It’s good to broaden your horizons and read ‘old’ books (I have to do the opposite and read some ‘new’ books!). I read Hoffmann’s ‘The Devil’s Elixirs’ recently, and I thought it was a fascinating story, so I’d love to give this one a try too🙂

    • Novroz
      November 24, 2011

      Thank you Tony. I think mine being a nowadays book reader comes from the fact that I didn’t come from a reader family. My mom and my grandma never like reading. I am the only one who falls in love with reading…no one ever introduce me with classics.

      I bet you are like Caroline, come from a family of dedicated reader😉
      I am going to learn to not doze off on classics. I hope I win that giveaway by Lizzy😉

      • Tony
        November 25, 2011

        Not at all – nobody else in my family really reads that much (although my Mum now works in a library!).

        • Novroz
          November 25, 2011

          Then, who introduced you to classics? *curious*

          • Tony
            November 25, 2011

            Just me! I had to read some (in English, French and German) for school, but I didn’t really get into them until I was about 21. I think the Penguin Popular Classics (one pound each at the time!) helped, and I’ve gradually got more and more into classics…

          • Novroz
            November 26, 2011

            You speak 3 languages? awesome!
            I will try my best to get used with classics🙂
            Thank you Tony

  7. Pingback: German Literature Month 2011: Author Index « Lizzy’s Literary Life

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