In Netflix show Sandman, there is a scene when Sandman has a challenge/duel (don't know what to call it) with Lucifer.

Each of them tells what they are, and an opponent needs to come up with something that defeats it.

They go through following progression:

  • Dire wolf
  • Hunter
  • Snake
  • Bacterium
  • Life on earth
  • Supernova
  • Universe
  • Antilife
  • Hope

I am a bit puzzled by this. It feels like the first iterations can wary widely, but it feels like the end game will be exactly the same (gradually increasing the size and scope of threat/anti-threat until it gets to this Universe -> Antilife sequence.

It feels like Lucifer should have known that a potential answer to Antilife is Hope.

Maybe a separate question, but it feels like there are damn a lot of things that kill Hope.

Am I crazy, or does it feel like Lucifer gave it to Sandman?

  • 1
    I am not sure, but Choronzon said that it was at least partly a game of confidence. If so, Morpheus's confidence that hope was stronger than anything else—which should be strong, since hope is part of his domain as Dream—might have been stronger than Lucifer's belief that anything else could defeat hope. If Lucifer knew this, then they might just give up.
    – Adamant
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 2:35
  • But also, Dream prompted Lucifer to say what killed hope, and they did seem to refuse to answer, so there may be something there.
    – Adamant
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 2:37
  • Lucifer didn't expect to be forced to counter "hope;" Lucifer, indeed the entire realm of Hell, is bereft of hope (that is sometimes one definition of Hell) so it didn't even enter his mind as a possible counter to "anti-life," and confronted with "hope" he was stumped. There's a very good analysis of the game on Gamerant.
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 2:43
  • 2
    it feels like there are damn a lot of things that kill Hope - there's a lot of things that can do a lot of things but are any of the things you are thinking of something Lucifer can be? And once Lucifer becomes that thing is it strong enough to counter Dream's version of hope? Remember, this is not your hope or my hope but Dream's hope. I can't even fathom Ukraine's hope fighting Russia right now much less the hope that is manifested by Dream.
    – slebetman
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 14:41
  • 2
    An alternate interpretation - hope may have been the one thing Morningstar wouldnt want to kill, both for the reasons Morpheus suggests as he leaves, and other, more personal reasons that are touched on in later stories (as @Adamant touches on it)
    – Radhil
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 1:17

1 Answer 1


In the source comic we get a little more commentary on the 'oldest game'.

The aim isn't just to say words, it's to embody them with your whole being. Dream doesn't just say "A hunter, horse mounted", he actually has to "feel the grass beneath my hooves, the flanks between my legs" in order to play his go.

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Dream identifies that there are several ways to lose, notably a lack of imagination. Choronzon is certainly a puissant opponent (being one of the uppermost Lords of Hell and capable of embodying many shapes, from the smallest to the very largest) but this is a game of subtle skill as well as gross power.

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Once he has the measure of the demon he leads him into a path that he knows that will result in victory.

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Dream's choice of "Hope" leaves Choronzon speechless. For all his power as a demon, he has no idea how to dispel hope in others.

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Dream explains to Morningstar that hope is eternal, and hence cannot be destroyed, at least not by the minions of Hell.

enter image description here

  • 3
    I think how this scene was brought to the screen is one of the few weaknesses of the TV version. It’s more believable that a rank and file demon loses so quickly to Dream versus Lucifer as the opponent. Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 23:58
  • 1
    I was always baffled why Choronzon didn't reply with "Despair" - this is after all, Morpheus sister and killing hope is in her job description
    – Yasskier
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 22:42
  • @Yasskier - Morpheus makes the point that the inhabitants of Hell (who're all despairing at their lot) still possess hope
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 22:46
  • @Valorum damn, I already made a new question about it., I was sure it was about the Emperor Norton I. I'll better delete it then...
    – Yasskier
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 22:56

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