Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend

One of the most brilliant depictions of dreams was done by Windsor McCay, in a newspaper comic strip that began in 1904. (This is contemporaneous with Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams”, first published in 1899, but which took years to sell the first 600 copies.) At the time of McCay’s comic strip, one on of the folk myths about dreams was that they originated with indigestion, with eating very rich foods — Welsh rarebit is made with cheese, ale, mustard and cayenne and poured over toasted bread. It is suggested that McCay’s work influenced Walt Disney. Active imagination is similar, of course, to cartoons…. the anima in animation.

From Wikipedia:

Dream of the Rarebit Fiend was a newspaper comic strip by American cartoonist Winsor McCay which began September 10, 1904. As in McCay’s signature strip, Little Nemo, the strip was made up of bizarre dreams. It was McCay’s second successful strip, after Little Sammy Sneeze secured him a position on the cartoon staff of the New York Herald. Rarebit Fiend was printed in the Evening Telegram, a newspaper published by the Herald. For contractual reasons, McCay signed the strip with the pen name “Silas”.

The strip had no continuity or recurring characters. Instead, it had a recurring theme: a character would have a nightmare or other bizarre dream, usually after eating a Welsh rarebit (a cheese-on-toast dish). The character would awaken from the dream in the last panel, regretting having eaten the rarebit. The dreams often revealed the darker sides of the dreamers’ psyches—their phobias, hypocrisies, discomforts, and dark fantasies. This was in great contrast to the colorful, childlike fantasy dreams in Little Nemo. The strip is mostly recognized as an adult-oriented precursor to Nemo.

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