If I Die Before I Wake – The Japanese 10 Dream Sequence

Scary Stories Session 10: If I Die Before I Wake ends with a Japanese urban legend called 10 Dreams. It is essentially a sequence of dreams where the participant is given a set of instructions to complete within each one. The legend itself is spread through telling and listening to the story and apparently by doing so you will have these dreams within 3 days — a classic chainmail motif.

It is difficult to pin down the exact roots of 10 Dreams. There is a Japanese short story, published in 1908, titled Ten Nights of Dreams, which is a series of shorter stories each recounting a dream and the actions of the dreamer. But if its roots lie here, then it has certainly been changed considerably over the years, and now falls into a larger category of dreams or dream-like dimensions which require a set of intricate steps to be followed in order to escape them. Think The Elevator Game.

But it is worth looking at some of the symbolism in 10 Dreams to make sense of the instructions given to the dreamer:

  • The Girl – She is a rather classic Japanese ghost figure. With her burnt face, we can conclude she met an untimely and unpleasant death which may be why she haunts people’s dreams. The exhortation not to cry out when you see her face and to take her to the park is to appease her and treat her like a normal little girl.

  • The Cat and Dog – Bizarre, yes, but there is meaning here. In dreams, cats can be symbols of delusion and dogs can symbolise the loss of self-control. The killing of either is purely symbolic and is most likely done in order to either help the ghost girl move on or to help the dreamer wake up.

  • Red Roses and Black Roses – Deep red roses can be given for sympathy or heartfelt regret whereas black roses are symbols of death. By getting rid of the black roses and keeping only the red, it is likely to symbolise the desire to express sympathy for the girl and an attempt at releasing her from the misery of her death.

  • The plane – The plane symbolises the journey of the dream. It also heavily hints that this is a shared dream where you will meet others from the real world who have found themselves in the same unfortunate predicament. Perhaps this is a way of authenticating the experience and thus making the final dream all the more terrifying. The instruction to find a seat at all costs also signals that not everyone who hears the legend will be able to escape it.


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Verity ClaytonComment