"Have you ever spent days and days making up flavors of ice cream that no one's ever eaten before? Like chicken and telephone ice cream?...Green mouse ice cream was the worst. I didn't like that at all."
Once the personification of pleasure and joy, she somehow evolved in to Delirium long before the onset of the story for reasons unknown and unexplained. To the ancient Greeks, she was known as Mania.
First incarnated as Delight, she eventually transformed into Delirium for reasons even Destiny does not understand. She is seen as a very young Delight in Endless Nights; and in Overture she is seen at the beginning of her change from Delight to Delirium. A statue of her as Delight can be seen in Destiny's garden in Brief Lives, and her gallery portrait in Destiny's realm depicts her as Delight, rather than Delirium, in Season of Mists.
In Brief Lives, Delirium and Morpheus attempt to track down Destruction. After the events of Brief Lives, Delirium travels with a companion, a dog named Barnabas, on permanent loan from her brother Destruction.
Delirium appears as a short, thin, young girl whose appearance changes frequently, based on the random fluctuations of her temperament. She often sports wild hair and eccentric, mismatched clothes, which can shift in style from moment to moment. Her only permanent physical characteristic is that one of her eyes is green with silver flecks and the other blue, but even those sometimes switch between left and right. She can adjust her eyes to be the same color, but has said that this hurts her.
Her shadow never reflects her shape, and is tangible, like velvet. She is said to smell of sweat, late nights, sour wine, and old leather.
Delirium's appearance is impacted not only by mortals, but also by her siblings. Her skin color will be chalky white in the presence of her family, but caucasian in the presence of those with similar coloring. This seems to be an attribute unique to her (Destruction, who also appears as a caucasian, does not change his appearance, even when only in the presence of the Endless).
Todd Klein, the series' letterer, draws Delirium's speech as a scrawl against a multi-colored background; sometimes the background color will match the mood she is in (red for anger, blue and green for calm, etc.).
Very occasionally she is able, with an effort, to become more controlled in thought and speech, at which point her speech is drawn more neatly and the background fades to near-white. This effort, as she says later, causes her pain. Her speech as Delight in Endless Nights takes the same form, with somewhat orderly lettering and a faint rainbow background.
As her name suggests, Delirium is scatterbrained and easily distracted; she often forgets the thread of her conversations and comes out with offbeat and seemingly inconsequential observations.
Delirium often has a playful attitude, regarding some events with ecstatic joy, such as being held above the ground by the Wyvern, to Destiny splitting into multiple incarnations before her. Delirium is also quick to respond angrily to rudeness, leading her to occasionally punish people without mercy; usually with a form of madness.
It may be noted that Delirium once exhibited a very deep form of order. Towards the end of Brief Lives, as she recounts to Destruction the steps she and Dream undertook to find him, her appearance - hairstyle, clothing, et cetera - recapitulates in almost the exact order it had originally appeared. Her long and rambling recollection seemed nonsensical, but readers noticed that it more or less accurately described everything that had happened - just not very clearly. This suggests that Delirium may be less mad than she appears and merely has trouble expressing herself. Also, when Destiny imparts to Dream the information and the means by which he may find Destruction; due to Dream's distress at this revelation, Delirium is forced to collect herself so much that her usual mismatched appearance vanishes, and she becomes a very symmetrical creature, reflecting perhaps that in delirium, delight still exists, no matter how painful.
Delirium, like her siblings, has also exhibited a form of prophetic knowledge; however, her prophecies rarely make sense until it is too late to do anything about them, and no other character recognizes them. In Brief Lives, she persuades a man to give the dancer Tiffany money, when Tiffany would later be the only mortal to survive the explosion of the club where she was dancing; in The Kindly Ones, she knows full well that her brother is in trouble and unsuccessfully tries to persuade him to help her find Barnabas. Additionally, when read the quote 'Quoth the Raven', from Edgar Allan Poe's poem, 'The Raven', she says 'Whatever', which had been and would be said by Matthew throughout the book.
Delirium also seems to know many things none of the other Endless know. She says so when she is teased by Desire during the family meeting in Season of Mists. At the end of Brief Lives, Destruction describes a situation in which Death told him that everybody knows everything and they just pretend they don't, but neither he nor Dream really understand or believe this. Delirium, however, says, "She is. um. Right. Kind of. Not knowing everything is all that makes it okay, sometimes."
The other Endless, particularly Death and Destruction, seem to be fond of Delirium, to varying degrees, and protective of her. She in turn is affectionate towards them, particularly Destruction. Initially, she was somewhat frightened by Dream and avoided being around him, to the point that his guardians did not know who she was, however, the events of Brief Lives change their relationship. Delirium desperately tries to help save Dream from his impending doom in The Kindly Ones by trying to persuade him to go with him on another quest with her to find Barnabas, but Dream refuses.
Powers and Abilities
- Personification of Delirium: One of the seven Endless, inconceivably powerful beings, Delirium is both lord and personification of all Delirium and Sanity. She has god-like powers and absolute control over her realm, which is a chaotic, constantly changing mass of colors and strange objects and shapes. She is capable of bringing sanity or madness to any and all within her scope.
- Omnipresence: She is everywhere on Earth at any moment, but usually not in a form visible to humans.
- Shapeshifting: Her features constantly change depending on her mood and various mental states. Her chaotic mood also allows her to change her own clothes, hair and eye color at will.
- Teleportation: She can travel instantly anywhere people live and die in the mortal realm, and, so long as she shows proper respect, she can easily enter and transit most magical realms. It is said that Delirium knows pathways outside of Destiny's garden, which only she may travel.
- Immortality: Delirium is ageless and virtually immortal.
- Sorcery: Delirium has nigh-omnipotent mastery of magic. She can also create anything she imagines and warp reality, including manipulating people's minds.
- Precognition: Delirium has ability to know of an event that has not yet happened. However, their prophecies often don't make sense until it's too late. In The Kindly Ones, Delirium senses that her brother is in trouble and helps him to no avail. She has also said that she knows many things that the other Endless do not after being confronted by Desire.
- Telepathy: Delirium has a great ability to enter the minds of humans, accessing people's sanity and madness. She can often figure out what kind of wild ideas someone is thinking. It can cause a person to lose their sanity and go crazy, or vice versa.
- Personification of Delight: The first incarnation of Delirium was Delight, being the total mistress of that aspect. She would have all the powers and abilities that involved Delight, but for some unknown reason she ended up transforming into Delirium, being the same Endless as before but with a different impersonation. She is the only Endless to make this change.
- Ancient Rules: Despite her great powers, Delirium, like the rest of the Endless, is bound to a complex set of rules and customs.
- One requires her to never spill the blood of family or she is no longer protected as the personification of Delirium from other Personifications
- Another is that she cannot fall in love with a mortal or the mortal's downfall is assured.
Behind the Scenes
- Delirium's realm is "Madness" and it is as strange as she is. It's said that one is only able to navigate it by focusing on Delirium and traveling towards the center. How one knows which way is the center is a little unclear, though... At the middle there is a broken sundial reading "Tempus Frangit" ("time breaks," a Latin pun on the phrase "Tempus Fugit", "time flies"), along with the usual gallery, scrying pool, and private residence.
- Her sigil in the galleries of the other Endless is a multicolored, abstract swirl.
- Her appearance is loosely based on the avant-garde novelist Kathy Acker, an old friend of Gaiman’s.