Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend

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Dream of the Rarebit Fiend was a newspaper comic strip written and drawn by Winsor McCay beginning September 10, 1904. It was McCay's second successful newspaper strip, after Little Sammy Sneeze secured him a position on the cartoon staff of the New York Herald newspaper. Dream of the Rarebit Fiend was published in the Evening Telegram, which was published by the Herald at the time.

The editor of the Herald required McCay to use a pseudonym for his work in the Telegram to keep it separate from his Herald strips, so McCay signed all his Dream of the Rarebit Fiend strips as "Silas", borrowing the name of a neighborhood garbage cart driver.[1]


Characters and story

The strip focuses on various people who have a passion for various foods and dishes -often, but not always, Welsh rarebit. Each strip features a different protagonist known as the Rarebit Fiend (who is rarely named in the comic strip, and who changes from strip to strip) in the course of strange dreams and nightmares. Upon awakening, the protagonist blames his dream on having eaten Welsh rarebit or some other dish.

McCay's famous character Little Nemo—who later had his own strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland—first appeared in Dream of the Rarebit Fiend within the first year of its existence. Unlike Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, which was intentionally created for an adult reading audience, Little Nemo was intended for children. McCay went on to write and draw Little Nemo for the New York Herald.


McCay produced four hand-drawn animated films based upon his Rarebit Fiend series:

  • How a Mosquito Operates (1912)
  • Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: Bug Vaudeville (1921)
  • Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: The Pet (1921)
  • Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: The Flying House (1921)

Film pioneer Edwin S. Porter had earlier produced a film adaptation of Dream of the Rarebit Fiend in 1906. This is not considered a true animated film but rather an early exercise in trick photography.


Book collections sometimes used the plural "dreams" in the title rather than "dream," and 60 strips were reprinted in the Dover Publications's Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend. (ISBN 0-486-21347-1)

More recently, Checker Books began a series of Winsor McCay: Early Works, which reprints all the Rarebit Fiend in several of the volumes: Volume 1 (ISBN 0-9741664-0-5), Volume 2 (ISBN 0-9741664-7-2), Volume 3 (ISBN 0-9741664-9-9), Volume 4 (ISBN 0-9753808-1-8), Volume 5 (ISBN 0-9753808-2-6), Volume 6 (ISBN 1-933160-05-5), and maybe in volumes 7 and 8. Checker also reprinted many Saturdays in the book Dream of the Rarebit Fiend: The Saturdays.

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