While searching for his tools, Morpheus, the King of Dreams, learned about his helm and Ruby from the “three sisters”. His helm was traded away with a demon in exchange for the “Amulet of Protection.” The Ruby, which contained a part of himself and the most powerful of all the tools, was passed from a mother to a son. So, Morpheus set his course to collect them all, and while doing so, we were introduced to a character named Ethel Cripps. She first appeared in the 1st episode of “The Sandman” when she helped Alex Burgess, son of the Magus (Roderick Burgess), to clear out the crowd in front of the Magus’ house.
According to the comic book, John Dee’s parents were Ethel Cripps and Roderick Burgess. John Dee changed his name to Destiny to keep his identity safe as he knew he had done bad things that could bring shame to his parents. Ethel gave him the Ruby, and he altered its materials. He started affecting people’s dreams with the help of Ruby and called himself “Doctor Destiny.” Somehow, the Justice League stopped him from doing more damage and put him in Arkham Asylum. The Ruby was kept in an old warehouse in the upstate of Gotham. This information was passed to Morpheus by Martian Manhunter, one of the most senior members of the Justice League. Ethel Dee died and left the “Amulet of Protection” to her son, John. It was traded away to a demon by Sykes, one of Magus’ partners in Ancient Mysteries. Sykes seduced Ethel Dee, Burgees’ mistress at the time, and ran away with the tools. He knew that Burgess would use his magic to find them, but he summoned Choronzon, the Demon, and exchanged the helm of the dream lord to get the Amulet of Protection. It worked, and they somehow survived the magical reach of the Magus. In 1936, when Ethel left Sykes and took the Amulet of Protection with her, Burgess managed to put a spell on Sykes that wrecked him.
In the series, Ethel Cripps worked as an independent lady who smuggled different things. She did not run away with Sykes; instead, she grabbed the three tools and fled alone. As the Magus would not want her child, she decided to take on the world independently. Ethel Cripps bargained with the Demon and got the Amulet of Protection in exchange for the helm. She gave the Ruby to John, her son. She came to know from the Corinthian that Morpheus was now free and looking for the tools that were stolen from him. She visited John in the hospital and asked him to give her Ruby so she could return it to the dream lord. But, John refused to trust her as she never told him that Roderick Burgess was his father. Later, Ethel convinced her that he did not want him to be born, and all she did was protect him all the time. John still would not believe her words, so she gave him the “Amulet of Protection.” However, John did not want to have that in the first place, as he had seen what happened to people who stood on the opposite side of the amulet. After Ethel’s convincing, John agreed to have that Amulet and later, she died in his arms. The Amulet kept her alive for 116 years, so when she gave it to John, she grew old instantly and died. John then took the Amulet and escaped from the hospital, searching for the Ruby he had kept in storage. Ethel Cripps’ death had no such effect on John except for a moment.
Some changes were made to the Ethel Cripps character in the comic book adaptation. She had multiple lovers in the comic book, but in the series, she only ever loved Roderick Burgess, and when he denied her child, she took possession of the tools to survive. The Ethel Cripps represented in the comic book was a cunning woman who would bargain with anyone and anything to survive in a world full of vicious men. But, here in the series, we see a mother whose love for her child blinded her. This Ethel Cripps would go to any length to protect John from the impending dangers. Giving away the amulet to gain her son’s trust is one of the reasons that establishes the fact. The selflessness of the mother is what made Ethel Cripps one of the most remarkable characters in this series. In the comic book, she and Sykes stole the three tools for selfish reasons. But, in the series, we see that Ethel Cripps herself stole the tools and gave birth to her son. She stole them to raise her son and survive. It was, however, a personal reason, not wholly selfish. Whatever the reason, Ethel Cripps was portrayed as a character that had more emotional depth in the series, which is a good thing for comic book readers.