The first in a two volume concordance of Stephen King's best-selling epic, The Dark Tower series, covers Books I through IV--The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, and Wizard & Glass. Original. 50,000 first printing.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Robin Furth was born and raised in Philadelphia and attended the University of Pennsylvania. She was introduced to Stephen King at the University of Maine and has been working with him as a research assistant since 2001.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Roland, the Tower,
and the Quest
Spoiler's Warning: Read this essay only after you have read the first four books of Roland's saga. Otherwise, you'll get more than a glimpse of what is to come...
To any reader of the Dark Tower series, Roland Deschain is an instantly recognizable character. As I write this, I see him in my mind's eye, striding across the yellowing grasses of the River Barony savannah, his black hair threaded with gray, his body tall and lanky, his holster and gun belt strapped to his hips. Only one of those fabled sandalwood-handled six-shooters is with him; it rests against his left thigh. The other is back at camp, secure in the docker's clutch strapped to Eddie Dean's side. As I stare, Roland turns his head and regards me pragmatically. If you need to talk to me, he says, then come. Time may be a face on the water, but in Roland's world, water is scarce.
Roland watches as I pass through the doorway of the page. His pale blue eyes really are like those of a bombardier, both cool and assessing. By necessity, this meeting will be brief. I'm another one of Roland's secrets, and he thinks it better to keep me that way. He's not certain what level of the Tower I come from, but he knows one thing. I am mapping his travels.
Finding some shade, Roland hunkers. I hand him one of the rolling papers I've brought, and he accepts it silently. Unlacing the leather thongs of his traveling purse, he removes his tobacco poke and rolls a smoke. Despite the missing fingers on his right hand, he works the paper dexterously, licking the gummed side with a grimace. He strikes a match against the seam of his jeans and lights his cigarette. For a moment his face is illuminated with an eerie glow that makes his features look drawn and more than a little haggard. He has a few days' worth of stubble on his cheeks, and his lips are chapped. Once again I try to show him this concordance, but he waves the bound manuscript away as he exhales a cloud of smoke. As always, he thinks that my constant revisions waste paper. Besides, he's only interested in the maps. But today I've brought a short piece, and this he has agreed to hear. It's my interpretation of his epic journey. Taking another deep drag, Roland rolls his hand in that gesture which means only one thing, in any world. Get on with it. So I clear my throat and (rather nervously) begin.Roland, the Tower, and the Quest
Roland Deschain is Mid-World's final gunslinger. Like a knight from the Arthurian legends of our world, Roland is on a quest. His "grail" is the Dark Tower, the linchpin of the Time/Space continuum, and his goal is to climb to its very top and question the god or demon who resides there. Roland's world is unraveling. The Beams that maintain the proper alignment of time, space, size and dimension are breaking down and the Tower itself is foundering. This structural instability affects all worlds, but in Roland's, the symptoms are dramatic. As the fabric of reality wears away, thinnies form and spread. These squalling mist bogs swallow all those that stumble into them, letting their captives fall into the dark no-places between worlds. As the landscape stretches, directions drift. What is west today may be southwest tomorrow and southeast the day after. A goal that lay only fifty miles away can suddenly become a hundred, or even a thousand miles distant.
As the direct descendant of Arthur Eld, King of All-World-That-Was, and as Mid-World's last dinh, Roland must rescue his land from annihilation. But his task is gargantuan. He must find a way to safeguard the framework, the loom, upon which the interpenetrating realities are woven. But in order to do so -- in order to shore up that central Tower and the Beams which radiate out from it -- he must find his way across a landscape so fragmented that neither map nor memory can help him pinpoint his destination. In fact, Roland does not even know where the Tower stands. He realizes that he must head toward a place called End-World, but where does that land lie? How can he find it? During the early stages of his journey, Roland the warrior chooses the path of the ascetic. Believing he can only reach his goal as a solitary traveler, he sacrifices all human relationships, even when it means betrayal, because he thinks such sacrifice will speed him along his way. Comrades and lovers are left behind like abandoned waterskins.
Roland believes that to climb the Tower he must have no ties holding him to Mid-World. He must be isolated, self-sufficient, cut off from the nurturing tides of relationship. Thinking in terms of conquest and battle, Roland follows the duplicitous Walter across the deserts of Mid-World, believing that this enemy will eventually lead him to his goal. Similarly, as a boy, he followed the path set for him by Maerlyn's Grapefruit, a magic ball whose evil, distorting visions tricked him into first sacrificing his lover, Susan Delgado, and then murdering his own mother.
What Roland doesn't at first realize is that, like any young knight, he is being tested. The initial path he chooses is a false start, no more than a glammer thrown by the enemies who want to thwart him. What their treachery exposes is that the young Roland is driven by ambition, personal glory, and revenge as much as he is by a desire to fulfill his destiny as the last warrior of the White. By tempting him to betray all that a knight should hold sacred, Roland's enemies ensure that Roland will repeat the mistakes of his fathers and either abandon his quest as hopeless or become lost in the deserts and golgothas of Mid-World which, in the end, but mirror the dry wreckage of his heart.
Roland, the young warrior, does not understand the ultimate nature of his quest. He does not realize that, as the trickster Walter says in the golgotha, he already stands so close to the Tower that worlds turn about his head. Because of his own preconceptions, his inherited worldview, he does not understand that his fate, and the fate of Mid-World, are one and the same.
Roland's story is not just an adventure tale; it is one with symbolic meaning. His pilgrimage is intrinsically linked to a legend from our world, a legend which was an important influence upon the Modernists and which formed the basis for a famous poem by T. S. Eliot. That legend is the story of the Waste Land. In its incarnation in the Dark Tower series, this legend is bound to another belief, one that dates back to the time when men and women thought that their kings and queens were appointed by God. According to this worldview, the body of the king is the body of the land, and the well-being of one is indivisible from the well-being of the other. If the king is sick, in body or in mind, then the land falls to ruin. To cure the land, you must first cure the king. The one will only flourish if the other is in balance.
As above, so below. The disease of the larger is the same as that of the smaller, and they both progress according to the same principle. To understand what dries and devastates the land, what threatens the very fabric of the universe and the stability of the interpenetrating worlds, one must also understand what ails the king. All are affected by the same illness, but to cure this illness we must discover its underlying cause. And this is the true purpose of Roland's journey.
We all know that as the Beams snap, the Tower falters. But what is its equivalent on the human plane? What malaise weakens the bonds of Mid-World's culture? What disease affects Roland, the foremost representative of his fragmenting world?
High Speech, the tongue of gunslingers, is a subtle and complex language. Its words are difficult to define because they are so full of nuance. Each word has multiple meanings which refer, simultaneously, to ordinary human interaction, to the web that joins the interacting individuals, and to the greater pattern of humanity's past and future movements. No human interaction, then, is meaningless. They all reflect both individual and cultural ka.
Ka, we know, resembles a wheel. In fact, it looks much like the wheel Roland draws in The Waste Lands, a wheel meant to represent The Tower, the Beams, and the Portals in and out of Mid-World. In Roland's map, the hub of the wheel is the Tower, the spokes are the Beams, and the rivets are the Guardians, who are the Portals' sentries. Some Guardians, like the Turtle, are protective, while others, like the Bear Guardian Shardik, are downright dangerous. But they all serve the Beams, the Beams serve the Tower, and the Tower is what keeps the universe united. And perhaps these Beams work like Batteries, with positive and negative charges, the one balancing the other. That would explain why the Turtle is kind and the Bear -- the opposite end of the Beam -- is negative. Even polarity has its place, like light and darkness. That is, as long as the whole remains in balance.
Although it would be difficult to map the wheel of ka in this way -- it is much too big -- we can, at least, map the forces of ka-tet, remembering that the small is a miniature of the larger. As dinh of his ka-tet and as dinh of Mid-World, Roland sits at the center of the wheel. The Guardians of his present ka-tet are his companions Jake, Susannah, Eddie and Oy. The sorcerer Walter -- who plays a large part in the drawing and binding of this ka-tet -- can also be placed as one of the Guardians, though his polarity is negative.
Just as there is a word for the pattern of ka-tet, there is a word for the bonds (or Beams) that hold the tet together. This word is khef. Like almost all the words of High Speech, khef has multiple meanings, including birth and life-force, but perhaps the most ubiquitous of these meanings is also the simplest. And that meaning is water.
As Roland knows all too well from his journey in the Mohaine Desert, a human will die much sooner from dehydration than he will from lack of food. The same can be said about the land, about ...
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