Mon
Jul 21 2014 10:00am

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles The Dark Tower, Epilogue and Coda

Stephen King The Dark Tower

“There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all.”

—Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these or preceding sections, join me by commenting here.

Last week, we left Patrick behind and faced an end to the story as we began it: with the gunslinger alone.

The Dark Tower, Epilogue: Susannah in New York

We pick up the narrative when Susannah and her electric cart come through the door and land in Central Park. As in the dreams she’s been having, it is winter, snowfall is beginning, and Christmas carolers are singing “What Child is This.”

Among the onlookers is Eddie Dean and, like in her dream, he’s holding a paper cup that is probably filled with hot chocolate. Susannah is paralyzed for a moment, afraid he won’t recognize her, afraid he’ll turn and see a homeless black woman with no legs. Afraid he’ll turn and she’ll see Eddie the Junkie, brother of eminent sage Henry Dean, with hollow eyes.

In her head, she hears Roland’s voice challenging her to go, and she does, but not before she pulls out Roland’s gun. It’s plugged up and faded, and looks as if it hasn’t worked for decades. So she tosses it in the trashcan. The time of the gun is finished.

Before she reaches Eddie, he turns and sees her. To her horror, she sees puzzlement on his face. But he’s not on drugs—that, she can tell. And he smiles at her. He doesn’t know her, really. But he’s been dreaming of her, and knows her name is Susannah, and that, somehow, he loves her. “It occurs to her that he is going to kiss her again for the first time, and sleep with her again for the first time, and fall in love with her again for the first time.”

She asks who the president is, remembering that he told her that tall-tale about Ronald Reagan being president in his When, but he says it’s Gary Hart from Colorado (speaking of tall tales!). They compare dreams, and she knows everything’s going to be okay. “This time ka is working in her favor, and the force of ka is enormous.”

Eddie tells her it’s 1987, and when she asks if he lives in Brooklyn or the Bronx, he laughs and says no, he lives in White Plains, New Jersey, and brought his brother into the city to look at the polar bears. Susannah thinks he’s talking of his brother Henry Dean, but it’s his brother Jake that he calls to. Jake’s been dreaming of her too. Their last name, Eddie tells her, is Toren.

“And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after?” Sai King the Narrator asks. “I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live…That’s all. That’s enough. Say thankya.”

What Constant Reader Learns: I like the realization Susannah has that it doesn’t matter if this is the “real” world, the Keystone World. In this world, Eddie is alive again and who cares if he’s driving a Takuro Spirit and he lives in White Plains? I mean, I guess I could get all existential and talk about what reality is, anyway. We each have our own reality, our own version of a particular world. Each of us, in a sense, is the Gan of our own universe, right?

I feel very happy with this conclusion to the Eddie, Jake, and Susannah stories (and is it too much to hope, perhaps, that a dog named Oy ends up in their lives?), although it’s sad (but appropriate to the story, I think) that Eddie and Jake don’t remember Roland and he will soon fade from Susannah’s memories as well. It wasn’t so sweet as to strike a false note because, yeah, I’m still grousing about Eddie/Susannah “instalove” all this time later. But also not a downer. Perfect, sai King. I could end my story here happily but for one thing, and that is the fate of our gunslinger.

 

The Dark Tower, Coda: Found, Section 1:

Sai King our Narrator tells us he’s told his tale and is satisfied with it. “It was the kind only a good God would save for last, full of monsters and marvels and voyaging here and there.” It’s our fault, he tells us, we greedy, grim, “goal-oriented ones who will not believe that the joy is in the journey rather than the destination.” It’s our fault he has to continue, to show us what happens to Roland when he goes into the Dark Tower.

He hopes most of us will simply stop reading, because “endings are heartless. An ending is a closed door no man (or Manni) can open….Endings are heartless. Ending is just another word for goodbye.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Ah! He tells us, when urging us to stop reading with the picture of Susannah and Eddie and Jake in Central Park, that soon or later Oy will also enter the picture, “a canine version with a long neck, odd gold-ringed eyes, and a bark that sometimes sounds eerily like speech.”

Ho-ho, sai King. Very clever. You have warned us that if we do not like your ending, we have only ourselves to blame.

 

The Dark Tower, Coda: Found, Section 2:

Fine. If we insist on continuing to read: “Here is the Dark Tower at sunset.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Because he must give us another three-sentence section. He just can’t help himself.

 

The Dark Tower, Coda: Found, Section 3:

Roland approaches the Tower with a sense of what Eddie and Susannah would call déjà vu. He’s called out the names of those he’s loved and lost, and the horn sounds and he realizes it’s the voice of the roses. He also realizes he should have picked up the horn of Eld on Jericho Hill, or he hears a voice that tells him so, and he realizes it’s the voice of the Beam. As he reaches the door, the feeling of déjà vu continues to grow—“almost as though he had been here after all.”

He looks up at the balcony where the Crimson King had been stuck, and sees two angry red eyes glaring back at him. At the door is the sigul for UNFOUND. He lays the last of his gunna and his remaining gun on the ground and when he looks again at the door, it now reads FOUND. The door swings open and he hears the voice of the tower: “Welcome, Roland, thee of Eld.”

The Tower, we’re told, is not made of stone but is a living thing—Gan himself, likely.

He begins to climb and, nineteen steps up brings him to the first landing. The stones of the wall (which aren’t stones) are carved with faces, and he recognizing Calvin Tower. On the far side of the room at this landing he looks in and smells the bag of pine sachet his mother once placed in his bed. In the room, on the floor, lies a small cedar clip wrapped in blue ribbon, as one would wrap around a newborn’s umbilical cord. “’Twas my own,” Roland thinks. Among the faces now is his own, as a baby. He goes to the stairs and climbs again.

What Constant Reader Learns: Okay, I’m going to wax on a little while about my theories before I let Roland actually enter the Tower further. From the early days, I have wondered if Roland were on some kind of “playback” pattern, doomed to repeat the past until he finally got it “right.” Not necessarily picking up the horn, but finding his humanity sooner, maybe. Making different choices, maybe. Not reincarnation exactly because he comes back as himself. Ka dictates that he work through to some sort of perfection until he is allowed to reach some kind of resolution and find the clearing at the end of the path.

I haven’t really seen anything to dispute that theory yet, although I can’t quite wrap my head around how Sai King fits into the story other than one of Gan’s tale-spinners. But that doesn’t quite work for me, either, because if he was the mere chronicler, he wouldn’t be able, one wouldn’t think, to a) insert himself into the story or b) influence the outcome of the story, which he indeed did, bless his deus ex machine heart.

Unless maybe Sai King is himself working through to his perfection. Maybe if he helps Roland reach his successful conclusion, he will relive his life without a drunk guy running him down in a van. Or maybe I’m overthinking. It happens.

 

The Dark Tower, Coda: Found, Section 4:

Nineteen steps more and Roland reaches a second landing, where he finds bits of a baby’s blanket scattered around—at the hand of the petulant Crimson King, he assumes. On the wall now, he sees the face of Mordred. “Roland saw no hatefulness there now but only the lonely sadness of an abandoned child.” The scent memory here is of talc, again that his mother used on him as a baby.

What Constant Reader Learns: And so we see the last of the pathetic old Crimson King, as Roland looks out the window onto the balcony and picks up the screamed thoughts, with CK daring him to come out and meet him yet again, “an eye for an eye, may it do ya.” “I think not, for I have more work to do,” Roland says, and we’re told it was his last words to the Crimson King.

 

The Dark Tower, Coda: Found, Section 5:

On the third landing, Roland finds a corduroy dress that he’d worn as a one-year-old. Among the faces here is his father, but a younger version than the stern one Roland remembers. This one is imbued with the scent of Steven’s shaving cream, and he’s looking with pride on his young son Roland.

On the fourth floor is the collar of his first dog, Ring-a-Levio, aka Ringo. He’d died when Roland was three.

On the next floor Roland comes to he finds a bundle of feathers that had belonged to the hawk David. And Roland sees David in flight on the wall here, his wings spread over the people gathered in the courtyard of Gilead—including Marten. He also sees the face of the whore with whom he spent the night after he’d bested Cort.

What Constant Reader Learns: Apropos of nothing, my own first dog, when I was five or six, was named Ringo, after Ringo Starr. He too met a sad end.

Ick. Roland has an erotic flashback involving the whore and his mother touching him after his bath, and gets aroused. In case you missed me saying it earlier, ICK. And “Roland fled that room in fear.” Thank Gan. Not soon enough.

At the rate his life is flashing before his eyes, this is gonna be an awfully tall tower.

 

The Dark Tower, Coda: Found, Section 6:

The sky has grown dark outside the Tower, leaving Roland very little light to go by, but he still pushes on toward the top, even as he compares himself to one of the robots made by the Old People. Like them, he keeps doggedly pursuing the task he has been assigned or will die trying. And as he climbs, each room he encounters has a memento, a scent, more faces. In the thirty-eighth room, he finds the charred stake to which Susan Delgado had been tied, and her face on the wall. He forces himself to look at her, to hear her voice saying she loved him.

“This is a place of death, and not just here,” he thinks. “All these rooms. Every floor.” To which the Tower replies, “Yes, gunslinger, but only because your life has made it so.”

He begins to climb faster.

What Constant Reader Learns: It’s kind of an odd cycle, I guess. If he made other choices along the way—a choice to stay with Susan, for example, he would never have reached the Tower. So maybe making different choices is not the end game. … Hm. Because, damn it, sai King, I am one of those narrow-minded people who needs an ending.

 

The Dark Tower, Coda: Found, Section 7:

From outside, Roland had guessed the Tower was about six-hundred feet high, but as he reaches room number two hundred, he figures it has to be at least eight times that. His rational mind tells him there could not stand a tower as tall as this one, but still he continued to climb.

Roland passes a room with Zoltan, and one with the atomic pump from the Way Station. At some point, he realizes he’s seeing daylight through the windows again, and he’s had about enough. He begins to climb faster and stops looking into the rooms, stops noting the aromas of memory. Finally, the curved walls of the Tower narrow until he can barely pass through. In one final open door he glances in and sees Patrick’s pad with everything erased but two eyes. “I have reached the present,” he thinks. “I have reached now.”

The sunlight is brighter now, and harsher. There’s an unforgiving wind. He looks up into the narrow opening and counts nineteen steps to the room at the top. “I come,” he calls.

While the rooms along his climb have been open, this room at the top is closed. The name on the door is ROLAND. He grasps the doorknob and turns it.

As soon as the sun—“the sun of the desert that was the apotheosis of all deserts”—hits him, he understands that he has been turned back—“not to the beginning, when things might have been change and time’s curse lifted.” Instead he’s at the moment in the Mohaine Desert.

“How many times had he traveled a loop like the one in the clip that had once pinched off his navel…How many times would he travel it?” The hands of the Tower, of Gan, which “knew no mercy,” pulled him forward, propelled him through the door, and closed that door behind him. At that point, he has no memory of having done it before, and it’s always the first time.

What Constant Reader Learns: This eternal Tower reminds me of the biblical story of Jacob’s ladder. Jacob dreams he sees a stairway resting on the earth, with the top reaching to heaven, and angels were going up and down the stairway to heaven. (I badly want to make a Led Zeppelin reference but will refrain.)

That fits with the idea of the Tower being the mind of God, say thankya, and Roland needing to reach the top before finding his eternal rest. Maybe the faces he’s seeing along the way as he relives his life are the angels. And if there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now.

Sorry. If I have to hear it inside my head, so do you.

Yep, yep, yep. Perfect.

 

The Dark Tower, Coda: Found, Section 8:

The gunslinger sways on his feet, and for a second thinks he has already found the Tower, that he’d just been there. But the sensation fades and all he can think of is his thirst, and his determination to succeed on his quest.

He thinks of something Cort said to him: “You’re the one who never changes. It’ll be your damnation. You’ll wear out a hundred pairs of boots on your walk to hell.” He stops and shifts his gunna, touching the horn of Arthur Eld that he’d picked up at Jericho Hill when Cuthbert fell. He thinks he smells a hint of roses, and a voice whispers, “This is your sigul. This is your promise that things may be different, Roland—that there may yet be rest. Even salvation. If you stand. If you are true.”

He shakes it off and begins to walk.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

What Constant Reader Learns: First reaction: This was the perfect ending. Absolute perfection.

 

What Constant Reader thinks, after reading the Author’s Note and pondering the story for a day or two.

When we began this journey just over three years ago(!), I was awaiting the publication of my first novel. My ninth recently came out, with three more in the release queue, and, to quote that eminent sage Jerry Garcia, what a long, strange trip it’s been. The constant through it, say thankya, has been my time as Constant Reader.

Truth is, I expected the resolution of the Dark Tower saga to be, as sai King’s “big bads” often are, anticlimactic. I remember reading It for the first time and finding the big reveal down in the tunnels to be disappointing. (WTH. A giant spider? It has more meaning now.) It is still my favorite Stephen King novel behind The Stand, but like many other SK books, including The Stand, the resolution is my least-favorite part. It’s the journey that matters, the buildup, the inner journey of the characters, and the way King can make them real for us in such a Ganlike way.

And so I expected that of the Dark Tower, especially when, like the Great Oz, the Crimson King turned out to be little more than comic relief after dreading and fearing him for thousands of pages.

Wrong.

Roland’s journey to the top of the Tower was a perfect ending for me but not because we needed the litany of smells and artifacts from his long life, or because the Tower was impossibly huge, or because we finally had confirmed what we suspected the gunslinger was about all along, running along the hamster wheel of ka and seeking not the Tower but his own humanity.

The story ending was perfect for me because it so beautifully wrapped around itself, ate its own tail, and restarted Roland’s cycle the way it began, with that single, magnificent sentence—only with a possibility that next time, or the one after that, or the one after that, he might make it to the clearing at the end of the path.

The “subplots,” if it do ya, remain the themes to ponder.

About the idea of worlds upon worlds.

About what constitutes “reality,” if indeed there is such a thing—or the presence of a “keystone” world where “reality” lives while we orbit around it, each in our own reality or world as we create and interpret it.

About the nature and origin of creativity and art. About whether, as the sole creators among God’s many creations, man is a part of the Godhead. And how that reflects in Stephen King’s forewords and afterwords to these novels, particularly the last, where he addresses his own presence in the books. “I never meant it to be pretentious,” he writes in the Dark Tower author’s note, “but only as a way of showing how life influences art (and vice-versa).”

I think, although I had varying reactions to it over the course of the novels, that he succeeded in avoided pretension and that his presence added an interesting wrinkle to ponder moving forward from the immediacy of the read.

Another thing to ponder: about what happens after death. About time. About immortality and humanity.

You know, big themes. The quests we’re all on, gunslingers or not.

So I will end with sai King’s words:

“I thank you for coming along, and sharing this adventure with me…I would not give back a single minute of the time that I have lived in Roland’s where and when. Those days in Mid-World and End-World were quite extraordinary.”

Luckily for us, in 2012, Stephen King made a late mid-story addition to the world of our ka-tet. In two weeks, on Monday, August 4, we will begin a read of The Dark Tower Book Eight: The Wind Through the Keyhole, when we’ll have a chance to visit yet again with our old friends from Mid-World.

42 comments
Andy Corvin
1. Andy Corvin
Thank you very much for sharing your journey with us. I greatly enjoyed, especially, reading your musings on the story as a whole.
Erik Amundsen
2. Bigerich
And so The Dark Tower comes to an end.

I have really enjoyed your read-through, Suzanne.

Thank you.
Andy Corvin
3. Erxbooks
Glad you liked the ending. I loved it, but I know peole who hated it. My answer to them is that Stephen King told you to stop reading and you did not heed his warning.
Suzanne Johnson
4. Susannah Sandlin
Thanks, guys!

It actually surprises me that some hated the ending. I think if you're familiar with King's body of work, and the ways his stories generally end (not with a bang, but a whimper), this subtly nuanced ending strikes the perfect balance.

I'm glad there's "Wind Through the Keyhole" to come, because I find myself already missing Mid-World and End-World!
Adam S.
5. MDNY
Say thankya, Suzanne.
Once we reached the ending, it became apparent, to me at least, that Sai King always knew that the tower quest was a loop. The entire passage, from Roland standing in the desert, smelling a hint of roses and almost thinking....then the MIB fleeing with the gunslinger following...the entire few paragraphs are verbatim identical to the ones that started the story in serial magazine publication all those years ago. And it was beautifully played. Even though it was telegraphed a few times earlier in the tale and we all knew that some sort of loop might be happening, to read again about the possible scent of roses, and Roland (once more just the nameless Gunslinger) thinking for second that he might have been to the top of the tower, then dismissing the idea, and realizing that you read those same exact words however long ago...wow.
One nitpick on the Epilogue: White Plains is in New York, directly north of the city, not New Jersey. We New Yorkers are very protective of our state, and take offense at implications of being from Jersey. (Perhaps like being accused of being from Mississippi if you're from Alabama?)
I was very happy that Suze and Eddie and Jake will eventually have an Oy-like dog, but I would have preferred if their world actually had bumblers...

Regarding the actual structure of Roland's neverending journey, I think he is in an exact, perfect loop. Jake, Eddie, Suze, and Oy all join him in ka-tet, but they all move on (3 to the clearing, Suze to the alternate world), but Roland just continues to go through his loop. I don't necessarily believe that he will ever escape it, or "get it right" as you put it. I think that Roland's very character, his determination to climb the tower, is part of what maintains the Tower's integrity, much like the Beams or the Rose(s). The last descendant of Arthur Eld is doomed to forever struggle through all 7 of these books, with no end in sight until the Tower falls and the universe ends. If he made different choices then things might turn out differently, but as Roland thinks, that moment in the desert was when he had reached the ultimate determination to catch the MIB and climb the tower no mattter what:
"Not to the beginning (when things might have been changed and time's curse lifted), but to that moment in the Mohaine Desert when he had finally understood that his thoughtless, questionless quest would ultimately succeed..."
That moment, when he finally knew for certain that he could gain the Tower, was the moment that his fate was sealed to forever seek and find the tower. The moment that we first met Roland was both his beginning and his end.
Thomas Thatcher
6. StrongDreams
@MDNY,
FWIW, the opening scene of The Gunslinger was rewritten at the same time books 5-7 were written. In the original, there is no hint of having just come from some other place and no smell of roses.
Matt Wright
7. matty42
Thank you so much for this re-read!

I am one of the readers who hated the ending on first read. With time and some distance, I have been able to accept it. I wanted a more definite end to the story, but King's ending lets it continue on, and I can return any time I like.
Adam S.
8. MDNY
@6 Ahhh, I didn't know. I don'thave my original Gunslinger version, I bought the first 3 books again when the set of 4 came out and it has that reworked beginning, I didn't catch that it had changed. That's disappointing...
Andy Corvin
9. Andy Corvin
@MDNY: Originally being a southern New Yorker myself, I assumed the placement of White Plains was one more thing establishing that this was not our own world.
Justin Epstein
10. RedFlag
This read-through has given me something to look forward to every Monday. Thanks!

I too was very satisfied with the ending. It definitely felt "right" to me. In fact I've been reluctant to read The Wind Through the Keyhole since I didn't want it to mess with the final image I had of Roland's (and everyone else's) journey. But hearing the read-though will continue has motivated me to read Book 8 and trust that King knows what he is doing.
Andy Corvin
11. Foxed
I know we're not covering it, but for those who haven't read the series:

After the coda, the book closes out with Robert Browning's The Dark Tower poem.

The implication, to me at least, is that the poem is Roland's perfect loop, or maybe next loop.
Dave Parker
12. parkdr
I think "hate" is too strong a word but I found the ending disappointing after reading so many books expecting some sort of resolution.

I suppose it was better than "He woke up and found it was all a dream", but not much.
Dixon Davis
13. KadesSwordElanor
Thanks Suzanne,

You have made Mondays bearable. Have not read "Keywhole," so I may join you. Thanks again, it has been a pleasure following you and the commenters.
Andy Corvin
14. Fenixmagic
Thanks Suzanne for taking us along this journey! There were so many times when I would read your thoughts about the chapter and want to tell you how right your instincts were, but it would have spoiled it. You have a great sense of storycrafting.

I enjoyed the ending. For me, it's the only real way it ever could end. We saw Roland's sins and his payment for them is to walk the path over and over until he can right them. Perhaps since he has the horn, this can be his "perfect" run. Perhaps it takes a thousand more times. We only know that there is hope because Roland has what he once lacked.

This would be my favorite series of books if it weren't for the tonal shift. I started reading these back when The Waste Lands first came out. I waited the long wait for Wizard and Glass, with all that time to stew and dream and wonder. Then W&G was a flashback book, which was okay (at least they made it away from Blaine - go Eddie!) Then the next books came all at once, and they were filled with this awkward country-fied language that took me out of the story. And the stories... Seven Samurai with robots. A long slog through the pregnancy of a character that I cared least about. The resurrection of an old character that did him some good (yay Callahan!) but then more flashbacks and his death. An awkward inclusion of a Arthurian plot-line that ultimately means nothing. Bad author-intrusion to the point of Jesusification and deus-ex-machinas (called out or not.) At the end I felt like we were marching from plot point to plot point without a real sense of urgency.

I know others feel differently, but I just feel like Sai King turned these books into his therapy sessions to deal with his feelings about almost dying. It's fine for books to mirror your internal world - I think it's how they have real emotion - but for me, I would have liked to hear the story that was being told before the accident.

I am grateful that there was an ending, though, and that he lived to write another day. Thank you again for reading these with us, Suzanne.
Kate Nepveu
15. katenepveu
I will chime in! I LOATHED the ending.

First, I read the original version of _The Gunslinger_, and nu-uh, that's cheating, you can't go back and change your previously-published works partway through because you had a better idea.

Second, (1) either the Tower is in jeopardy every time, and so the _fate of all existence_ is repeatedly being put in jeopardy just so _one dude_ can be a better person, which, uh, excuse me? Seriously? Or (2) the Tower is not in jeopardy every time, in which case the stakes are illusory--and then WHY THE HELL did Jake and Eddie and Oy die??!!

Third, the point that loops, Roland in the desert, is _after_ two of the three great sins of his life (killing Alain, killing his mother, and killing Jake). And it's also after leaving the Horn behind (which I don't think is nearly as important as those deaths, but whatever). So the time loop itself makes no sense.

But, really, it makes no sense logistically or thematically and I refuse to privilege Roland's moral development over the ka-tet's lives or the entirety of existence.

*phew* Okay, I'm done now.
Thomas Siirila
16. CallahanOTheRoads
I liked the payoff for our ka-tet. I think the "Merry Christmas" cap illustration was King's way of throwing us a bone- namely, that the characters we have become invested in and grown to love are still very much alive when they could be very gruesomely dead. (This the SK Universe, after all.)
King told us this was a cycle of stories at the end of Wizard and Glass.
The books also never placed White Plains in either state- Eddie and Jake just took the train from there to NYC.
"Did they live happily ever after?...close enough for government work." Which is a "Stepehen King-happy" ending, you must admit. I'm curious to see if they go to work for an outfit called the Tet Corporation...
Maybe in the next cycle, Roland takes the Oracle's advice about saving Jake...
It's been interesting, tell ya true, and I'm looking forward to WTTKH, which I have only read once, on a Kindle with no illustrations.
Hopefully, SK's storyteller's hand will become restless once again....
Emmet O'Brien
17. EmmetAOBrien
I think I am in a really small minority in that the Coda works reasonably well for me but I cannot stand the Epilogue, which feels to me like taking characters from one level of psychological realism and dropping them into a supposed happy ending at a much much shallower level that does not work. It's a saccharine unreal ending for characters who deserve better, and trivial to see ways it could have worked more solidly. (Eddie, Jake and Susannah attending a Stephen King signing in the Manhattan restaurant of the Mind in 1999 ? Reunite Susannah with her godfather in the Tet Corporation ? If saving the Beams really has countered universal wrack and rot, bring her back to a real world that is notably different from and better than the real world she left - the obvious place to change is with the 9/11 connections already made to Black Thirteen.)

The epilogue works for me as a climax of the thematic points King's been making at various levels of subtlety all along, about addiction, addiction as story, and story as addiction. Roland's quest starts off as "get to the tower and sound my horn" (I do not count the rewritten first volume as where the story started) and IMO the crucial failure - the tragic flaw, if you will - that dooms him is entering and climbing the Tower. I read his acquisition of the horn at the very end as indicating that he's coming closer to successfully completing his quest, maybe that we have seen the penultimate rendition of it, but he's never going to complete it until the point where he gets to the Tower, deals with the Crimson King, calls out the names of his comrades, sounds his horn, then turns around and walks away.

Question: if things may yet be different - if things are different by virtue of Roland having the horn with him this time around - what do you think he did differently on this iteration of the quest to earn that ?

(Probably won't be around for the Wind through the Keyhole read in real time as I've not got to it yet and at this point I want to include it in a rest-of-the-series read.)
Tricia Irish
18. Tektonica
Thankee Sai, Suzanne. I loved all your musings on Roland and his quest and Ka Tet, but especially your views of the ending. I quite liked it myself.

I do wonder though, if Roland's Quest is what keeps the Tower working, the Beams healthy, the whole structure of the Universe(s) turning....or if it is a personal journey, and if he chooses to step off his path, someday, and make a home with Jake, instead of letting him fall, or makes some other definitive turning point decision differently, if he will finally end his loop, and find peace in the Clearing? Perhaps his early in life decisions preclude that option, and he doesn't get to relive those.

Anyway, this way we can always return to these books, and go on that journey with him again.

I'm so glad you're doing Book 8...I haven't read that yet, so I'll join you for it!

Thanks for the journey....again.
Andy Corvin
19. Bango Skank
Thank you, Suzanne! I really enjoyed reliving these books with you, and seeing them fresh through your eyes.

When I finished this book the first time, I just howled with laughter for about 10 minutes. I could just imagine people screaming in frustration at the ending. I thought it was perfect.

Now, having read the entire series over several times, I mostly appreciate how the story evolved and incorporated SK's mistakes and the changes in his own life. How the whole concept of the different versions of reality grew from not knowing if Co-op city was in the Bronx or Brooklyn. How he incoporated his accident into the story. And I feel like a big part how the story ended with the loopback was that "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed" is maybe the most awesome sentence SK has ever written, and no other ending would have measured up.

Since I feel that SK's journey of writing DT is so important in mirroring Roland's journey, I was not a fan of the revised edition of book 1.

Thanks again, Suzanne!
Andy Corvin
20. J Town
One of my favorite overall stories, ever. Yes, the books did meander somewhat from 5 - 7. Yes, there was a deus ex machina and yes the author clearly wanted to change some things mid way through, which he did by re-writing parts of book 1.

None of that matters. The ending of this story was PERFECT. Not good, necessarily, and not enjoyable for everyone. Perfect. I understand that some people didn't like it, but that's missing the point. It's the ending the story absolutely had to have.

To Suzanne, thank you so much for this re-read. It wouldn't have changed my enjoyment of the entire process, but I am so glad your response to the ending was the same as mine.

To Kate, I understand and empathize about changing the original book. But it was written a LONG time ago when the author was very young. Frankly for a work spanning most of King's lifetime, I understand the need to alter some things. It would have been almost impossible for him to keep the entire story firmly in mind, word perfect, from day one. So I give him a bit of a pass.

Second, my take on it is that the Tower was indeed in peril. The first time. After that, everything is about Roland (the time loop). The beauty of it is that it's not just a punishment. There exists the possibility for transformative change. And the journey can be different. Roland never had to become what he became in order to save the Tower. That was his choice. And he can choose more wisely. A frankly insightful and wonderful conclusion.

That ties into the last point. What happened (events) aren't as important as what Roland becomes. And that can be changed! Because of choice. Wonderful! Also, killing Alain was an accident (Cuthbert also took part in that), killing his mother was basically deliberate murder by Rhea (she tricked Roland into killing his mother), and killing Jake was, in some measure, atoned for (or suggested that atonement was possible) by Roland's determination to NOT let that happen again at the end. Which also answers Emmet.

Roland chose, this time, to sacrifice himself instead of Jake. Remember, he consciously decided in the truck to die himself rather than let his son(!) die to save King. He tried to do it. It was only Ka itself (in the form of Roland's suffering of King's injuries) that prevented him. But he made that choice. Once Jake dies, the embodiment of Roland's humanity and love, then we see the Gunslinger regress and fold more in on himself and withdraw emotionally.

One of the best stories I have ever read.
Andy Corvin
21. SKM
@15 -- Perfectly put. Not to mention, does Roland "draw" a different ka-tet each time, or are poor Eddie, Susannah, and Jake stuck repeating the loop with him? If it's the latter, it completely undermines the Epilogue, but if it's the former...geez, that's one heck of a body count for the sake of one man's moral development. Either way, ick.
Emmet O'Brien
22. EmmetAOBrien
JTown@20: It's the ending the story absolutely had to have.

I'nm not seeing that at all. A different one would be difficult, sure, but not more difficult, than, for example, the stuff King made work in the first half of book 3.
Brian Carlson
23. images8dream
First time poster, long time reader. First of all, thanks to Emily for doing this. It made my Mondays.

I, too, love the ending here. I struggle with depression and anger problems, and Roland's reiterative question is a perfect symbol for living with these things. I, like Roland, have done things I really regret. Roland learns to be better, but he still has to do it agian. Just like in life, you get better, but you still make mistakes, and you will always make mistakes. I think that Roland may never earn salvation; the salvation is in the journey and effort.
Michael Green
24. greenazoth
Thanks so much for this reread -- it helped me experience the story again very much like the first time, which is kind of a magical thing if you think about it.

As for the ending: I liked it very much the first time I read it, and continue to do so. I can totally see the other side, though -- it kind of doesn't hold up to strict logical scrutiny.

I guess that, for me, the emotional and thematic resonances are cool enough to forgive the flaws.
Eric Murray
25. E.Murray
I like what King does by griping about having to finish the story. In one dimension, it's a bit of insurance against people who dislike the ending. He gets to say, "I told you so."
At a deeper level, though, I think it fits in with his whole dislike of having to eventually "reveal the monster." Disappointing endings are a regular occurrence in his work which I think points to the same personal distaste. It's like a magician who takes you on this journey of wonder and is then expected to tell you what he was really doing while you were distracted. King writes great short stories (IMO) because he can get away with just doing the illusion and not having to worry about the logic of the backend stuff. I love that he lets the frustration show through here. He just wants to tell a story, dammit! Why do you have to have it tied up all nice and neat with a bow so you can nitpick the warts (sorry for the mixed metaphor)?
But the final jab is that he still gets his way, at least a little. He shows us Roland's trip up the tower, but then leaves us hanging with as many questions as we would have had without the Coda. He still gets the last laugh. Which I find very cool.
Thanks for the read, Suzanne. I wish I had found this years ago instead of months ago.
Thomas Thatcher
26. StrongDreams
Thematically, the ending is right for me. If you try and dig down to the details, though, there are a lot of difficult unanswered questions.

Is the Tower constantly in peril for one man's salvation?
I don't think so, because he is returned to the moment at which he instinctively knows he will succeed. As long as he stands true (and he is Roland so he always does) the Tower will stand.

Does he draw Jake, Eddie and Susannah or a different three?
No idea.

What else has changed in his past besides picking up the horn?
That's a great question. Clearly Susan is still dead and all the gunslingers at Jericho Hill, but what about Tull? Remember, this is the point in the story just after he has murdered the entire town of Tull. He stayed over several days even though Walter only stayed one night, and Roland had a feeling that a trap had been laid for him. Why not just move on? Why wait for the trap to spring so he is forced to kill everyone? This, in my view, is the lowest ebb of his humanity, even more so in the original version, and everything else is a struggle (often unsuccessfully) to regain it. Is this new loop, did he still kill all of Tull? Did he still kill his mother, or at least were the circumstances less damaging to his soul?

Is he on an eternal loop?
No, the voice clearly says that he may eventually find rest.

What is the endgame? To climb the Tower and find rest, or to reject the Tower and find rest?
Here, I tend to think that actually entering the Tower is Roland's last mistake. The obsessive thing to do. The human thing might be to take Patrick and Stuttering Bill back through a door to the Callas and live out a quiet retirement. (Before finding Patrick, he has no way to get back, given the failure of the train trestle and the chasm and tunnel.) Leave Mordred to die on his own, leave the Crimson King in frustration. Just turn around and accept the love and gratitude of the Calla-folken and settle down. Maybe even train a few new gunsligers to keep the line of the White going. Climbing to the top, daring to climb to the top, is the last great sign that he is not yet deserving of rest, not yet ready to love and be loved.
Chris Nelly
27. Aeryl
To clarify, the driver wasn't drunk, just a terribly bad driver.

@17,
Question: if things may yet be different - if things are different by virtue of Roland having the horn with him this time around - what do you think he did differently on this iteration of the quest to earn that ?

He learned to love again. He lost that when Susan died, and this loop was him learning how important that was. The Roland who left the horn had forgotten love. This Roland remembers it, so he picked it up.

@StrongDreams, your final paragraph is PERFECT. I agree with every bit of it. The Tower was saved by the Battle at Algul Siento. If Roland had turned back at that time, the Tower would have stood, with CK locked out. Roland continuing on, put the Tower if further danger, because he was the only person left who could let in CK.

So, if this next loop is to be his last, this time, after the battle that saves the Beam, he will turn back, and save his humanity, so long as he continues to climb the Tower, he will always go back.
Andy Corvin
28. Gambia
If you were to pick up your copy of the gunslinger, you could catch all the hints about the ending in the revisited edition. The start has many, including rolands sudden dizziness, plus his long talk with walter as well.
Thomas Thatcher
29. StrongDreams
@28,
Yes, and that brings up another interesting issue. The original Gunslinger is, to me, extraordinarily beautiful and compelling. When I read in the introduction to the revised version about the parts the (older) King doesn't like, and how (older) King thinks (college kid) King was a bit pretentious, I couldn't disagree more. I read the Gunsligner serialized in F&SF, and the day I found Drawing in the bookstore, I would have opened a vein to sell my blood if I hadn't had the cash.

I'm sad that King thought Gunslinger needed to be revised at all. Of the 9000 words he added, most make it worse, not better. (The parts he added to fit his new continuity are mostly harmless, but there are so many other changes that take away from the poetry of the original.) I would love to know where the original story was headed, that is assuming King knew (which he may not have).
Eric Murray
30. E.Murray
Agree with Aeryl that StrongDreams is dead on. Very well said.
Andy Corvin
31. WFP
So let us assume that this was Roland's nineteenth time he reached the Tower, so will the important magic number will be different in the next journey? Will the number 20 start popping up everywhere and play a part in the following story?
Chris Nelly
32. Aeryl
I will say that IMO, this time is not Roland's last. I know it doesn't matter, IRL no one will likely write it, but the presence of the horn, while indicating Roland has progressed, also shows me that this time he will blow the horn, meaning he won't turn back.

Maybe next time.
Dixon Davis
33. KadesSwordElanor
One of the things I think SK was trying to do with the loop theme (my pure conjecture) is the following.

I think SK, like many writers (and humans in general), is hoping his work will be eternal. Someone, generations from now, will be reading the DT series. And there is probably someone (many someones) in the world currently reading the DT series. Roland is always somewhere in time for each reader. He will be on the path for somebody, somewhere, sometime, for possibly eternity. Or, until we kill the planet and ourselves.

I think this is just one level of the “loop theme.” I agree with StrongDreams & Aeryl that the voice clearly says he may eventually find rest. Just as there are different levels in the actual :) fictional DT, and given that the real world intrudes on Roland’s journey; I think SK meant the DT ending to have different levels. Don’t know if any of that makes sense to anyone else.
Andy Corvin
34. Jaime Chris
Say thankya, Suzanne. I'm also glad to hear that you're doing The Wind Through the Keyhole, which I enjoyed a great deal! :)

While I didn't really like the ending the first time I finished the last book, I am with King - it was the right ending. I can't conceive of any other possible way to end the saga. Do we really want Roland to settle down in a nice condo in Gilead? I kind of see Roland as another incarnation of the Questing Hero, for whom the emphasis is the quest. Think of Perceval or Lancelot from the Arthurian tales. Either they never fully realize their quest, or when they do, it's terribly anti-climactic (depending on which version of the tales you read).

KadesSwordElanor beat me to it, but I agree absolutely with their comment on the self-referentiality of Roland's journey. He is always on that journey as long as someone, somewhere, is reading The Dark Tower saga. Moreover, the more profound quest of which Roland's quest is only a metaphor - the quest for salvation, or meaning, or even one's one self - is also never-ending. In the epigram to The Stand, King wrote, "Ka is a wheel and, as always, comes back to the same place." That makes me wonder how long he had the idea of The Dark Tower as cyclical...also, it's been said by many that there are only so many plots in literature. Therefore, all literature is the creative re-telling of a few basic stories, also in keeping with the idea of every story looping back around to the beginning of a similiar story.

Yeah...some very profound stuff going on here on the level of King's personal life, a narrative level, a meta-narrative level, and even a philosophical level. (King wrote a story in his short story collection Everything's Eventual based on the premise, as he said in the notes afterwards, that hell was "repetition.")

I'm looking forwards to going "once more into the breach!" with The Wind Through the Keyhole!

:)
Jack Flynn
35. JackofMidworld
It has been a long trip, but a good one, and I'm glad to have stumbled across it way back when. I actually haven't read Keyhole yet, it's on the pile but not gotten around to yet. Now I have to decide if I read it within the next week and a half or try to read it with you...

Though I don't have the patience that you do, so likely the first.
Thomas Thatcher
37. StrongDreams
I think one's reaction to Keyhole can be predicted by one's opinion of Eyes of the Dragon. And an old friend shows up one more time in case you were disappointed by his last appearance. Or even if your weren't.
Thomas Siirila
38. CallahanOTheRoads
@34- SK described Dark Tower as a cycle at the end of Wizard and Glass.

I never minded the revised version of Gunslinger that others have expressed such displeasure at. In the original, there were a few dead ends, story-wise: Kuvian Night Soldiers, Roland using 70's slang (You dig?), Roland can't recognize the letter H (in DOT3), and generally trying a little too hard to be Lord of the Rings, what with all the florid language and things heliographing.

I like to read the original, then the rest of the series, and then the revised version. It makes a nice forward loop that way.

As far as Co-Op City being in Brooklyn or the Bronx, the very first mention of Co-Op City places it in the Bronx. (DOT3, page 125).
Andy Corvin
39. Crabbe
Roland tells his ka-tet another story in the Wind, but luckily for us it is pretty good story.
Juan Manuel Guerrero
40. juanmaguerrero
First of all, thanks so much, Suzanne, for making us live or in my case re-live this amazing saga. Also I'm glad you will read The Wind Through the Keyhole, it's definitely a part of the saga and it's ending I guess will close another few themes/questions that came here at the Coda.

Just to point out a spoiler free but curious data, on "The Little Sisters of Eluria", Roland gets knocked out once and as he starts regaining concience again, he is kind of half alive half dead, and so his inconcius thinks something like "have I waked up once again on the same end?". That blew my mind off (I read it AFTER finishing the DT saga).

I agree with the idea Roland regained his humanity at several points being the "want to die in place of Jake" a key decision for him to move forward.

I guess the books ending with Browning's poem is also a way to tell us he will make the final loop next, blow the horn, climb to the top of the tower, see a much different life at the end, and then find peace or be merged with god (some questions here like for example the legends say Arthur Eld climbed the Tower and descended once, so it's not impossible for him to persue the tower and still escape the loop curse, the problem is not him wanting to get to the tower, but the means and ways he uses to accomplish that).

I have some doubts as if the CK and Flagg gets defeated/killed everytime or just this one's forever, since the MIB told the gunslinger at the Golgotha's palaver in the first book that Roland was "resuming" his quest and that he "never remembers". So it's kind of clear that Walter is conscious and very aware of the loops going on, but he seems to not be predicting his dead... but again we see a sign that seems pretty much written by Walter congratulating Susannah and Ro for reaching so far after Eddie and Jake died, so how did he knew they 2 were going to be the only survivors and else how did he wrote that if he was supposed to be dead before? Maybe Walter is just another system of control the Matrix, er, Ka, has working on it's favour...

Well, anyway, I loved this readings!! Thanks so much!! And don't forget of liitle sisters of eluria after Wind TTK :D Yay!!!
Andy Corvin
41. Harryfms
HI Folks

Did I miss something?
Is this going to continue with Wind?

Thanks to Suzanne and all who have written in
Have enjoyed
Andy Corvin
42. Ood Sigma
Hile, Suzanne, and say thankya for a fun and insightful reread. I was one who was initially unimpressed with the last 3 books of the series. Though I never outright hated the ending, I was disappointed by it. Looking back, I appreciate it much more. That the Big Bads weren't quite so big and bad is besides the point, since it's not their story but Roland's. They aren't paper tigers, however. The way I see it, they're just aspects of Roland, manifestations of all the death and negativity in his past. That they can be overcome so easily is optimistic, but defeating the darkness within yourself is not the end of the road. Reaching the clearing requires just a bit more, do ye kennit.

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