“Cast your nets, wanderers! Try me with your questions, and let the contest begin.”
—Blaine the Mono, to Roland and the Ka-Tet, at the end of The Waste Lands
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 sections, join me by commenting here.
After Constant Reader was almost cast out of Mid-World after expressing what was apparently a shocking distaste for The Wizard of Oz (she suspects a conspiracy led by Toto), we return to the ka-tet as they don their flashy red shoes, click their heels together, and get ready to meet the Great One.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 3, The Wizard, Section 1
On the way in the gates, Roland stops at the sentry box and picks up a “newspaper.” The page reads: The Oz Daily Buzz, Vol. 1568, No. 96: Daily Buzz, Daily Buzz, Handsome Iz as Handsome Duzz”…Weather: Here today, gone tomorrow…Lucky numbers: None…Prognosis: Bad. The text reads “blah blah blah….yak yak yak…..good is bad bad is good all the stuff’s the same…go slow past the drawers…Blaine is a pain….charyou tree…baked turkey cooked goose…ride a train die in pain…blah blah blah.”
Below the text is a photo of Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake crossing the courtyard (as they’d done only seconds earlier) with the caption: “Tragedy in Oz: Travellers Arrive Seeking Fame and Fortune; Find Death Instead.”
Eddie is a little disturbed by the photo, and Roland tries to reassure him: “Don’t be afraid of this,” he says. “This is a joke.” Eddie doesn’t think so—he’s lived with Henry Dean, after all. “I know when there’s a plot to psych me out afoot…I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you’re the one who looks scared, Roland.”
To which Roland replies, “I’m terrified.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Okay, this is pretty funny, I have to admit. Is there significance to the numbers? The picture of them walking across the courtyard, which they’d done only seconds before, is totally creepy-brilliant.
I’ve meant to mention this before—it annoys me because I’m a certified geek about this kind of thing, but why do these books insist on using the British spelling for “travelers”? “Travellers’ Rest” in Mejis: “Travellers” in Oz” here, etc. It matters not a bit; I just stumble over it as I’m reading and have an itchy urge to pull out a red pen like some oppressed 1940s schoolteacher.
Yep, Ro and Eddie, I’d be totally creeped out by this as well.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 3, The Wizard, Section 2
The group walks up to a pair of doors, and Susannah reads the sign: “Bell out of order, please knock.” Roland starts to knock, but she stops him, pointing out that it’s from the story and isn’t real.
Eddie steps up first and opens the doors into what looks like “a shadowy green grotto.” He yells, and his voice echoes back to him. “Do we have to do this?” he asks Roland.
“If we want to get back to the Beam, I think so,” Roland answers.
Roland leads them into a room with a green glass floor. As soon as they get inside, the doors slam shut behind them with a boom.
What Constant Reader Learns: SK is such a master of suspense. This is no longer silly at all. In fact, it’s pretty stressful.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 3, The Wizard, Section 3
The group enter a long, vaulted hallway whose glass walls are lit with a faint green glow, and Jake thinks it’s just like the hallway in the movie. Of course Eddie makes it worse with his Cowardly Lion impersonation: “Wait a minute, fellas, I wuz just thinkin—I really don’t wanna see the Wizard this much. I better wait for you outside!”
Ahead of them, the corridor ends in a narrow green doorway “of amazing height—perhaps thirty feet from the floor to its pointed tip.” From behind it they hear a steady thrumming sound, which Jake recognizes as the sound he’d heard in the bowels of Lud when he was being held by Gasher and the sound they’d heard from Blain the Mono—the sound of “slo-trans engines.”
This is Jake’s nightmare, his psych-out, and he’s almost in tears when Roland comforts him. “What you feel is an illusion,” he says. “Stand and be true.”
On this door is another sign, from Dante: Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. So Roland pulls open the door.
What Constant Reader Learns: SK must have been doing some serious, um, imagination enhancement during this section because the description and detail of the whole Green Palace is pretty amazing.
I think Susannah was the only who understood the nod to Dante’s version of hell. Maybe that’s part of her psych-out.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 3, The Wizard, Section 4
What lay beyond the door was “a weird combination of The Wizard of Oz and Blaine the Mono: “A thick rug (pale blue, like the one in the Barony Coach) lay on the floor. The chamber was like the nave of a cathedral, soaring to impenetrable heights of greenish-black. The pillars which supported the glowing walls were great glass ribs of alternating green and pink light; the pink was the exact shade of Blaine’s hull.”
The only furnishing is an enormous throne made of green glass. Jake thinks the back might be fifty feet high…or a hundred. It was marked with the red eye symbol, this time in red instead of yellow. Above the throne are thirteen giant vertical cylinders of different colors, with a black one in the middle, same as the outer gate.
When Susannah yells and asks if anyone’s there, the cylinders pulse with a blinding light, then fade away. Panels slide open in the arms of the throne, and a rose-colored smoke drafts out of them. The dark panels rise and Blaine’s route map appears with the same stops: Lud, Candleton, Rilea, The Falls of the Hounds, Dasherville, Topeka.
Never mind Roland’s words—Jake is freaked out. “This place might look a little bit like the throne room of Oz the Great and Terrible, but it was really Blaine the Mono. They were back aboard Blaine, and soon the riddling would begin all over again.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Please see earlier note on imagination-enhancers. I need me some of those! I’d love to see some good illustrations of the palace. Anyone know of any?
I think the mind games are really interesting here—what Eddie calls the “psych-out” games. It reminds me of what was, for me, the scariest thing about It. The horror/monster/evil would morph into whatever most frightened the individual it was encountering. This is Jake’s worst nightmare, so that’s what he sees.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 3, The Wizard, Section 5
Eddie recognizes the voice that booms out of the route-map: “Hello there again, little trailhands.” But he doesn’t believe it’s Blaine the Mono or the Wizard of Oz, either one. He realizes the voice is coming from the pipes.
But when he looks down and sees Jake’s face, he realizes the boy is petrified. He assures him it’s all a trick: “Those pipes are speakers. Even a pipsqueak can sound big through a twelve-speaker Dolby sound-system…It has to sound big because it’s a bumhug, Jake.”
The voice doesn’t much like this and demands to know what Eddie is saying—“one of your stupid, nasty-minded little jokes? One of your unfair riddles?”
When Eddie asks who he is, he, of course, says he is “Oz the great, Oz the powerful.”
Next, Susannah takes over, telling “Oz” that they want what everyone wants—to go home again. “Do you want to go back to New York?” he asks them, but Susannah says, “New York isn’t home for us anymore. No more than Gilead is home for Roland. Take us back to the Path of the Beam.”
“Oz” tells them to go away and come back tomorrow, and channels a little Scarlett O’Hara: “We’ll talk about the beam tomorrow, for tomorrow is another day.”
Susannah makes a good point: “Sugar, you best listen now. What you don’t want to do is arouse the wrath of folks with guns. Especially when you be livin in a glass house.” High five, Susannah.
“Oz” has a bit of a temper tantrum as smoke boils out of the arms of the throne, the route-map melts and the smoke reforms into a face “narrow and hard and watchful, framed by long hair.” Susannah thinks it’s the face of Jonas. As “Oz” continues to bluster, Eddie and the others start watching Oy, who “had no interest in smoke-ghosts, whether they were monorail route-maps, dead Coffin Hunters, or just Hollywood special effects of the pre-World War II variety.” Oy makes his way to a curtain across an alcove in the left wall, grabs the fabric in his teeth, and yanks.
What Constant Reader Learns: I love that as this conversation with “Oz” progresses, both Eddie and Susannah gradually start to find it more amusing than frightening. And that Oy is the one who sniffs out the real culprit.
Interesting that Roland has had no reaction to any of this so far, that we’ve seen. If the smoke-face was indeed supposed to look like Jonas, especially. Although he might be watching and trying to figure it out, letting the others take the lead, as he did through much of the early part of the ride on Blaine the Mono.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 3, The Wizard, Section 6
Behind the curtain are flashing lights, spinning cylinders, lit dials. But Jake focuses on the man sitting at the console wearing a headset and a microphone. The man’s still speaking and threatening them, unaware they’re all standing behind him.
“It is Jonas,” Eddie whispers, but Jake knows better. He knows exactly who it is. Finally, Oy barks, and the man begins to turn. And of course it isn’t a wizard at all; it is David Quick’s grandson, the Tick-Tock Man.
What Constant Reader Learns: Great image of “Oz” with all the ka-tet standing behind his exposed back, unaware.
Ticky! I wondered when he was going to pop up again, after getting his marching orders during the fall of Lud.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 3, The Wizard, Section 7
Jake is horrified to see Tick-Tock alive and grosser than ever.
Then a voice comes from behind them: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” The voice titters, and Jake turns to see there’s now a man sitting on the great thrown. He’s wearing jeans, a dark jacket and rundown cowboy boots. On his jacket is a button with a pig’s head with a bullet-hole between the eyes. He has a drawstring bag in his lap.
The Flagg-in-Black stands and tells Andrew to kill them all, and Ticky jumps up and goes for a machine-gun propped in the corner, screaming “My life for you.”
The ka-tet goes to work. Oy sinks his teeth in Ticky’s thigh. Eddie and Susannah each lift one of Roland’s guns and fire—one tearing off the top of Ticky’s head and mucking up the computer console, the other hitting his throat. This time, Ticky falls for good. (Or so we assume.)
Roland finally speaks: “Marten Broadcloak. After all these years. After all these centuries.” Eddie hands him his revolver, and Roland slowly lifts it. “Finally,” he says. “Finally in my sights.”
What Constant Reader Learns: It’s been a while since we had a Stephen King gross-out moment, so let us bask in the juiciness of: “His left eye—the one Oy had punctured with his claws—bulged white and misshapen, partly in its socket and partly on his unshaven cheek. The right side of his head looked half-scalped, the skull showing through in a long, triangular strip.”
Marten! I’d been expecting Walter, and when I hear rundown cowboy boots I think Randall Flagg. Are they in fact different, or just different manifestations of the same?
What’s the significance of the pig button?
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 3, The Wizard, Section 8
“That six-shooter will do you no good, as I think you know,” says the man. “Not against me.” Roland pulls the trigger anyway, only to hear a dull click.
Marten—or whatever he calls himself—has a deal: “You and your friends could have a fine, fruitful life…” he tells Roland. “No more lobstrosities, no more mad trains, no more disquieting—not to mention dangerous—trips to other worlds. All you have to do is give over this stupid and hopeless quest for the Tower.”
It’s not Roland who answers, but Eddie, with a firm no, followed by negatives from Susannah, Jake, and Oy.
“What about you?” asks “the dark man on the green throne,” holding up his drawstring bag, which began to pulse from within with pink light. “Cry off, and they need never see what’s inside this—they need never see the last scene of that sad long-ago play. Cry off. Turn from the Tower and go your way.”
Finally, Roland says “no,” and smiles. As he smiles, the man’s smile falters. He says he calls himself Flagg now, and they had met before “in the wreck of Gilead,” as Roland and his “surviving pals” set off for the Tower.
Roland pulls out Eddie’s Ruger—which he thinks perhaps hasn’t been enchanted like his own guns—and the man drops the glass ball. Roland’s gun gets caught on his belt-buckle for an infinitesimal second, but it’s enough for Flagg to disappear in a puff of red smoke.
The ball was there, though, unharmed and glowing pink. Roland picks it up, and gives serious consideration to smashing it. He believes the Green Palace was their last obstacle to returning to the Path of the Beam. But he hears a voice telling him he has to finish the last scene of the story—the voice of ka.
Roland realizes that if they are to continue as a ka-tet, there must be no secrets. He would have to tell them about the last time he looked into the wizard’s glass, three nights after the welcoming banquet. But no, the voice says—don’t tell them, show them. So he calls them around him.
“We are ka-tet,” he says, holding out the ball. “We are one from many. I lost my one true love at the beginning of my quest for the Dark Tower. Now look into this wretched thing, if you would, and see what I lost not long after.”
And they all look.
What Constant Reader Learns: Okay. Martin/Walter/Man in Black/Flagg. The only one to call him Marten is Roland, before Flagg identifies himself, so I’m wondering if this is another “psych-out” guise for Roland’s benefit—his worst nightmare. Does it matter what he calls himself? Stephen King calls him “the dark man on the green throne” and “the man on the throne” and “the wizard.” Finally, Roland calls him “Marten…or Maerlyn…or whoever you call yourself now…” and he identifies himself as Randall Flagg.
Well, as I recall from The Gunslinger, Roland killed his mother, so I assume that is the last part of the ugly story we’re about to hear….
So, if the power behind Flagg & Co. (Crimson King) were assured of the failure of Roland’s quest, why would he even try to dissuade them? Which makes me think Roland and the ka-tet has at least a chance of succeeding in…setting time right, or whatever they hope to ultimately accomplish at the Tower. But it’s midnight and I could be babbling.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll finish (at long last) Wizard and Glass.