“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 bid a fond farewell to Pere Don Callahan, who killed himself just before the real vampires, the Grandfathers, ate him—thus saving Jake and Oy, or at least buying them some time to try and get to Susannah.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 2: Lifted on the Wave, Section 1
Back in Bridgton, Maine, we’re with Eddie and Roland trying to find their way from sai-King’s house to 1999 New York, where they’re apparently about to experience a wave “rushing down the Path of the Beam toward them.”
First, though, they stop and ask a worker on a power truck how to get to Turtleback Lane in Lovell, and he tells them they’ll have to take The Bog Road, which is “jouncy as a bugger.” The most direct route is still tied up with the aftermath of the shootout at the general store that took place a few hours earlier.
Roland is anxious to move along, because “everything’s breaking at once.” The baby’s coming and he senses things are reaching a crisis with the others. Eddie, too, feels things moving on. He “had an almost palpable sense of time slipping through his fingers like some fabulously expensive cloth that was too smooth to grip.”
And shortly afterward, the wave hit.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie is still pondering that he’s met his creator. Or, rather, “Stephen King hadn’t created Eddie Dean, a young man whose Co-Op City happened to be in Brooklyn rather than the Bronx—not yet, not in that year of 1977.” His head’s spinning a bit from him, and you can’t blame him.
Seems like FOREVER ago that we read the shootout chapter with Roland and Eddie.
Given the recent tie-in to 9/11, interesting that the power company guy says people think maybe it was a terrorist act that caused the ruckus. Or, rather, the “T-word,” and Eddie isn’t sure what the T-word is. He also gives some thought to the fact that the guy told them to turn on Kansas Road, what with their Wizard of Oz connection.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 2: Lifted on the Wave, Section 2
Riding the cosmic wave, Eddie and Roland join all the items in Cullum’s old car—and the car itself—in floating, no longer a slave to gravity. Then Eddie loses sight of the world around him and hears the todash chimes.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie notes that “Bridgton was gone. The world was gone. There was the sound of todash chimes, repulsive and nauseating, making him want to grit his teeth in protest…except his teeth were gone, too.” So what prompted this wave…ka? The connection with Susannah? A natural adjustment of time moving on? The beam slipping?
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 2: Lifted on the Wave, Section 3
We shift to Roland’s point of view now, and he indeed feels as if he’s been lifted and hung, like he’s lost his connection to Earth’s gravity. He understands this isn’t really todash but is what Vannay had called “aven kal,” lifted on the wind.
“The very Beam means to speak to you,” he hears Vannay say in his mind, and he finds himself floating above a room filled with empty beds, and he realizes it’s where the Wolves brought the kids from the Calla. Eddie is floating alongside them.
They finally see Susannah and Mia on adjacent beds, and Roland thinks he has to calm Eddie down because whatever she says to them won’t be coming to her, but from the Beam itself—the voice of the bear or of the turtle.
Susannah has spotted them, and she speaks one word in the Voice of the Beam: Chassit. The word takes him back to his nursery with his mother, when he thought everything was magic, even the stained glass windows representing the Bends o’ the Rainbow. And he remembers the word “chassit” from a nursery rhyme and it means “Nineteen.”
When the bird-nurse wields his handy forceps and Susannah and Mia scream, Roland is pushed away “like a milkweed pod lifted and carried on a gust of October wind.”
He comes to his senses overlooking Callahan and Jake—“his son, a boy so small and terribly outnumbered in the dining room of the Dixie Pig.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I keep picturing Eddie and Ro as some adult version of the floating embryo in 2001; it isn’t a pretty picture.
Just as I’m whining about why the Beam has decided it’s time to chat, we’re told the Beam is “a force perhaps sentient enough to understand how seriously it was threatened, and to want to protect itself.”
Is it just me, or does anyone else get kind of squicked out from Roland thinking of the curve of his mother’s neck with the eye of a child and the soul of a lover, “thinking how he would court her and win her from his father; how they would marry and have childen of their own…”
The verse of the nursery rhyme bothers him, especially “enough to fill my basket.” He doesn’t have any idea what it means but knows it’s important. Sorry, Roland, I don’t have a clue.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 2: Lifted on the Wave, Section 4
Back in Bridgton, John Cullum’s Ford is seesawing in the air about six inches off the ground. Inside are the two men who are not just unconscious, but transparent.
What Constant Reader Learns: And sai-King keeps anticipating my objections, in this case—“wouldn’t someone notice a floating, seesawing car?” To which I am informed: “No one did come along. Those who lived on this side of Long Lake were mostly looking across the water toward the East Stoneham side.”
Gotta appreciate this image: “Eddie also rose, his face slack and dreaming. A silver line of drool escaped the corner of his mouth and floated, shining and full of miniscule bubbles, beside one blood-crusted cheek.”
So…is the Crimson King aware that the Beam has reached out to Roland and Eddie to directly intervene in things? Is that allowed in the Beam rulebook? And if the Beam can reach out and pass messages along to those who would hear, possibly influence their actions, how did it get in such a mess to begin with? Hard to be both omnipotent and impotent simultaneously…not that I’d know but it sounds good.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 2: Lifted on the Wave, Section 5
Susannah might have seen Roland, but Callahan and Jake are a little occupied at the moment. Roland recognizes that Callahan’s low men are “taheen, creatures neither of the Prim nor of the natural world but misbegotten things from somewhere between the two.” These are sometimes also known as the “can-toi,” or third people. If all of them are now serving the Crimson King, Roland figures their “road to the Tower would be difficult indeed.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Ha ha ha ha. “Roland knew that Susannah had seen him, had probably seen Eddie, as well. That was why she’d labored to hard to speak…” Labor, get it?
Roland believes the skoldpadda to be a “can-tah,” one of the little gods.
Well, this is ominous. As Roland is thinking how the taheen might make their quest difficult, we’re told: “To look beyond the horizon was not much in the gunslinger’s nature, and in this case his lack of imagination was surely a blessing.” That calls for a big “uh-oh.”
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 2: Lifted on the Wave, Section 6:
Roland assesses the situation and sees that the taheen, who are mesmerized by the skoldpadda, are not the real problem for Callahan and Jake—it is those who are behind the tapestry with the “blasphemous parody of Eld’s Last Fellowship….The low folk might only be taheen; a child’s ogres, if it did ya. Those behind the tapestry were what Callahan had called Type One vampires and what Roland himself knew as the Grandfathers, perhaps the most gruesome and powerful survivors of the Prim’s long-ago recession.”
Roland also recognizes the bugs, which he calls “Grandfather-fleas,” but he figures they’ll be contained with Oy present.
But Roland needs to intervene, so he “swims” into Callahan.
What Constant Reader Learns: Interesting that Roland’s word for bird is “waseau,” the pronunciation for ouiseau, the French word for bird.
It’s pretty cool to see what actually happened in the first chapter, from the other viewpoint. Guess we now know how Callahan channeled Roland. More like was possessed by Roland.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 2: Lifted on the Wave, Section 7:
Might as well just quote the entire section:
“Pere, I am here.”
“Aye, Roland. What—”
“No time. GET HIM OUT OF HERE. You must. Get him out while there’s still time.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Because he knows Jake has a role ahead and Callahan does not, or because he loves Jake? Or both?
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 2: Lifted on the Wave, Section 8:
Callahan tries to get Jake to leave but, as we know from last week, he doesn’t respond. He doesn’t want to leave Callahan. Looking through the Pere’s eyes, Roland thinks, “I should have schooled him better in betrayal. Yet all the gods know I did the best I could.”
So Roland comes forward, seizes control and uses Callahan’s voice to order Jake as his dinh—leave.
As soon has he’s spoken, he is once more tossed around by the wave, and he hears Eddie asking “what in God’s name are those things?” They are the Grandfathers, who are advancing on Callahan.
This time, Callahan uses his own voice….except Roland thinks it’s not his voice but Eddie’s, telling Jake that the vampires will eat Oy. That, of course, gets him moving and the vampires pay no attention to him as he goes.
Then the todash chimes begin again, and they’re flung up, grasping each other’s hands, hoping not to be separated and “lost in the doorless dark between the worlds.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Yeah, Jake was plenty schooled in betrayal, Roland, but he’s young enough to believe love is more important than the Tower.
Yikes. I knew that “doorless dark between worlds” was going to be an issue.
And…that’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue our read of the final book of the Dark Tower saga.