A Read of The Dark Tower

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles The Dark Tower, The Little Red King, Chapter 5

“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 time, Susannah went all gunslinger on Sayre and the Low Men and, with the help of the robot Bailey, found the last passage from Fedic back to New York. She had made brief contact with Jake and was waiting for him next to the door.

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 1

Time to catch up with Jake. We pick up at the point where Callahan finally got him to leave by telling him the vampires and low men would kill Oy and eat him. While they’re all mesmerized by the skoldpadda, Jake calls Oy to him and they go into the kitchen of the Dixie Pig.

The less-than-snappy chef doesn’t realize Jake’s not one of his kitchen mutants and orders him to start scrubbing dishes. So Jake takes off his head with an Oriza, along with all the others except for one young man who speaks a bit of English and says he’s from Ludweg, near Lud. Jake promises to let him live if he tells him if Susannah came through. The boy, Jochabim, son of Hossa, tells him yes. As they’re talking, low men periodically pop through the kitchen door, and Jake doesn’t pause before decapitating them. His Orizas won’t last forever, though.

So he tells Oy to find Susannah and sends the bumbler a mental picture of Suze. Oy noses around on the floor and finds a trail. As they leave, Jochabim tells Jake to “Mind the mind-trap.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Interesting, if not surprising, that the Dixie Pig kitchen is the one where Mia went in Susannah’s dreams, or that Jake recognizes it from the time he saw her/them. Great image of the mutants working the kitchen and the chef, a “freakish, intelligent warthog…Which meant it was cooking its own kind. That seemed perfectly fitting in the Dixie Pig.”

I kept trying to make some biblical parallels with Jochabim and Hossa, but it was a stretch, even for an old English major. So never mind. Although I did find “Jochabim Hossa” on Facebook. He has no friends. Pity.

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 2

Oy leads Jake to a closed door in the corner of the Dixie Pig pantry, and from that leads a tiled stairway. Jake counts to 120 before he loses track. At the bottom is a wide, vaulted area, and as he’s looking around Jake hears Susannah.

Someone from above spots Jake and there are gunshots, but he realizes something has crawled inside his mind, maybe a low man, and it’s holding him in place—Jake quickly figures out it’s because he has his mind wide open, trying to talk to Susannah. So he has to quickly summon a vision of doors slamming, and finally he’s able to move.

What Constant Reader Learns: So this is the point where Susannah and Jake have their brief communication, which is helpful in getting time straight.

Another 9-11 reference here. A kiosk in the lobby has a sign reading “Last Chance for New York Souvenirs” and “Visit September 11, 2011! Tix still available for this wonderful event! Asthmatics prohibited W/O Dr’s Certificate!” Of course Jake doesn’t know the significance of the date, but apparently it was weighing on sai-King as he wrote this.

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 3

Jake realizes he’s begun to sing a song—“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens—that he knew from Mrs. Shaw’s radio when he was younger. As gunshots ring out, he’s following a fast-moving Oy past machinery fallen to ruin and graffiti with such bits of wisdom as “All Hail the Crimson King” and “Bango Skank ‘84” (of which young Jake thinks, ‘Man, that guy Bango gets around’).

Then he realizes he’s singing the refrain from the song: “A-wimeweh.” Finally, he realizes what he knew but had been too busy surviving to think about it: Pere Callahan is gone. “Save perhaps for dreams, the Pere was now gone from the story. Jake began to cry. Like his smile, the tears made him once again look like a child.”

Still, he can’t shake off that song, and he knows it’s tied somehow into a movie, maybe one with monsters.

As they continue along the passageway at a fast clip, Jake realizes grass and weeds are growing out of the tiled wall. Dirt is breaking through the floor, and he sees a beetle crawling through the dirt with a red mark on its back (“Mark of the King”).

Jake asks Oy what this place is, but Oy doesn’t seem to sense anything different—he only knows that he’s onto Susannah’s scent.

What Constant Reader Learns: I like the touch of having the old steel rails along the floor of the passageway through which Jake and Oy are moving, and announcements: “Patricia ahead,” more firmly tying all the worlds together.

Poor Jake. When he’s in gunslinger mode, it’s easy to forget how young he is.

Hm…sounds as if Oy is not seeing what Jake is seeing…

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 4

Things continue to change around Jake, as the tile floor has become a jungle path, and ahead he can see a dense leaf canopy. He hears a monkey, and then the roar of a lion. He wants to run but knows the low men are behind him.

Oy knows that Ake is afraid and tired but he doesn’t understand the fear. He just wants to find Susannah, so he tries to move Jake along faster. Jake’s in a bit of a freakout, and keeps trying to remember the name of the movie he associates with that song. Finally, as he peers through a veil of leaves and sees a dinosaur walk into a clearing beyond, he remembers the movie.

What Constant Reader Learns: This is the first time, at least as near as I can remember, we’ve actually had partial scenes from Oy’s point of view, which is an interesting change, and I think these sections do a good job of making him sentient and yet not too much so, and it makes clear that Oy sees a straight, narrow corridor where Jake is seeing a twisting jungle path. And what movie? Dinosaurs and jungles…hmmm.

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 5

Once upon a time when ’Bama was four…

What Constant Reader Learns: Sai-King hasn’t teased us with a two sentence “chapter” in a while so I guess we’re overdue.

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 6

Jake’s remembering when he was very young, hanging out with Mrs. Shaw, who calls him “Bama” due to his father teaching him to cheer for the Alabama football team—it’s his secret name.

He remembers after school watching old movies, one week when his parents were out of town, and he saw The Lost Continent, starring Caesar Romero. It scared him badly at first, but as he saw it over and over, he began thinking it was stupid. But the initial terror of it stuck with him: “O here is Discordia incarnate! In the monster’s eyes he sees the utter nothing that means the end of everything, for pleading won’t work with such a monster and screaming won’t work with such a monster, it’s too dumb, all screaming does is attract the monster’s attention.”

But Mrs. Shaw is able to calm him down, “to hold up the tower of a silly little boy’s sanity.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Just ’cause it’s my alma mater…Roll Tide!

So, basically this is a long section where we’re reminded that Jake’s parents sucked and the housekeeper/cook was the only person who really seemed to care about him, or at least take care of him—her actual caring seems reserved. Maybe the description of the monster is also a description of the Crimson King.

Wonder if anything will happen with the Triceratops and the “Tyrannasorbet Wrecks”?

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 7

As he stares through the bushes at the cartoon dinosaur, Jake realizes he’s in the mind trap that Jochabim warned him about; he knows the dino isn’t real in some ways, but that it can kill him.

When Oy barks at the sound of the low men pursuing them, Jake realizes Oy doesn’t see it. To Oy, the monster isn’t there and isn’t real, but to Jake it is, so it’s dangerous to him.

Jake has an idea and tries communicating mentally with the bumbler: “Oy, can you change places with me?” And he can.

What Constant Reader Learns: Uh oh. This sounds like a great idea for Jake, but maybe not so much for Oy. If Oy gets eaten by the cartoon dinosaur while he’s Jake, will Jake be stuck in Oy’s body? Will he become Ro’s pet bumbler-son?

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 8

Oy has a hard time getting the hang of walking on two legs and carrying “Ake,” but he’s giving it the old bumbler try. As for Ake, he can see the dinosaurs through Oy’s eyes so he has to force himself to close his eyes. He tells Oy he’s got to do it on his own.

Oy finally gets moving; he can hear the low men coming up behind but has lost his powerful sense of smell; Jake-the-bumbler now has that and he can tell there are at least a dozen in pursuit, maybe more. He tells Oy-as-Jake to hurry.

What Constant Reader Learns: My favorite quote, spoken by Oy using Jake’s tongue: “Bark! Ark! Shit-bark!”

Somehow I feel Oy’s story is, like Pere Callahan’s, going to draw to a close, and I don’t want us to lose him. Maybe I’m wrong. Hope so.

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 9

Oy makes his way through the dinosaur clearing and bids Jake look once they’re through. Jake sees the corridor again, and behind them, the triceratops is doing battle with the “Tyrannasorbet Wrecks” in a scene he remembers from his movie. He asks Oy to change back with him, which Oy is eager to do. This walking upright stuff was awful. But just as they change minds and bodies, the low men catch up to them and start shooting.

What Constant Reader Learns: A really great description of Oy walking in Jake’s body down the corridor, looking like a particular old lady from Eddie’s childhood whose balance wasn’t the best and who might go “whoopsy” at any moment.

Whoopsy…gunfire!

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 10

The pursuers number seventeen, and they’re led by the only “hume” among them, a Bostonian named Flaherty who we’re told has spent the last twenty years as one of the Crimson King’s men across a variety of late-century New Yorks.

Flaherty is in a fine swivet. He’d started this pursuit with the idea of winning praise and accolades from CK and his pal Walter for his quick apprehension of the gunslinger kid. It hasn’t quite worked that way—he hadn’t anticipated the skoldpadda—so he’s now worried about what will happen to him if the kid escapes. Actually, he knows. He’ll be “sprawled on the floor with the doctor-bugs gorging on his blood.”

He can see Jake and Oy, but there’s some kind of green jungle area between them, with ridiculous cartoon dinosaurs in it. Only when the dino looks up, he morphs into a dragon, breathing fire and setting the jungle vines on fire.

With Flaherty at the front of the posse is a taheen with the head of a pig, hairy legs that protrude from his Bermuda shorts, and narrow feet with thorns at the end. Lamla the taheen knows what it is—a “mirage-maker. Yon machine trolls for what ye fear and makes it real.” And Flaherty figures that’s right because he’s afraid of dragons.

He thinks he can just ignore it, but Lamla stops him and points out that while what’s down there might not be entirely real, it is real enough to kill them. “Anyone who doesn’t think the imagination can kill is a fool.”

Lamla has an idea, though. From earlier trips to the tunnels, he remembers where the projectors lie that gather the images. Flaherty wants to forge ahead, but he realizes Lamla is right, so he might as well let him try.

So with three low men and a vamp, Lamla proceeds to fire their way through the hallway, and eventually, the forest and dragon Flaherty was been watching turns into movie footage, and then disappears.

What Constant Reader Learns: And why not nineteen pursuers, I ask?

Love this observation: “Cursed old people, always leaving their toys behind! Dangerous toys! How they complicated a man’s life! A pox on every last one!”

All the King’s men…I know! The whole series is a fantasy rendering of “Humpty Dumpty”! (Hey, it’s no more bizarre than Oz.)

Ah, this is why I love Stephen King—the deliciously warped sense of humor. As Flaherty and his mutant army run four-abreast down the hallway, he sings out a military marching cadence: “We don’t care how far you run/We’ll bring you back before we’re done/You can run to Cain or Lud/We’ll eat your balls and drink your blood.” Sound off, one two, sound off, three four….well, you get the idea.

 

The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King; Chapter 5: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, Section 11

Jake hears them coming, and he’s exhausted but gives himself a “What would Roland do” talking-to. He sees a door ahead, and he’s praying Susannah is on the other side. But if she is or she isn’t, he figures this is where he and Oy will make their stand.

Oy reaches the door first: New York/Fedic: Verbal Entry Code Required, #9 Final Default. He pounds on the door and calls for Susannah, and when she doesn’t respond, he puts his back to the door and pulls out a couple of his remaining Orizas.

He finally hears Suze through the door, however, and she tells him the code word is “chassit.” Flaherty gets off one good shot before the door opens and Susannah pulls Jake through. It slams shut twenty seconds before Flaherty reaches it, with Jake and Oy safe on the other side.

What Constant Reader Learns: Just in case we’re too relieved that Jake and Oy reached the door in time, we’re given this shard of foreshadowing: “For yet a little while longer the core of Roland’s ka-tet remained unbroken.” Implying that after a little while longer, it will be broken.


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.

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