Stephen King's Dark Tower ending. Open spoilers

I’m going through Sai King’s Dark Tower series for the second time, this time on Audible. Even though I’m just on the Drawing of the Three, I can’t help but think about the ending. Not Roland’s ending, but the ending for Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy. It’s been about 10 years since I first read the books, and with those 10 extra years of life experience, I think I now understand what King was going for. I still don’t like the way he ended the stories of the ka-tet, but I think I understand what he was going for.

King was trying to give them a happy ending, although IMHO he badly missed. He didn’t have to kill off Eddie Dean, Jake Chambers, and Oy the billy bumbler, and trade them for Eddie Toren, Jake Toren, and Oy the golden retriever, but he did. Their deaths weren’t necessary to advance the plot. He didn’t have to let Susannah live, but he did. Why? I think the key is when Susannah starts to lose her memories of her time on the quest of the tower. Why would she lose her memories and then proceed to, paraphrasing how King put it they didn’t live happily ever after (because nobody does), but they did live, and they were happy. I think King thought hat having the members of the ka-tet live and settle down somewhere in Mid-World (maybe the Callas?) would be a punishment rather than a reward. So what was his solution? Kill (most) of them off and have them live a happy life in one of the parallel worlds.

I don’t know if this is what King was thinking, but I bet it’s pretty close to the truth. What I don’t get is why he would think that forgetting about all their time spent together on the quest would be a good thing. What do you all think? Does King likely think of the ending that the ka-tet got as a happy ending? If so, why would he think that having them forget about all their time spent together was a good thing?

First, I agree that it was a poor choice, or rather, implemented poorly. Killing Jake, especially, in a fairly meaningless car accident even if it saves the ur-author King, felt cheap.

But as for the whys? I think at some level, it’s an effort to emphasize the cyclic nature of the story. From the POV of the reader, the story begins with Roland alone driven by his quest, and therefore must end with him equally alone as he finally enters the Tower.

Which in and of itself, further drives how terrifying it must have been for the cycle to begin anew - the aforementioned “This is not a happy ending” where the author begs us not to continue reading.

In short, everyone else gets an ENDING, happy or otherwise, but Roland does not / cannot.

Which is why the memories must be lost. Otherwise there’s the chance, however small, that the cycle may be interrupted by a prior echo.

It a far future cycle, where Roland’s sins may well be wiped clean, and the tower is not at risk, then, and only then, do I see a cycle where Roland completes his quest with his ka-tet, whether that was the one of his youth, a new formed one, or a distant echo of the ones from the cycle we read through.

But I doubt that story will ever be written.

It’s not a happy ending. It’s heavily hinted at that without the Horn of Eld there was never a way for Roland to complete his quest. Roland finally makes it to the tower but he’s missing the horn and his gun is no substitute.

The second time around he retrieves the horn and so there’s hope.

I don’t mean happy for Roland, I mean happy for Susannah, Eddie Dean (not Toren), Jake Chambers (not Toren), and Oy the billy bumbler (not the golden retriever).

But how could that ever happen in light of the story as we know it? Roland, will not, CAN not give up his quest, as is proven repeatedly through the series. And he can and will (and has!) sacrifice even those he arguably loves following the path. He’s done it before and will do it again.

And bastard that he is, he’s charismatic enough to drag everyone along with him, even though they know it to be true. So, either we get a happy fairytale ending in which Roland got to the tower with everyone alive and they all settled down together, or we get the dark fantasy which the series always leaned into and the ka-tet dropped away one by one.

The only surprise to the readers is that Susannah DOES break away after losing everyone else. Because she realizes that while Roland does care, it doesn’t STOP him from doing what he does. In fact, that’s probably the key realization that sets up the final ending. The story gives her a version of the fairytale ending, but without the loss of everyone else, I doubt she could or would ever have broken away.

Prior to the final novel, I honestly expected something closer to a traditional western end, in which the ka-tet fought and died together (as did the first) leaving only Roland, battered and defiant, dragging his wounded body into the tower, fade to black. Leaving the end as ambiguous as elements of the beginning. The actual ending was sufficiently forshadowed as not to be innappropriate, but the end of the Crimson King felt . . . seriously anti-climatic.

I think there’s room for an in between ending. One in which the ka-tet settles down in Mid-world and leave Roland to get to the tower by himself. Sure, the cycle starts all over for Roland, but by then the beams are safe, and the world is no longer moving on. Roland still needs the tower, but after Algul Siento the tower no longer needs Roland. Even though it won’t be ever after, the ka-tet can still live and be happy in that version of Mid-world.

I can certainly see that happen in a future cycle, one in which Roland was, for example, NOT willing to leave Jake to die, and has therefore learned that sacrificing those he holds dear to complete his quest will bring nothing but pain.

But in the cycle we’re reading? No.

That brings up interesting questions about how the quest would go in such a cycle. Unlike the deaths in the last book which don’t seem to be needed to move the plot forward, Jake’s second death does seem necessary to move things forward. What happens if Roland saves him? Do they still meet The Man in Black? If they do, when Roland ages 10 years after the long palaver, does Jake do the same? How do Jake (now around 21 instead 11 in this hypothetical cycle) and Eddie get along being that they will both be about the same age rather than the older brother / younger brother relationship they actually had? All kinds of things change, and it would make for an interesting quest to speculate about.

Or if you go into a different NY, perhaps it’s one where King wasn’t hit by the van or finished the series in the 80s-mid-90s. What would that cycle look like compared to the one we got?

I realllllllly disliked the final 3 books the first time I read them. I just recently reread them and I liked them a lot better, especially Wolves, but I was disappointed. Plus while Patrick was certainly integral to the finish, it felt like it was built up even more in Insomnia than it actually ended up. That could have just been me, as I really loved Insomnia.

I’m going to regret this:

My takeaway is, sometime before the first book, Roland was killed (probably dishonorably) and spent a seven book trek through Hell and all the fun things that would entail. My reason for this thought: when Roland ascends the Tower, he encounters highly personal experiences, which the Tower – being a machine – would have no reason to be generating. Wouldn’t the ultimate Hell be attaining your loftiest goal only to be told Sorry, chump, start again, exit here? Maybe his next trip through Hell is a complete replay of the entire seven books which he may/may not remember and just be damned to repeat. Maybe he’ll have some knowledge of his previous jaunt and that will affect things in an even worse way. So many maybes – Hell is fun that way, innit?

Roland himself is odd compared to all the other characters, even the Tower itself. Everyone / everything seems to have their twinner, even the Tower taking the form of a rose in our world. Everything and everyone, that is, except Roland himself. It’s almost like he’s a demigod or force of nature of some sort rather than a person (which is the reason I find myself not caring if Roland himself has a happy ending or not). Like Walter says when drawing the cards for his fortune, “death gunslinger, but not for you” and then “life gunslinger, but not for you.” He won’t die, but is he truly living?

Did-a-chick? :wink:

Exactly :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:. He can die, he just won’t, because there’s no story without him.

In one of the books, Roland, I think, says gunslingers don’t get happy endings. When Susanne makes her way into the next world, she finds that her revolver is usless and tosses it into the trash. She finds some happiness once she stops being a gunslinger.

I’ve interpreted the entirety of the story as the Tower manipulating Roland and company to repair what needs repairing. The Tower rewards Susanna by giving her a happy ending, but still has work for Roland. In Roland’s next adventure, maybe he’ll end up helping the Bear find a cure for whatever infection he has with an entirely different set of companions. Maybe Roland’s destined to never finish his quest, and will forever be doing the bidding of the Tower.

Right. That’s why I think it’s possible for the others to retire from the life of gunslinging after Algul Siento, assuming a little better luck (OK, after Dandelo and Mordred, but that’s a formality). Leave off on the quest for the tower, retire from the gunslinging, find a nice little corner of Mid-world to settle down in, and let Roland walk that last mile by himself.

If the whole restarting the cycle is a problem, there’s an elegant way around that. The door at the top of the tower that says Roland can open up at the doorstep of the new home that Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy are building rather than back in the middle of the Mohaine desert.