Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series

Ever since I read Black House, the King/Straub sequel to The Talisman, I’ve been drawn back into the Dark Tower series. So now I’m trying to read Wizard and Glass.

Fantasy is not my usual reading material; I can’t explain it, but even though I’m able to read Star Trek and Star Wars and a bit other Science Fiction to an extent, I’ve just never been able to enjoy fantasy writing. I finally, this summer, read the entire Lord of the Rings (and admittedly had to skim through some parts of it, but I’ll go back and re-read the book again, probably after I see Two Towers) and I did enjoy it. There are so many questions that come up for me, though. I realize that King is famous (or is that infamous? ;)) for interweaving characters from one book or story into other books, but the Mid-World of the Gunslinger has me really confused! Is it some sort of “alternate universe” to our world? Some where or place that could have happened in this world but didn’t for some reason or other? Was there some sort of nuclear war there? How would things have advanced so quickly in that world, yet not in our world? I do recall that time moves differently in mid-world, maybe that’s the explanation. Has King “explained” this yet in the books? I’m about 200 pages into Wizard and Glass so far, btw. I can stand spoilers too, especially if they help me to understand the fantasy.

And I would greatly appreciate any explanation of the epic poem/story that Dark Tower is supposedly based upon too. :slight_smile:

I am so hoping that this generates -a lot- of dialogue! I really do like the series and would very much like to discuss it with others who have read it (and understand it better than I :))

thanks in advance,


It is based on this work by Robert Browning, Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came. This is the complete text that I’ve linked to.

Someone told me last night that Stephen King announced his retirement a few months ago. Dare it not be as such, for this wonderful story of his is not yet completed.


He can claim retirement all he wants to. A writer doesn’t just give up on writing. Slow down? Sure. Take a sabbatical? Yeah. Stop cold turkey? Nope.

But, FTR, King has promised to finish the series before stopping.

Mid-World seems to be an amalgam of our universe and many of King’s fictional worlds.

The Wizard and the Glass is the (imho) least accessible of the series. I consider it to be an extended prologue. The story picks up instantly at the Drawing of the Three and keeps rolling from there on. King seems to mix his ideas around the beam, mid-world and the dark tower from book to book, I think you very much get a sense of the fact that the idea has been developing throughout all of his books. An example is the remotness of the Crimson King in most books and his extreme closeness in Insomnia (and possibly IT? I haven’t reread IT in about 15 years, long before I started noticing the m-w references in his books).

I have had some of the same questions about the series. I recognize most of the characters/worlds from King’s other novels that step in and out of the story, and can’t imagine how confusing it must be for others who don’t. As to what happened in the Gunslinger’s world, I imagine that, rather than a nuclear war, they just gradually destroyed the natural environment, and perhaps had a nuclear accident or two, and the beams and portals were set up to try to stop the degradation of that world. I could be totally off base, though.

My take on it–although always shifting–is this:

The entire universe consists of an infinite number of realities–or “levels” on the tower. The tower serves as the lynch pin, the common axle upon which the wheel of each reality spins. Things happening in one reality can influence or leak over into another, especially in Mid-World because of the degradation, referred to in the common saying “The world is moving on”. The “Old Ones” who installed the beams and built the guardians to protect them were probably a more advanced version of our society–and things like the Citgo oil fields and the train cars suggest that their development closely mirrored our own. In The Waste Lands, however, we see the remnants of a land blasted by some type of nuclear accident or conflict–populated by mutants and monsters. It was after this destruction, and most likely similar occurances throughout Roland’s world, that the Old ways were forgotten and the society gradually degraded into the “western-ish” version we see Roland and his ka-tet travelling through.

Further complicating things is the existence of the thinnies, and the portals that sometimes open between separate realities like the ones that Eddie, Susannah, and Jake came through. This leads to things like “Hey Jude” being a well known tune even over in Mid-World where The Beatles most likely never played a gig. Also, if you’ll remember, Jonas–among others–seems to have the ability to either create these portals or simply to find them, meaning he can travel in and out of his own world as well as others. Marten–the wizard with whom Roland’s mother was having an affair–seems to be Randall Flagg, who appeared in The Stand and tried to take advantage of the plague in that reality and take power. He failed, but we see that he’s far from dead, simply moving about in other worlds and doing the same thing. What his motives are is anyone’s guess. He seems to serve the Crimson King, at least in some way, but I think his main objective is simply to spread chaos. For in chaos he can have the most control.

I agree that Wizard and Glass is the least zippy of the stories so far. It’s mainly background characterization for Roland, and serves to show how he became the man he is as well as filling in a few gaps about the recent history of Mid-World. Keep the faith though, the last thirty pages will blow you away–

When they come upon the Emerald Palace in the city of Oz, I was floored. I still haven’t decided if, in that reality, Oz was a true place; one that Frank Baum may have somehow visited, returned from, and written about in our world. Or, if Flagg simply plucked the story from the traveler’s collective consciousness and created the images they saw to throw them off balance and confuse them.

As to King finishing the story–I’ve actually heard that book five, The Wolves of Calla (?) is already completed. However, he’s sitting on it until the last two are also done so that they can be released bam, bam, bam–like the Rings trilogy has been. I also suspect he’s doing this so that he doesn’t put something down as canon that he’d later have to work around in the final book after changing his mind about some detail or the direction he’d like to go. This way he can finish the story, and tweak what needs tweaked before anyone is the wiser. Still though, there’s some days I’d like to visit his house and slap him upside the head for keeping me in suspense this long. I WANT MY D.T.V!!!


Roland’s universe exists on a blade of grass in an empty lot in New York. Really, read the first one. I bet King wishes he could take that back now. :wink:

As to the series, it’s simply an exploration of an old science fiction idea that there are an infinite number of universes, many so similar to ours that you wouldn’t even know if you were dropped into the middle of them and just as many completely different. King’s way of documenting this is by mentioning details that are just slightly different or off kilter, for example: After Roland and crew survive Blane the Mono in DT III, they find themselves in the world in which The Stand took place. One of the cars in the lot has a bumper sticker for the local Major League Baseball team-the Kansas City Kings.

As has been said, the Tower itself is the axis upon which all realities spin. It’s the lynchpin, the hub.

I also REALLY, REALLY wish he’d get DT V out ASAP.

Belladonna makes a really good point there about the tower being a lynchpin around which the “wheels” spin. I see the moving on as being a shimmy in the wheels, and that our world and mid-world would be on adjoining levels. The shimmy in the wheel causes it to rub against ours in places as it spins, and this would be the thinnies, portals and general “slippage” shown in the books.

If the shimmy (moving on) of mid-world isn’t stopped or stabilised (by the protection of the stabilising Beams) then there is the risk that they start other worlds a-shimmying as well. If you have an infinate number of wheels shimmying independantly, well that sure is going to knock that lynchpin all to hell, no?

How apprehensive will you be when you pick up the last volume? We’ve all been waiting a long time for the end. I hope King has carefully thought it out.

I really loved The Gunslinger, was less enthralled with The Drawing of the Three, and The Wastelands left me utterly cold – I couldn’t finish it. Oh well. “Moved on,” I guess. :slight_smile:

Tarragon, if you’re enjoying the series, I recommend you pick up Eyes of the Dragon, which has a lot of overlap with The Dark Tower. It’s a decent bit of children’s literature-- King wrote it for his daughter Naomi, who had complained about being “shielded” from daddy’s scary stories.

Also, here’s a link to the classic english faerie story, Child Rowland. Don’t run around a church widdershins, or you may never see middle earth again!

The good news:
Dark Tower 5,“Wolves of the Calla” will be out in September 2003. Then 6, “Song of Susannah” will follow in the November 2003!!! Book 7, “The Dark Tower” will conclude the series in March 2004.

The bad news:
These books will all be published by Donald M. Grant Publishers first. Thats right, DMG, so don’t expect to purchase any of these books from your local bookstore for under $30. I read somewhere that it will probably be around a year after the dates above that normal editions of these books come out.

The SK timeline of releases:

The DMG page for DT 5:

If you want to understand these, you really do have to read them in order. They just don’t make much sense, I think, if you don’t start at the beginning.

Thank you thank you thank all so much for all the great discussion and information!!!

First, FisherQueen, I have read the books in order; it’s just been a while since I read them. I got Wizard and Glass when it first came out, back in 97, but couldn’t slog through it then. Black House resurrected my interest, so I started reading it again.

Thank you especially to Iteki and Belladonna (I did not read the spoiler, btw! I don’t really want to spoil the ending for myself… but it did take a great deal of willpower not to do it); I think your take, Belladonna, is probably fairly close to what SK’s overall idea is. I’ve read most of SK’s other novels,although I haven’t read Eyes of the Dragon, which I will look for now, thanks Larry Mudd. :slight_smile:

I still do wish that it was easier for me to read fantasy-type novels. I can suspend my beliefs in reality for science fiction, but fantasy just seems to be harder for me to work with, I guess.

King has always moved characters between his stories; it’s what keeps me re-reading his works, I guess! It’s been a while since I re-read It; now I think I’ll tackle that again.

And wow, the Crimson King himself has replied to the thread!!! :slight_smile: I had seen the info about the last three books and the (possible) publication dates; I had no idea that the books were going to be so expensive, though–that is bad news! :frowning: I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet, so to speak.

Oh, and Weirddave? It was the Kansas City Monarchs. :slight_smile: Another alternate universe team, though. :slight_smile:

Thanks again for the great discussion information!

Weirddave was mixing his metaphors a little, I think he is referring to seeing news of Superflu in a paper in that world. On the other hand, that doesn’t need to mean that it was The Stands reality… Superflu could have happened in multiple worlds, just as ours has some common links with mid-world.

But Iteki, you’re forgetting the note beneath the windshield wiper.
“Mother Abigail is in Nebraska, the Dark Man is in the West” (paraphrasing). I think they were definitely in The Stand’s reality, although you’re absolutely right that the Superflu was probably not restricted to that world alone.

Also–you mentioned IT above, and I got to rambling on so much that I forgot to say what I meant to about that. The only solid connection between the reality of the Loser’s club and Mid-World would be the Turtle, IMO. I think that’s mainly because King had not yet begun really peppering his works with DT tie-ins at the time he wrote IT, which is a shame because it would have been a perfect vehicle for that. I think maybe the Turtle, who helps Bill and his friends, is The Turtle known throughout Mid-World as one of the twelve powers that guard the beams. I’ve always gotten the impression that the Cyborg guardians built by the Old Ones were based on separate, actual supernatural forces of some kind, and that the turtle (Who Roland himself singles out as “one of the important ones”) was multi-dimensional to an extreme scale. At the end of IT however, Bill finds the Turtle dead, no longer guarding the ends of reality before the deadlights. Much like the thinning of reality in Mid-World and elsewhere, I think that death does not bode well for the well-being of the Tower, or the realities it supports.

On a semi-related note, the short book The Girl Who Loved Tom Gorden absolutely killed me, because I kept trying to make the killer crazed bear into some version of Shardik, the bear guardian that Eddie kills in The Waste Lands (I think it was TWL, someone will jump on that if I’m mistaken I’m sure) :slight_smile:

And a big thank you to The Crimson King for his info on release dates. I knew they were to be released in a relatively short time span, but I was thinking two or three years total, not mere months apart! That rocks. They aren’t taking advance orders yet unfortunately. Here’s hoping they’ll print enough to keep up with the demand because the limited edition releases of the first few were really hard to come by.

Aw, hell-- this thread is making me want to give the series another shot.

I think it’s more that the events in The Stand may have happened on more than one level themselves. The one that Roland and crew end up in isn’t as close to “our own” level as The Stand is - a monorail in Topeka, the Kansas City Monarchs, Takuro Spirits, and Boing Boing Burgers are evidence of this. A Mother Abigail could exist on many levels. Flagg seems to be a single entity, but it’s clear that he can hop around the “levels” of the tower - if not at will, then at least concious of this ability.

Although there is one bit about the tie-ups that I don’t like (Black House spoiler ahead):

[spoiler]King makes it clear that the Territories = Roland’s world. I don’t like this, if only because The Talisman made the Territories seem so much more analogous to our world that the two are definately intertwined on an almost person-to-person basis. Mid-World, however, isn’t as connected to our world, and while all worlds are beginning to suffer as whatever is happening to the Tower continues, it’s clearly worse in Roland’s plane.

While I’m in spoiler mode: wouln’t it be great if Thomas and Dennis catch up to Flagg in the last book and kill him?[/spoiler]I guess this makes me a whiner.

Oh, and belladonna: Shardik is in TWL, but Susannah kills it. I’ll get off the trampoline now ;).

Well knowing our luck, even when they do off him…He will pop up somewhere else. Cockroaches take lessons from that grinning fool.

I figure we are gonna see a lot of characters come about from the other book as well to help Roland and his quest in the future.

I got money that says Patrick Danville from Insomnia is gonna save Eddie and Roland (Remember he was destined to save 2 men and the Crimson King wanted him dead?)

I need advice on which other books are ‘essential’ to read to keep up with the Dark Tower series. I used to read everything King wrote, but I’ve tried to diversify my reading and so I haven’t had time to keep up with King. I am a big fan of the DT books, though, and I’ve read all four of them twice. The only ‘recent’ King book I’ve read is Hearts in Atlantis (which, of course, has some strong ties to DT). Other than that, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Rose Madder. I don’t want to miss out on anything, though. Apparently Black House has some key elements in it. I get the impression that The Regulators and Desperation are also closely related to DT. What about others, like Dreamcatcher and Bag of Bones and Insomnia? Can anyone help me out?