The Dark Tower Essay

1182 words - 5 pages

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Stephen King’s seven-volume epic The Dark Tower begins and ends with the same sentence, the protagonist having come a full circle, like Gilgamesh praising the walls of Uruk in the ancient Sumerian myth. The Dark Tower –which Stephen King labels his magnum opus– can, in fact, also be regarded as a myth, though with modern content.
Stephen King is probably best known as a prolific horror novelist, but, while he remains fascinated by the horrific, he has written many types of stories as well, particularly in later years. The Dark Tower defies easy classification, but can be described as a kind of dark ...view middle of the document...

Unlike the companions he picks up along the way, his purpose is not primarily to save the world, but to ascend the tower in order to find out if the room at the top is inhabited by God or if God has abandoned his creation. Roland seeks an answer to the theodicy problem (though he would not know the word.) Although he does not recieve any answers in the end, through Roland’s myth, the reader might.
King’s primary sources of inspiration were Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone “spagetti westerns” and a poem by Robert Browning, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, which King had studied in a university course two years prior to commencing work on The Gunslinger. He also claims to have read and been impressed by J.R.R. Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings, which inspired him to venture into fantasy fiction. Stylistically, The Lord of the Rings has very little in common with The Dark Tower, there are only certain archetypical parallels. There is a dark tower in both, a satanic evil incarnate, and a fragile fellowship embarked on a quest to save the world. Moreover, King’s gunslinger Roland has very much in common with Tolkien’s Aragorn. Both are rough figures, old bachelors hardened by long lives in the wilderness, princes in exile.
In contrast to Tolkien’s works, Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone movies lend some style, atmosphere and props to The Dark Tower (especially the first volume) but very little of plot. Roland is a supreme gunslinger, like Clint Eastwood as the Man with no Name, but with very different priorities. He is not out to make a few dollars, but is driven by a single-minded purpose bordering on insanity; to reach the Dark Tower and ascend to the room at its top. Even though Roland is essentially a chivalric knight with double six-shoters instead of a sword, he is a tormented soul and a vastly darker character than the oppurtunistic and lightheaded Man with no Name.
While he hardly mentions it in his notes, King does not need to bring attention to the many and strong Arthurian connections. For example, Roland Deschain is descended from his world’s version of King Arthur (Arthur Eld), whose sword Excalibur was, at some point in family history, melted down to make Roland’s two massive six shooters. As another example, Susannah (a companion of Roland) gives birth to a demonic being called...

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