The Stories We Hear in Childhood Are The Ones We Remember All Of Our Lives

(The Wind Through The Keyhole)

I don’t know if Stephen King will return to the Dark Tower again, or if he wants to, but we know that he at least did at one point, because this is part of the main Dark Tower series. Although it came years after the end of the series, it gives enough information (and the author has directly told us) to inform us that it slots in neatly between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. In the lives of our Ka-tet, it really only takes a couple of days, although, of course, the book seems to cover much more time than that.

It seems like it covers more time because this is really a story about telling a story within a story. Clear as mud? This is Roland, telling his Ka-tet about a story from his past. Inside of that story, he tells someone else a story, all of which is recounted in the original story that Roland is relaying.

What that means is that our Ka-tet in this book is mostly a framing device. It’s their particular situation at the moment – stuck inside a few days for a weather event — that gives Roland the time and inspiration to tell this story. The bulk of the book has nothing to do with the Ka-tet, the quest, or the tower, except maybe as an allegory. It’s about this story from Roland’s past, and about the story within the story that he’s telling.

Which is honestly fine with me. King could write a whole series of stories that are just Roland telling stories about his past that contain stories from Gilead’s/Mid-world’s past, and I would read them immediately, feeling grateful for both the King stories and the little glimpses of the Ka-tet of 19. I will say that if you happen to be a first-time Dark Tower traveler, you should read this after all of the other books. During my first complete trip through, I tried to fit this in between 4 and 5, since that’s where it properly falls, but I was so frustrated with them not going anywhere that I didn’t give the actual story the attention it deserves. I just wanted the quest to move. Which is not fair to this very good book. I recommend, at least if it’s your first attempt at reading through the series, indulge your anxiety to move on by skipping from 4 to 5, and leave this one till the end, as a fond look back. After that, in a re-read, you might try reading it between 4 and 5 to see if that changes your experience. But not the first time.

The Tim Stoutheart story (the story within the story) very much has the feel of a fairy tale and reminds me of Eyes of the Dragon in some ways. (It also makes me very curious about the upcoming King book, Fairy Tale. I think he’s been clear that it’s not a Dark Tower story… but neither is Eyes of the Dragon. Yet Eyes is set in the same or a similar level of the tower as Roland.) It evokes all those feelings that you get when reading a fairy tale-type story, where a young man becomes a hero and the white eventually triumphs over hardship and evil.

The story around that is a story of Roland’s history, which deals with a shape changer — something that seems interesting considering some of the things King has coming up — but also deals with Roland’s mother. I still have some questions about Gabrielle Deschain (and about Steven Deschain, too, for that matter) but at least I feel like this story gives enough information to reassure us that Gabrielle shouldn’t be written off as inconsequential or evil. Those seem like unlikely ways for King to treat this kind of character anyway, but I have wondered at times, so this helps.

I’m afraid to even wish for an adaptation of this story, considering the past Dark Tower adaptation. But I feel as if you could remove the Ka-tet framing device entirely and make a movie of the rest, or remove both the Ka-tet and Roland’s story and just make a Tim Stoutheart movie — which might be the best choice. It would fit neatly in the fantasy realm and wouldn’t be hurt if it was never followed up on, and you could spend a bunch of money on whatever fancy effects are possible to make Merlin-as-tiger, whatever a pooky is, maybe even a dragon. You’d probably have to take out DARIA — I feel like electronic GPS devices in medieval fairy tales really only make sense if you know you’re in Roland’s world, so I’m not sure she’d work without framing the story to make that clear — but I could live with that.

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