The Road to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower
I see your eyes rolling, hear your sighs and feel your criticisms breathing down my neck as you realize that I am attempting to give you an overview of Stephen King's Dark Tower series in under 500 words. "You'd have better luck wrapping up the bible," you say sarcastically. "It would take fewer words." That could be true. The average translation of the bible has 1,500 pages. The Dark Tower Series? Over 3,700.
But did you know that these 3,700 pages were inspired by Robert Browning's poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came? A poem that is a total of 204 lines inspired what King calls his Magnum Opus. And in fact, although Browning claimed that the poem came to him in a 'kind of dream' he also said it was inspired by a line from Shakespeare's King Lear:
Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still 'Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.
—King Lear, Act 3, scene 4
Wow. Shakespeare (plus) Browning (equals) Stephen King. And not only King! Browning's Childe Roland inspired (but is not limited to inspiring):
-A. S. Byatt in the form of the character Roland Michell in Possession: A Romance.
-John Connolly's novel The Book of Lost Things featured an appearance from the soldier Roland.
-Terrance Dicks, screenwriter of "Doctor Who's" Twentieth Anniversary special "The Five Doctors," has cited it as a source.
-Neil Gaiman, Terry Prachett, and P.G. Wodehouse also pay tribute in different ways.
But despite all of the above (in particular, your doubts), I have to try and see through my original intent to review The Series ... there are people who can sum up Moby Dick in under thirty seconds, you know. So here goes it ...
Roland The Dark Man goes into the desert. The Dark Man Roland follows.* Roland gets to the tower. And in between a whole lotta shit happens. Some of it's good, some of it's bad, much of it I love and a little of it I don't. And I'm blatantly hoping this bold statement will inspire passionate debating in the comments. Oh, and it has the most brilliant ending to a book or series of books that I have ever read. (OMG, he could start over, he could start over!)
Sigh. Yes, not my best effort. But I sincerely hope I made it up to you with the story behind The Story. And as April is Poetry Month it seems fitting to me that King's latest installment in Roland's story, The Wind Through the Keyhole, will release on April 24. Wouldn't I love to celebrate poetry month by grabbing a beer with Browning and Shakespeare to discuss The Gunslinger!?
*Please forgive the slip. Of course I know how the story goes, but sometimes the pen is faster than the mind