Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

So the seventh and final book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, aptly titled The Dark Tower, is finally out. The series was a good 25 years in the making, and to be honest, I never thought he’d finish it (especially after his several threats of retirement). I’m not sure I would have minded, either, because I’ve always been a bit disappointed by the way he ends a lot of his stories. It often feels like he’s just making it up as he goes along, assembling various interesting ideas and using them to drive a story, but he sometimes backs himself into a corner. In any case, about a year ago, King started publishing new Dark Tower novels on a regular schedule. In these new novels, I’ve been noticing things that lead me to believe that the ending is going to stink, that King knows it, and that he is attempting to lower expectations. There are several examples, and I’ve posted about them before. I guess this is a bit repetitive, but I find it interesting.

The first page of the new book has several quotes from various sources (authors often do this, choosing quotations that go along with the themes of the story), one of which is Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” which King claims was the inspiration for the entire Dark Tower series. Another quote, by Trent Reznor (from the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt), doesn’t do much to assuage my doubts:

What have I become?

My sweetest friend

Everyone I know

Goes away in the end

You could have it all

My empire of dirt

I will let you down

I will make you hurt

I know this is a bit unfair to Mr. King, but I have my doubts. Then again, expectations play a big part in perception, and I could certainly end up happy with the ending because I don’t expect it to be good (a la my feelings on The Village).

2 thoughts on “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

  1. Michael E. Connell

    One stanza of ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, is used at the beginning of a chapter in the book ‘Wickedness’ by Mary Midgley. There are several points I would like to make on the interpretation of this poem.

    1. The ‘Dark Tower’ can be taken to be the means i.e. the knowledge, consciousness, and spiritual realisation, necessary to get off planet Earth and to enter the heavens in a purposeful way. To realise that this achievement is inevitable should be sufficient motivation to seek the foresight needed to make it happen.

    2. Symbolism of plains, hills and mountains can be taken to mean the development of consciousness from the primal level i.e. plains, up to the specialisations required of consciousness necessary in the various sciences, or estates. The ‘tall scalped mountain’ indicates extreme and extensive alienation in a certain way and for which there is no palliative other than to leave the planet. The symbol of the hills locked ‘horn and horn in fight’ is the symbol used on cans of ‘Red Bull’ a modern, very effective, stimulating drink that has an effective antidepressant effect. But it could also represent a dialectical Reason/Faith opposition in consciousness due perhaps to ignorance that is ever-present in man. For me, these symbols give the poem a heightened relevance in recent times.

    3. There is some similarity between ‘Childe Roland’ and the adventures undertaken by the Buddha when he decided to leave the family’s palace and go among the peasantry seeking enlightenment and also accepting a following from among the peasants. One major result of the Buddhas travels are the four noble truths, (essentially that life is off-centre), and the eight-fold path to rightousness (to correct the deviation of life off the centre).

    4. In today’s society there are many clear, and some maybe not too clear, instances of people trying to enhance their power and status by inappropriate means. Gog and Magog in the Bible is probably precisely this problem. There are deceived in themselves but even so they can create problems for people. I think this is why the ‘Childe Roland’ poem holds so much fascination for me. Most of the stanzas I can interpret for myself directly, and the realisation is not a fortunate one for me. I have to continue on resolutely to overcome everything even in spite of all adversity. Thank you very much MEC.

  2. Michael E. Connell

    The following is the final point I want to add to me previous post on the poem ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.’ Stanza XXIII mentions Mews and Turks. I live at No.1 Manor Mews and there are Turks in the flat downstairs. Moreover, I crossed from the southside of the river to the northside one year ago when I came to live here. Soon I must leave because the landlady has a predilection for Turks. They will have my flat after I leave. In this sense, my entire sojourn here was a trap. These Turks are so spiritually oriented that they will get it up in me. The points in my previous post are relevant here too. Thank you very much. MEC

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