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Literature / The Dark Tower (2004)

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Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.
Robert Browning

Preceded by Song of Susannah.

The Dark Tower is the last book of Stephen King's Epic Fantasy series The Dark Tower. It marks the end of the main series, at least in novel form. Mia forces Susannah to birth the demon child, Mordred Deschain, and Anyone Can Die as Roland finally takes his last steps towards the Dark Tower itself.

To see the character sheet for the whole book series, go here.

Followed by the interquel novel The Wind Through the Keyhole.


The Dark Tower provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Some of the Devar-Toi guards, especially Trampas, are pretty nice and seem like good guys. It's easy to forget that their job is to essentially destroy the universe.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • After Mordred kills Flagg/Walter/Marten, finally eliminating one of King's great villains, the narration briefly runs through Flagg's life. It gives him a Freudian Excuse (he was raped as a teenager) and manages to wring some small amount of sympathy from Flagg's death.
    • The death of Trampas, one of the Mooks guarding the Devar-Toi, is rather sad. He works for the Big Bad, but he's actually a pretty decent guy once you get to know him. It's made pretty clear that Ted really doesn't want to kill him and even yells at him to get out of their way, although he is forced to eventually resort to throwing a mind-spear at him, killing Trampas in the process.
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  • Angrish: The Crimson King keeps screaming "EEEEEEE!" in wordless rage.
  • Author Avatar: Like in Song of Susannah, King himself appears again.
  • Comedy as a Weapon: Dandelo tries this with Roland.
  • Deus ex Machina: Relying on the conceit that King himself was the author and an active character, there are several instances in which King throws a bone to the characters to get them out of a sticky situation, such as when he saves everyone from Dandelo. In one Lampshade Hanging moment, a character finds a note from King reading "DON'T WORRY; HERE COMES THE DEUS EX MACHINA!"
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The title The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower.
  • Door to Before: Within the Dark Tower, doors open on various stages of Roland's life until at the top, the final door returns Roland to just before the events of The Gunslinger and curses him to repeat his quest.
  • Dwindling Party: Only Roland is left to climb the tower at the end.
  • Eat the Dog: When crossing a frozen wasteland, Susannah is so cold that she eventually considers killing Oy for his fur.
  • Enfante Terrible: Mordred, until he turns into a teenager about two-thirds into the story anyway.
  • Freudian Trio: Within the ruins of the Castle of the Red King, Roland and Susannah come upon three versions of Stephen King corresponding to these roles.
  • Happily Ever After: Played with. "Will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live."
  • Happily Ever Before: After the scene of Roland entering the tower but before the narrative shifts inside, King suggests the reader pull this by putting down the book and considering it to have ended happily.
  • Hell Is That Noise: invoked The chewing sounds made by something behind a door with an undecipherable symbol. Also, the todash chimes.
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: After Roland's right hand is mutilated by some mutant lobster creatures in the second book, it is revealed that the ambidexterity required by Roland's Guns Akimbo fighting style is the result of long training. He has trained so hard and fought that way for so long that he really is just as adept at shooting with his naturally non-dominant left hand as his right, but his right hand is the stronger at almost everything else. Near the end, Roland loses another finger on his right hand and feeling altogether in the extremity from tearing a rose from the field outside the Tower.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Pimli and Finli are described as being this.
  • Impossible Task: Suddenly subverted. In the first four volumes, The Tower is an impossibly distant, probably mythical location that not even Roland is sure really exists. It is also implied that he has been questing for it for over a hundred years. It takes the Ka-Tet until the third volume to find a path which could potentially lead them in the right direction and even then, it is suggested that it will take many years of dangerous Walk the Earth travel to get there, if they make it at all. From The Wolves of Calla onwards, Roland and co. are at least hinted to be getting nearer to The Tower, but it still retains its near-mythical status. Towards the end of volume VII, they reach Odd's Lane, where an occupant invites them into his home; He has a picture of The Tower on his wall, drawn on a visit to the field where it stands, which is more or less just up the road. Even Roland is shocked by how casually this is mentioned by the character in question.
  • The Jeeves: Nigel the robot behaves like a classic British butler.
  • Last Breath Bullet: Eddie is killed by the Devar-Toi's warden, Pimli Prentiss, doing this.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The ending is highly talked about, which may prove unfortunate for many prospective readers.
  • MacGuffin Location: Invoked with the titular Tower towards the end of the book. By the time he reaches it, Roland has completed his actual objective. There's no need for him to carry on, but he does so anyway, prompting Susannah to leave him alone to complete the quest.
  • Never My Fault: Ted is livid when he sees a Breaker child dying during the attack on the Devar-Toi and it's implied that this is part of the reason why he kills Trampas. Nevermind that the child wouldn't have died if he and Roland's group didn't decide to set some buildings on fire to cause a stir.
  • New Game Plus: At the end of the book, Roland begins a journey across the desert carrying the Horn of Eld (which he had not bothered to retrieve from Cuthbert's body previously). The presence of the horn is symbolic; over the course of the series, Roland learns some of the values of family, love and loss. This carries over to his new journey, where he spares the time to go back and retrieve the Horn. This also suggests that, with each new quest he undertakes, Roland grows as a person. And considering that the series is based in part on Robert Browning's poem, which ends "Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set, and blew "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came", the Horn is probably one of the most important Plot Coupons for him to be carrying.
  • Nothing Is Scarier
    • A lot of this inside the Dogan.
    • Many of the things behind the doors.
    • The Tunnel Demon that goes after Roland, Susannah, and Oy beneath Castle Discordia. While they can't see it, the mere thump noises are enough to convince them to run. It is equally terrifying when they do see it.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: A few chapters before The Climax, right before Roland is to meet up with The Crimson King and end his quest to find The Dark Tower, Susannah, the last of his ka-tet still with him by this point, decides to leave Roland, citing his obsession with the tower and the quest over the health of his friends. Notable in that she doesn't come back to assist him at the last moment to help him defeat the Big Bad.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Prentiss treats the Breakers well and wants his subordinates to do the same. Not because he particulary cares about them (though to be fair, he is shown to be sympathetic towards them in a few occasions), but because they're less likely to revolt or try to escape if they're happy and well.
  • Rage Against the Author: The villains want King dead. And while the heroes have to protect him, they're not happy about it at all.
  • Reset Button: Roland is forced to restart his quest. The reasons for this are unclear, but it's implied that his willingness to abandon his friends to reach the Tower is part of the reason why. That he didn't have the Horn of Eld with him could be a reason as well. It's implied that he's had to do this many times before because he never got it right. The afterword by King implies that he might get it right the next time.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Eddie, the jokester of the group, is the first to die.
  • Signs of Disrepair: Inverted; Dandelo (an emotion-eating vampire) must allow a street sign warning of his presence in anagram form to exist—but he can deface the sign to read "Odd's Lane", which means nothing, rather than "Odd Lane".
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Mordred is occasionally described with sympathy as his situation becomes increasingly pathetic. A few times he's described as an abandoned child.
    Look, if you would. Here sits a baby with blood streaking his fair skin. Here sits a baby weeping his silent, eerie tears. Here sits a baby that knows both too much and too little, and although we must keep our fingers away from his mouth (he snaps, this one; snaps like a baby crocodile), we are allowed to pity him a little.
  • Snicket Warning Label:
    • Right before Eddie's death.
    I'd have you see them like this; I'd have you see them very well. Will you? They are clustered around Suzie's Cruisin Trike, embracing in the aftermath of their victory. I'd have you see them this way not because they have won a great battle- they know better than that, every one of them- but because now they are ka-tet for the last time. The story of their friendship ends here, on this make-believe street and beneath this artificial sun; the rest of the tale will be short and brutal compared to all that's gone before. Because when ka-tet breaks, the end always comes quickly.
    • And in the penultimate chapter of the book, after the Happily Ever After ending, the narration explicitly warns the reader to close the book there and then, and let that be the end of the tale.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: Eddie's death is of this kind. The ka-tet has just beaten tremendous odds and won a great victory unscathed - and then a downed, dying enemy manages to raise his gun and take one last shot.
  • Teleportation Sickness: When Roland and friends go through a barely-working high-tech teleporter, they feel dizzy and start vomiting on the other side.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Brautigan and Nozz-a-la.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Prentiss genuinely believes that ending the universe is the right thing to do, as he thinks a new improved universe will take the old one's place. Some of the other Devar-Toi guards are implied to think so as well.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Susannah never actually feels remorseful for blinding and ultimately killing Nigel the robot.

"The Man In Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed."