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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.
    • Susannah feels a small bout of pity for Mordred. While Roland claims he doesn't, and hasn't the luxury, his silent response indicates this isn't true.
  • Angrish: The Crimson King keeps screaming "EEEEEEE!" in wordless rage.
  • Any Last Words?: As they're finishing off the few guards at Algul Siento still standing, Eddie asks one if he has any last words. He uses it to curse the ka-tet.
  • Author Avatar: Like in Song of Susannah, King himself appears again.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed:
    • Callahan kills himself rather than let the vampires and can-toi take their time with him.
    • While running from the thing underground, Susannah decides she'll keep her last bullet in case it turns out to be Immune to Bullets.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Dark Tower.
  • Blatant Lies: Nigel claims he was killing rats in Castle Discordia's basements, but Susannah is rightly suspicious, and even more so when he shows the ka-tet his sleeping quarters, which are completely rat free. She figures he ran into Morded and is keeping it from them. She's right.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Ted's important to the Crimson King's goons because they've never met anyone as powerful as him, but after he ran away Trampas suggests not trying again in case he makes them reconsider.
  • Chekhov's Gun: After killing Dandelo, Roland also kills his horse, but doesn't bother doing anything with the corpse. Mordred soon discovers it, much to his regret.
  • Comedy as a Weapon: Dandelo tries this with Roland.
  • Compelling Voice: The song of the Tower itself, which gets stronger and stronger the closer Roland gets. Part of the drama in his confrontation with the Crimson King is the knowledge that if he doesn't kill the King soon, the compulsion will be too strong, and Roland will run right into his line of fire just to get to the Tower.
  • Creepy Crows: The only animals Roland and Susannah see in their trek through the badlands are murders of crows. There's more of them at the Crimson King's castle, which Mordred sets on the last person living there.
  • 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.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Stuttering Bill admits he feels some small emotions, much as he can, and wonders if he'll go to an afterlife when he dies, since there's a lot of people he'd quite like to see again.
  • 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.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: The Breakers know, or at least suspect, there's something up with what they're doing, but they try really hard not to think about it.
  • Enfante Terrible: Mordred, until he turns into a teenager about two-thirds into the story anyway.
  • Entitled Bastard: Some of the Breakers, used to being pampered and looked after, get like this after the ka-tet take out their guards.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Flagg loved Roland's mother, or lusted after her, which is about as the same in his eyes.
  • Evil Is Petty: The Crimson King's whole attitude could be summed up as "destroy the Dark Tower so Roland can't have it". Once inside, Roland finds he's destroyed some of Roland's belongings before he got trapped, for no reason.
  • Eye Scream: The first thing Mordred does to Flagg once he gets fed up is make him rip his own eyes out.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • The team sent out from Algul Siento to investigate the Door the Ka-Tet use don't notice Morded hiding in the shadows.
    • In the aftermath of taking out the guards, nobody notices Sheemie's sudden limp. If they had, they might've been able to save him.
  • Fingore: Roland tries removing one of the roses surrounding the Dark Tower, which shreds his already mutilated right hand further, to the extent one of his fingers is barely holding on.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • As he lies dying, Eddie tries to tell Roland about Dandelo.
    • Susannah promises Roland she'll accompany him all the way to the Tower, but they both know this isn't true. And they're right.
  • 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.
  • Ghost Town: Roland and Susannah start finding these as they get to the Crimson King's castle. With a possible emphasis on "ghost", since they find the buildings unspeakably creepy and refuse to sleep in them, and have the feeling they're being watched, and not by Mordred.
  • Gilded Cage: Algul Siento. It's a lovely, charming, idyllic little town, with all the best food and drink you could want, the best movies you could ask for, technology allowing you to act out any sexual desires you might have. And you can never, ever leave. Try, and you die.
  • Glamour: Dandelo uses one to trick Roland and Susannah, convincing them his house is a nice, cosy place where they can sit out the storm.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Through the books, much is made of Gan's goodness and kindness. As Roland learns at the very end, however, what Gan does not have is mercy. If Gan thinks Roland needs to relive his journey over and over again, no amount of pleading will save him.
  • 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.
  • Hypocrite: After Roland kills Mordred, the Crimson King wails at him for killing his son. Roland just retorts that the Crimson King forced him to go after Roland, and has no grounds for calling him out.
  • 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.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Mordred is a child of prophecy, spoken for thousands of years, said to help bring about a new flood of chaos. The narration notes that what's resulted is considerably unimpressive; a child half-mad from starvation.
  • It Can Think: After getting out of the tunnel, Roland and Susannah ponder whether the creature is smart enough to come after them in the daylight. They decide to get out of there rather than stick around to find out.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: After a few moments of conversation about Mordred, Jake (suffering a bizarre resentment towards Roland's "son") shifts from calling Mordred "him" to "it" without noticing.
  • It's Probably Nothing: In "Joe Collins" house, as there's a storm raging outside, Susannah hears a noise which she tries to convince herself is just the wind. She knows it isn't, and figures it might be Mordred. Then she realises the noise is coming from inside the house.
  • The Jeeves: Nigel the robot behaves like a classic British butler.
  • Just Before the End: The Crimson King's forces are working to break the beams, at which point all reality will go with it. They've managed to get down to the last two, and those won't last very long. Meanwhile, while there's a lot of tech around, it's all on its last legs and no-one knows (or cares) how to fix it.
  • Kick the Dog: Shortly before getting to the Dark Tower, Roland snaps at Oy for being quiet and reproachful. It quickly turns into Parting-Words Regret, since Oy is killed the next day.
  • 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.
  • Loophole Abuse: Dandelo was unable to directly force Stuttering Bill to give him his command codes, but he was able to order Bill to give him the manuals containing those codes.
  • 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.
  • Make an Example of Them: Trampas is a genial, friendly, pleasant man who sees himself as a sort of father-figure to the Breakers. And just as he's seeming like a really swell guy, it's mentioned he also had a guard who bullied some of them lobotomized and allowed to wander around the town as an example.
  • Make Way for the New Villains: Flagg tries to buddy up to Mordred, who very quickly gets bored of him and kills him.
  • Meaningful Echo: Roland finds himself recalling Flagg's words from the first book ("may I be frank? You go on.") as he fights the Crimson King, though he doesn't recall who told him so. Once he's inside the Tower, it repeats those words to him again.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The forces of the Crimson King only need to break one last beam and that'll be lights out for everyone everywhere. The ka-tet thwart them, and the beam itself reveals that three days more and that would've been it.
  • 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.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Two villainous versions.
    • Flagg admits in his private monologue he couldn't really care about the Crimson King's cause. He's just in it for the chance of godhood.
    • Mordred doesn't give a damn about what his "Red Father" wants, and is quite content to sit back and let the ka-tet scupper the Breakers. He's just hungry.
  • 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.
  • Oh, Crap!: Roland gets one when he gets to the top of the tower, and sees the door, and realises just what's about to happen to him.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Roland, who is generally The Stoic, starts laughing when he and Susannah run into "Joe Collins". It takes Susannah a while to realize this is wrong.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Some of the doors Susannah and Roland find lead to places like New York on September 11th, 2001, or the Ford Theatre the night Lincoln was assassinated. Susannah is baffled as to why anyone would go watch these things, but Roland knows there are people who would.
  • Perception Filter: Dandelo's glamor means Susannah sees nothing suspicious about the look of his house, which looks like something out of a fairy tale, even with the half-dead horse glaring at her and whinnying its head off outside. Not until it's a little too late.
  • 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.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: In the second half of the book, Susannah starts having odd dreams of meeting Eddie and Jake in New York, which usually end with something trying to warn her of Dandelo.
  • 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.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: When the workers at Algul tried taking readings on Ted, he broke the scales himself.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: While chasing Roland and Susannah across the wastelands, Morded just barely gets by on half-poisoned insects, and later the crows as he gets closer to the Crimson King's castle. It's a good day for him when he finds a weasel to eat.
  • 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.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Susannah figures she'll never know how Patrick Danville got into Mid-World, or wound up in Dandelo's basement. She doesn't, and the novel never feels the need to explain.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: Dotting the area around the Dark Tower are many strange and inexplicable ruins from all kinds of cultures.
  • Sanity Slippage: Mia goes completely insane when Mordred, her "chap", is born. Not that it matters much, since he then eats her.
  • Scenery Dissonance: The small town the Breakers live in looks like the idealized 50s American town. Not the place you'd expect people working to bring about the annihilation of all reality to live. And it's right next to the wastelands of a world that's moved on.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: After the fall of Algul Siento, and the Crimson King's Villainous Breakdown, many of the people living around his castle run for it, either because he's gone completely insane or because they don't want to be around if he comes back.
  • 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".
    • On the front door of the Tower, Roland sees a sign that should say "unfound". However, the first two letters have faded away, just leaving it as "found".
  • 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.
  • Suddenly Shouting: When one of the Breakers tries defending what they were doing, it's Jake who suddenly bellows at them that they knew damn well what they were doing.
  • 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.
  • This Was His True Form: After Dandelo dies, he reverts back to his natural form. Full details aren't given, but it's "bug-like" and makes Mordred look almost sightly.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Brautigan and Nozz-a-la.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Flagg believes his thinking cap will block out Mordred's telepathy. He is shown to be completely wrong, but Mordred's playing along for the moment. Then he gets fed up.
  • 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 Happened to the Mouse?: At the very end, before he finishes his goal, Roland tells Patrick to turn back the way they came, and if at all possible find a door to America. Stephen King's narration states even he has no idea whether Patrick did or not.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When Roland thinks about leaving the Horn of Eld behind, an unknown voice (possibly the Tower) chides him for not taking the three seconds to pick it up. Later on, the Tower does this again as he reaches the final door.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Susannah never actually feels remorseful for blinding and ultimately killing Nigel the robot.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: A mind-trap left in the Dixie Pig, which Eddie nearly runs into. It summons an image from the minds of those nearby, then kills you with it. In Eddie's case, it's a cartoon T-Rex.

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