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Literature / The Eyes of The Dragon

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The Eyes of the Dragon is a novel written by Stephen King, published in 1987. Contrary to what you might expect from Stephen King, it's a high fantasy novel.

Roland the Good, the king of Delain, has tried to be the best king he could be. As he nears the end of his life, his son Peter will soon take his place — unless the king's magician, Flagg, can make sure Roland's younger son Thomas ascends the throne instead.

Not to be confused with The Eye of Argon.

This work provides examples of:

  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: The sewer pipes of Castle Delain are big enough for a young adult like Dennis to crawl through and thus make his way inside unnoticed.
  • Action Girl: Naomi
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The narrator is very insistent that Thomas was not a bad child. He was weak, jealous, sensitive, easily manipulated and not particularly bright, but at heart he wasn't evil.
    If you hate him because of the things he did — and the things he allowed to be done — I will understand; but if you do not pity him a little as well, I will be surprised.
  • All-Natural Fire Extinguisher: When King Roland slays the titular dragon at the start of the story, his men work to put out a fire that the dragon had started. They used beer and piss, and the text notes that most of the piss was beer, because Roland brought a lot with him when he went hunting, and he wasn't stingy with it.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Peter manages to make one out of threads plucked from the embroidered napkins given to him daily and woven together on the tiny but functional loom in the dollhouse he requested to keep in his cell over the span of several years. It breaks.
  • Big Bad: Randall Flagg, the king’s Chief magician
  • Canon Welding: Flagg first appeared in The Stand.
    • In the Dark Tower series, Roland mentions that he met Thomas and his butler Dennis during their pursuit of Flagg after the end of the book.
    • In a later scene in The Dark Tower, Roland mentions that his grandfather Alaric "Henry" Deschain had once traveled to Delain to slay the last dragon, only to discover that another king had already beaten him to it.
    • Flagg has also been identified as He Who Walks Behind The Rows from Children of the Corn.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Many:
    • The peephole in the dragon skull that Flagg shows Thomas, where Thomas sees Flagg poison his father and Dennis finds out, years later, that Peter was innocent, bringing about Flagg's downfall.
    • Peter's need for a napkin at every meal and his mother's old dollhouse are this as well.
    • The 400-year-old letter from Leven Valera, that Peter found when imprisoned in the Needle, is later used by him to write a message for Dennis because it's the only writable material available to Peter.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Archery is mentioned as being Thomas's best skill, the one thing he is better at then Peter. He gets a chance to demonstrate it when he puts an arrow through Flagg's eye.
  • Covers Always Lie: Some later editions tried to market the book as being a horror novel. One such cover's tagline is "Once upon a time, there was a terror..."
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: The 400-year-old letter by Leven Valera was written by him in his own blood and the sharpened Shaft of a Spune. Later, when Peter has to send a message to Dennis (who is waiting outside The Needle), he too uses his own blood as ink and a straw from his mattress as pen.
  • Cruel Mercy: Anders Peyna, who never tried to hide his dislike for Flagg, suspects Flagg allowed him to live after he stepped down as judge-general instead of killing him, just so Peyna can watch Delain fall into chaos and disorder.
  • Death by Childbirth: Sasha, while giving birth to Thomas. At least, that's what Flagg set it up to look like. She was actually murdered by the midwife, who was in Flagg's debt because he cured her only son of a deadly illness.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: As a king, Thomas becomes an alcoholic because he knows that Flagg poisoned Roland and framed Peter for it.
  • Evil Chancellor: Flagg is this, first to Roland and then to a bigger extent, Thomas.
  • Eye Scream: Thomas shoots an arrow, the same one that killed Niner, through Flagg's eye. The wound is apparently not fatal for Flagg, however.
  • Emotion Eater: Flagg feeds off the pain and misery caused by chaos, which is why he periodically returns to Delain in different identities to plunge the kingdom into war and anarchy.
  • Familial Foe: Every few hundred years, Flagg visits Delain, gets himself made the Evil Chancellor, and has any member of the ruling dynasty who gets in his way murdered or framed for murder.
  • Happily Ever After: At the end, the narrator says that the heroes did not live happily ever after, because no one ever does, but "they lived as well as they could".
  • Here There Were Dragons: Although magic still exists in Delain, dragons themselves do not; the last one, named Niner, was killed by Roland.
  • Hero of Another Story: One of the Lesser Wardens is hinted to be so: We never get to hear from him again.
    Narrator: fact one of them went to the Church of the Great Gods the very next day and embraced his religion again, and eventually became a priest. This man's name was Curran, and I may tell you of him in another story.
  • The High Queen: Sasha, who is beautiful, moral, and quick-witted. The people of the kingdom adore her.
  • History Repeats: When imprisoned in The Needle, Peter finds a secret compartment with a letter written by a previous prisoner, Leven Valera, who was imprisoned there 400 years earlier for the murder of his wife. From the letter, Peter learns that, just like him, Valera was framed by Flagg, and Flagg killed Valera's wife with poisoned wine just like how he killed Roland.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Flagg is not human, he's one of several incarnations of the same being that exists throughout King's multiverse (it's not revealed whether or not Flagg is aware of this). When Peter confronts him at the end, he even calls him a "thing" and points out that Flagg's inability to deviate from his preferred patterns in his manipulations over the course of centuries shows how inhuman he is.
  • I Am the Noun: After Peter escapes from the Needle, a group of guards tries to stop him and his friends, saying: "Halt in the name of the King!" Peter responds: "Halt in the name of the King, you say. And yet I tell you, goshawk: I am the King."
  • The Insomniac: Thomas becomes one due to the stress of being a king and the guilt of him knowing the truth about the murder of his father. It gets so bad he becomes entirely dependent on a sleeping potion made by Flagg.
  • Ironic Nickname: "Thomas the Lightbringer" is the tool that Flagg plans to use to plunge Delain back into Dark Age Europe.
  • Kick the Dog: Almost literally; during his childhood Thomas has a brief, rather evil moment when he finds a starving dog and, while briefly tempted to adopt it as a pet and nurse it back to health like Peter did with his lame horse, instead thinks "what if the dog was Peter?" and stones it to death. No one witnesses it except Flagg through his scrying crystal, but seeing it pleases him greatly.
  • King on His Deathbed: After the Dragon Sand he is poisoned with begins to take effect; Roland lingers for a few days but he's insensate the entire time and no one can even approach him closer than about four feet because of the amount of heat coming off of his body.
  • Lemony Narrator: The unnamed storytelling narrator, who often speaks directly to the reader and shares opinions on the characters.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: King Roland, of all people. He's a balding, bandy-legged, paunchy, bumbling fool in his early sixties whose low self-esteem makes him easily manipulable by his evil advisor. He's also the world's best hunter, one who calmly one-shots a dragon that was already about to breathe fire on him, and even Flagg is actually scared shitless of what Roland would do if he ever decided to hunt him.
  • Lighterand Softer: By Stephen King standards, anyway. It's still pretty dark, but it's written for a slightly younger audience than King's normal work.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Roland and Sasha have a mostly loving and satisfying relationship, but Roland is older and not particularly interested in sex, so he makes frequent use of Love Potions to be able to perform. The only time he doesn't need one - his moment of glory after slaying the last dragon - is the time Peter is conceived. Thomas, on the other hand, is conceived after Roland drinks an extra strong potion and engages in a violent, joyless moment of what is possibly marital rape.
  • Love Potion: Roland doesn't really like sex, so he usually drinks an aphrodisiac potion made by Flagg before having it (at first, because he needs to produce a heir, later because he wants to pleasure his wife).
  • Maternal Death? Blame the Child!: Thomas imagines that not only his father, but pretty much everyone in the kingdom is thinking, "We lost your mother, and we got you instead?"
    • In something of a subversion of the trope, it's not clear that anyone actually thinks this — just that Thomas believes they do. Roland at least certainly doesn't.
  • Medieval Stasis: Delain has remained unchanged for centuries.
  • Necronomicon: Flagg has one.
  • Never Wake Up a Sleepwalker: Discussed and averted. During the night Peter attempts his escape, Thomas sleepwalks again and ends up in the secret passage, where he wakes up due to a tower named the Church of the Great Gods collapsing because of the storm. The narrator points out that in Delain people still believe that waking a sleepwalker before they get back to their bed will cause them to go mad, but Thomas proves this is not the case since he only has a bad scare about waking up in the passage but quickly realizes where he is.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Flagg's chessmastering veers into Gambit Roulette at times, and it comes back to bite him in at least two ways:
    • He shows Thomas the peephole behind the dragon's head, in the hopes that Thomas will spy on his father and learn contempt for him. It works, but it also allows Thomas to see Flagg poisoning Roland.
    • He encourages Roland to marry Sasha, a very young, naïve girl from a minor noble house, in the hopes that she will be easily manipulated. See Perfectly Arranged Marriage for how this turned out. Sasha also gave birth to Peter and Thomas, who both had a hand in his downfall.
  • Oh, and X Dies: Relatively early in the story, the narrator suddenly reveals that Roland will be assassinated, and Peter will be imprisoned for it.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: A rare positive example: Roland is fifty when he marries the seventeen-year-old Sasha, but the two seem quite happy together.
  • Papa Wolf: Flagg wants to get rid of Peter, but he doesn't dare to kill him, because he knows that Roland would nor rest until he punished who was responsible.
  • Parental Favoritism: Roland favors Peter over Thomas, interestingly because Thomas is just like him; not very smart and unattractive.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Flagg persuaded the king to marry Sasha because he believed that she, a very minor noble who was little more than a child at the time of the marriage, would be weak and easily manipulated. He was proven wrong when Sasha turned out to be intelligent and clever, and the king genuinely came to love her so much that Flagg backed out of a murder attempt on her because he felt the king's love for her was so great that he would not have rested until he uncovered her murderer. Although it didn't stop him from eventually figuring out a way to discreetly dispose of Sasha.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: The titular eyes of the dragon Niner, rather than a traditional portrait; it serves the same purpose.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Thomas to Flagg: "You told me only lies, magician."
  • Puppet King: Both Thomas and his father were this, Thomas more so than Roland.
  • The Resenter: Thomas, due to how everyone including his own father favors his older brother Peter over him.
  • Rightful King Returns: The plot in the latter half of the novel.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • The novel ends with the statement that Dennis and Thomas eventually found and confronted Flagg, but that it is a tale for another day. The Drawing of the Three makes reference to this, but almost three decades after the novel's initial publication the plotline is still dangling.
    • Also, see Hero of Another Story above.
  • Shout-Out: Flagg's spellbook, which drives you mad if you read it too long, was written by a man named Alhazred, in the land of Leng.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Peter is essentially the golden child, being handsome, intelligent, multitalented and beloved by all, whereas Thomas is a meek boy who feels overshadowed by his older brother, his only talent being archery.
  • Sleepwalking: Thomas suffers from this after Flagg is away from the castle for a week, depriving him of the sleeping potion. During his sleepwalk, he ends up accidentally showing Dennis the secret passage to behind the dragon's head and confesses that he knows it was Flagg who killed king Roland.
  • Spare to the Throne: Thomas is a textbook case.
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Or two sides of people: "God" and "dog".
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Flagg's spell book. It is bound in human skin, and contains spells so terrible that even Flagg won't use them. In fact, he hasn't finished reading the entire thing because of the risks of reading too much at once.
  • Unexpected Successor: Thomas ascends to the throne after Flagg frames Peter and he's sentenced to life inprisonment.
  • Universally Beloved Leader: Sasha, as well as Peter before he is framed.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Zig-Zagged. It's unclear if the narrator is an in-universe figure writing a historical document, or an omniscient narrator. At times he acknowledges that he doesn't know something (such as Flagg's origin), but other times he gives information he should have no way of knowing (such as several previous times Flagg visited the kingdom). It could be argued that he was simply spicing up the story with speculation presented as fact.
  • Walking the Earth: The fate of Thomas and Dennis.
  • Xenofiction: A small portion of the book is told from the perspective of Naomi's pet husky.