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Literature / The Wind Through the Keyhole

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Preceeded by The Dark Tower (2004).

The Wind Through the Keyhole is the eighth novel in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. It is an interquel that takes place between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla.

Whilst sheltering from a deadly storm called a "starkblast", Roland tells his ka-tet a story about his past; months after his mother's death, his father sent him and his ka-mate Jamie DeCurry to the small town of Debaria to investigate a "skin-man", a shapeshifter who has been terrorizing the villagers.

Also told, as a story within a story, is a legend of Mid-World about a young boy named Tim who goes on a dangerous quest through the Endless Forest to save his mother.

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

The Wind Through the Keyhole provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Ambush Arroyo is not an arroyo. The locals just like the way the name rolls off the tongue.
  • And I Must Scream: Maerlyn is trapped in the form of a 'tyger' and imprisoned in a cage for years. He returns to normal after Tim rescues him, however.
  • Another Story for Another Time: Said several times in regards to other adventures of Tim.
  • Arc Words: Present in other Dark Tower books but particularly prominent in this one: "There will be water if God wills it".
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Subverted twice with Tim's teacher and one of the women at Serenity; both were once beautiful but now suffer from hideous disfigurements.
  • Continuity Snarl: The "present" portion of the novel takes place not long after the end of Wizard and Glass, and involves the ka-tet meeting an old man who dwells next to a river, before they are forced to shelter from the Starkblast. Eddie spends the first dozen or so pages of Wolves of the Calla thinking about how not a single thing has happened since the end of Wizard and Glass, to the point that time seems to have come to a monotonous stand-still.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The various monsters and creatures that Tim encounters in the Endless Forest either spare his life or help him on his journey.
  • The Fair Folk: The 'sighe,' a sprite-like, hypnotic creature whose name, Armaneeta, is just one phoneme away from Amanita, the genus of mushroom that includes the death cap.
  • For the Evulz: Pretty much the only reason the Covenant Man sends poor old Tim on his quest.
  • Framing Device: Roland tells the ka-tet about his encounter with the "skin-man". In his flashback, we get another story within a story about the legend of "The Wind through the Keyhole" with Tim. So it's a story within a story within a story within a story, basically.
  • Gambler Groupies: One of the surviving witnesses to the attacks of the skin-man is the female companion of a crooked gambler who was run out of town, with them being attacked by the skin-man on the road outside.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: Tim is given an artifact of the Great Old Ones by the plant people he meets in a swamp; DARIA, an electronic guidance service. At first she treats Tim as just another traveller, but soon she grows fond enough of him that she starts going out of her way to help him. She even violates directive 19 to give him classified information, despite knowing that this will kill her.
  • Hope Spot: The boy Roland and Jamie find alive at the ranch describes seeing the foreman put up a fight and almost make it out before the skin-man got him.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: While all of the Dark Tower books have been made available in "Limited Editions", this marks the first time that the illustrations were not available with the standard trade edition.
  • Kid Hero: Tim
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Covenant Man, and Randall Flagg as usual. It's strongly implied that they're one and the same, the Covenant Man being another of Flagg's frequent aliases.
  • Merlin Sickness: Discussed trope. Tim asks Maerlyn if it's true, and he says it isn't, but nobody ever believes how mundane his life actually is.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Skin-man". Seriously, is there anything positive that can be associated with such a creepy name?
  • Nested Story: See the description under Framing Device above.
  • Nonindicative Name: The title, almost to the point of being a Red Herring. Tim is about to be set upon by a 'starkblast' storm, there is a potential shelter with a locked door, and he has to obtain a key for it from a dangerous place. Do you see where this is going? Well you're wrong—the key doesn't work, he finds a different way to shelter from the storm, and 'the wind through the keyhole' is an almost completely unrelated philosophical phrase he comes up with.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: Will Wegg, the lawman up at the mines is a self-admitted gambler, heavy drinker and customer of the local prostitutes, and carries around a pair of brass knuckles which seem to have seen frequent use, although he does appear to be capable and somewhat invested in catching the skin-man.
  • Sadistic Choice: The Covenant Man aka 'RF' set up Tim for a multi-layered one. A caged tyger has a key to a shelter from a deadly storm around his neck. Tim at first thinks the choice is to die in the storm or risk his life to get the key. Then he remembers he has a gun. The Tyger is actually Maerlyn forcibly transformed, so if Tim shot it, he would be killing a good man. He takes a third option and chooses to trust the tyger and free it... but the key doesn't work in an extra level of sadism. Fortunately he finds a different way out.
  • Serendipitous Survival: Two sons from the final family slaughtered by the skin-man are absent at the time taking some cows elsewhere, although Roland and Sheriff Peavey wonder if they'll be happy to have survived.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: One miner, Steg Luka, mentions that he spent years in prison for stealing to feed his children and they died while he was in jail anyway.
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song: Happens to the skin-man when he dies.
  • Shout-Out: The Lion Guardian of the Beams is called Aslan.
    • More subtly, the scenes with Tim and the Tyger evoke Life of Pi. And the spelling of 'tyger' probably comes from William Blake's poem "The Tyger", the Trope Namer for Fearful Symmetry.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: The "skin-man" who is able to shape-shift into various types of animals.
  • Plant Person: The swamp creatures.
  • Those Two Guys: Strother and Pickens a pair of abrasive, Clueless Deputy's who always appear together and show signs of being sympathetic to Farson.
  • Whole Episode Flashback
  • Wild Mass Guessing: An in-universe example; after Roland tells him the story of Tim, Bill wonders how Maerlyn could eat during the years he was caged as a tiger. Roland doesn't know, so Bill theorizes Maerlyn must still have had some magic left, even as a tiger, and used this to create food for himself.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Tim realizes that DARIA, a guidance service of North Central Positronics, is serious about there being danger when she starts calling him by his name rather than reverring to him as 'traveller'.
  • You Monster!: Luka's reaction to finding out the identity of the skin-man, a friend of his.