Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Wolves of the Calla

Go To

Preceded by Wizard and Glass.

Wolves of the Calla is Book V of Stephen King's Epic Fantasy series The Dark Tower. Roland of Gilead's quest to save the multiverse from destruction continues in this fifth installment of King's epic tale, where the series' plot takes a detour which finds the gunslinger and his companions helping the farmers of a small town called Calla Bryn Sturgis fight against terrifying creatures known only as "Wolves" who raid and kidnap half of the Calla's children once every generation.

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

Followed by Song of Susannah.

Wolves of the Calla provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Andy the Messenger Robot (Many Other Functions), is really not nice.
  • Arc Number: 19, and later 99.
  • Artistic License Geography: At one point, Father Callahan recalls looking out of a window in a Detroit office building and seeing Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is on the opposite side of the state from Detroit. (Possibly King was thinking of Chicago, which does rest on the shore of Lake Michigan.)
  • The Atoner: Pere Callahan tries his best to make up for his failure in 'Salem's Lot, even though he believes he's not worthy of redemption.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Ka-Tet to the Calla.
  • The Bus Came Back: After literally being Put on a Bus at the end of 'Salem's Lot, Father Callahan finds his way into The Dark Tower series.
  • Canon Welding: A major part of the series in general. The big one in this case is the appearance of Pere Callahan, who was a character in Stephen King's second novel, 'Salem's Lot.
  • Child Soldiers: Jake and his friend Benny Slightman.
  • Cliffhanger: The novel ends with Susannah missing with no way to follow her and the discovery that Callahan is a character from a Stephen King novel.
  • Code of Honour: This is a source of some misunderstanding between Roland and the people of Calla Bryn Sturgis. Essentially, the gunslingers' code requires a gunslinger to help a community in need when they assess that the community needs such help and when providing that help won't interfere with the gunslinger's overall quest. Notably, they will do this even if the community doesn't request or want that help. The residents of the Calla don't quite understand this, and think they get to decide if the gunslingers will fight the Wolves. Fortunately Roland is able to persuade the Calla to support them in the fight, and, so far as the townspeople are concerned, they made the decision themselves.
  • Curbstomp Battle: As with most of the battles the gunslingers fight, the final confrontation with the Wolves is short, sweet and completely lopsided. Roland, his ka-tet and a few of the townspeople utterly demolish the invading force. A couple townspeople die — as in literally two.
  • Deadly Disc: Sharpened plates called orizas as weapons. There's a bit of a legend attached to them about a vengeful woman luring an evil suitor to his doom.
  • Dining in the Buff: According to the legend of Lady Oriza, she lured the outlaw prince Gray Dick, who murdered her father, into a trap by inviting him to a great banquet at her castle, specifying that during the banquet she would be naked in order to demonstrate her lack of any concealed weaponry. Since Lady Oriza was beautiful and athletic, this condition naturally appealed to him and he accepted. She then killed him near the end of the banquette with a plate, which had been secretly weighted and given a sharp edge, instantly decapitating him.
  • Doing In the Wizard: The Wolves are believed to be magical beings, or at least beings with access to magical powers, who have some foolproof mystical way of finding where the children are, making both fighting back and hiding pointless. Turns out that while the Wolves sure serve a magical being, their method of finding the children is completely mundane: they convince/bribe/threaten some trusted citizen to be their spy, and whoever it is just tells them what the plan is.
  • Dumb Muscle:
    • Referenced in Father Callahan's story about the Hitler Brothers. He immediately nicknames the huge muscular one "Lenny" and the small weasely one "George," referencing this dynamic from Of Mice and Men, but discovers to his surprise that the big one is actually the brains.
    • Roont children become severely intellectually disabled and grow to extreme size.
    • George "Big Nose" Biondi, one of Enrico Balazar's "gentlemen" (read: enforcers), makes an appearance when Eddie travels to New York, 1977. He's very dumb, especially compared to Jack Andolini, Balazar's right-hand man.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: The muffin-balls. A "type of ground-berry" covered in sour little horns which smells and tastes like fresh-baked sourdough bread from Zabar's, and which tastes almost like meat when fried in deer fat.
  • Foreshadowing: To the ultimate ending of the series. After the battle against the Wolves, Roland feels a "sense that he would fight this battle or battles like it over and over for eternity..." foreshadowing the revelation in the Coda of Book VII that Roland is repeating his quest for the Tower over and over again from the beginning of Book I, and possibly even earlier in his life.
  • The Gunfighter Wannabe
  • Half-Identical Twins: The Calla is flooded with them, at least until the Wolves seize one of each set. Justified, as the abundance of twin births is not a natural phenomenon.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Roland has every confidence that Susannah will master the Oriza plates with hardly any effort because she's a gunslinger. She does, and almost instantly becomes the town's best shot.
  • Hereditary Twinhood: In Calla Bryn Sturgis, the main setting of the story, this is taken up to eleven as almost all births are twins, with having just one child being a rarity. It is lampshaded however that this is not a natural phenomenon, and the abundance of twins is what makes Calla a target for the Wolves, who want 1 child of each pair of twins every 23 years in order to drain them from the innate material responsible for Twin Telepathy.
  • Hidden Depths: Roland reveals that he is a fantastic dancer. It's a bit of a Suddenly Always Knew That, though he did reference dances being held for the adults in Gilead.
    • This is also the book where Roland reveals his political and diplomatic skills, much to the amazement of the ka-tet. His ability to smoothly and skillfully manipulate and persuade the important players in the calla so that they support the gunslingers in their attempt to fight back against the Wolves is quite impressive.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: If Andy hadn't told Callahan about the ka-tet passing near Calla Bryn Sturgis, he would have been able to go on manipulating and enjoying the misery of the Calla for years. Then again, ka...
  • How We Got Here: A large portion of the fifth section is dedicated towards explaining Callahan's entire story, beginning with a recap of 'Salem's Lot in hindsight.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The women of the Calla fight off invaders by throwing sharpened plates at them.
  • Irony: The Eisenharts weren't directly targeted by the Wolves because their six children were either too old or too young to be taken; however, said children left the Calla as soon as they were old enough to travel, so Vaughn and Margaret ended up losing all their kids instead of just half.
  • Last Stand: The Battle of Jericho Hill, which Roland remembers in his dream; it was there that the last forces of Gilead fell to the barbarians and Roland was the Sole Survivor.
  • The Magnificent Seven Samurai: Lampshaded in-universe. The main deviation is that none of the samurai cowboys die.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In-Story. As the Ka-Tet begins obssessing over the mystery number 19 that keeps appearing, Roland dismisses it as nothing more than a coincidence.
  • Meaningful Name: Eddie 'Cantor' Dean realizes at one point he has been unofficially designated by Roland as the mouthpiece of the Ka-Tet. Note: a Cantor is a person who leads a religious congregation in song.
  • The Multiverse: During Callahan's years wandering the Highways in Hiding, he passed through many different versions of Earth.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Hitler Brothers.
  • The Napoleon: The smaller Hitler Brother is an Ax-Crazy psychopath.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The Wolves are Doombots on mechanical horses with weaponized sneetches from Harry Potter and wielding lightsabers. Not an exaggeration, this is exactly how they're described in the story.
  • One Twin Must Die: Almost all births in the town of Calla Bryn Sturgis are twins. The titular Wolves ride out of Thunderclap roughly every twenty-three years and kidnap one of each pair of the town's children. Months later, they are returned via train, "roont", deformed into Dumb Muscle Empty Shells that painfully grow until they die young. The purpose of this operation is revealed as The Crimson King harvesting the innate material responsible for Twin Telepathy to feed it to powerful psychics to enhance their abilities he is utilizing to destroy the Dark Tower.
  • Papa Wolf: The whole plot is kickstarted by a kind, quiet farmer who refused to let his children be taken and broken by the Wolves.
  • Portal Network: The Highways in Hiding.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: In the legend of Lady Oriza, before killing Gray Dick, who killed her father, she tells him this: "May your first day in hell last ten thousand years, and may it be the shortest."
  • Psycho for Hire: The Hitler Brothers are hired by the low men.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Roland tells the Wolves' spy in Bryn Sturgis that he won't kill him, but that it would be best for everyone if he died heroically, so he'd better get on that when the shooting starts. Subverted, however. He doesn't die, Benny does. Nobody else ever finds out what he did.
  • Robot Antennae / Attack Its Weak Point
  • Rule of Cool: The Oriza plates, which are somehow more accurate and hit with more force than crossbow bolts, allowing them to decapitate metal robots. Also, the only reason the plates make a buzzing noise when thrown is because that's how the legend went.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The plot is heavily based on The Magnificent Seven. Calla Bryn Sturgis is a reference to starring actor Yul Brynner and director John Sturges.
    • Overholser's name is a reference to Western author Wayne D. Overholser.
    • Sneetches are taken from Harry Potter, with a felled one found to have "SNEETCH - HARRY POTTER MODEL" stamped into it.
    • The Wolves use lightsabers straight out of Star Wars.
    • Eddie and Jake surmise that the clothing of the Wolves is based on Doctor Doom.
  • Silent Whisper: We're never told exactly what the 19-word sentence told to Eddie by the old man was, but we get the gist of it by the book's climax.
  • Somebody Else's Problem: Tian's most vocal opponents have children who are too old to be taken. In Overholser's case, said children are both singletons, so they have never been in danger to begin with.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • Andy always knows when the Wolves are coming, but his programming prevents him from divulging any other information. Except, as both Eddie and Roland point out, the Old Ones who made Andy have been gone for over a millennium, and the Wolves have only been coming for about 150 years. That can't be his original programming, so why does he have it?
    • Roland and Jake figure out that Slightman the elder is the collaborator because of his glasses. The Calla just doesn't have the tech to make them, and his story about miraculously finding them in a river trader's wares is just a little too pat.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That:
    • Wizard and Glass follows on directly from The Wastelands, and the only thing to take place between Wizard... and Wolves... is The Wind Through The Keyhole, where Roland and his party shelter from a storm and he tells them a story to pass the time. Yet somehow, Jake, who was a pretty normal kid when he arrived into Mid-World in Wastelands, has somehow taken a massive number of levels in Badass and is a hardened Gunslinger and a crack shot by the very beginning of this book. Somewhat Lampshaded throughout the series, in that Roland's companions are implied to be drawn into his quest because they were born to be Gunslingers.
    • Roland himself gets one. He turns out to be a fantastic dancer, and his companions are completely flabbergasted when they see him dance the Commala, as he'd shown absolutely no evidence of this skill before. But then again, there had never been a reason for him to dance until that point.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Bookstore owner Calvin Tower, who just plain refuses to believe he's in trouble, even after being roughed up by mob enforcers who threaten to burn him out if he doesn't comply with their boss' wishes.
  • Unreliable Illustrator: The cover image of this edition of the book shows Roland with a gun in each hand, even though Roland has been unable to do so since the second book because he lost two fingers on his right hand.
  • Verbal Tic:
    • "Say thankya," "Hear me well," "Thankya big-big."
    • Also, "commala" pretty much means everything (though it literally means "rice" which is the main crop in Calla Bryn Sturgis).