Don’t Forget Your Napkin: My Review of The Eyes of The Dragon

Once upon a time, there was man known as Uncle Stevie.

Uncle Stevie liked to tell scary stories.

Simpsons SK

There were bad guys in Uncle Stevie’s stories.  Lots of bad guys.

In fact, he once told a story about a clown that killed children.

He told a story about a town that was invaded by vampires.

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He even told a story about a haunted hotel that tried to do bad things to a little boy with special talents.

But Uncle Stevie was not a bad man.  No, not at all.

In fact, Uncle Stevie had children of his own.  But those children could not read his stories, because they were children, after all.  Uncle Stevie did not know what to do.  He couldn’t scare his own children, but he wanted to write something they would like and not be scared of.  Uncle Stevie thought for a long time.

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One day, Uncle Stevie got an idea.  He decided to write a fairy tale of sorts, and dedicate it his daughter, Naomi.  Excited, Uncle Stevie got to work right away and wrote his new story.  It took him a long time, but he finally finished writing the story.

Uncle Stevie decided to call this new story The Eyes of the Dragon.  And his children were happy, since he finally wrote a story that they could read, and they liked it.

The story was actually sort of a fairy tale, although it was kind of long for a fairy tale.

But it read like a good fairy tale:  there were kings and queens.  And princes.  And even an evil sorcerer.  And the story took place in a magical land, far, far away.

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Although it was fairy tale, you could still tell that this story was written by Uncle Stevie.  There were some parts that were kind of scary, but not as scary.  And people did some bad things in the story, but never got punished like they would in a regular fairy tale.

In other words, The Eyes of the Dragon was a fairy tale, but you could tell it was written by the guy who writes scary stories.

And like Uncle Stevie’s other books, The Eyes of the Dragon would suck you right in to the land of princes and evil sorcerers, if you weren’t careful.  So kids liked it, and so did the grown-ups.

This nerdy grown-up decided she wanted to feel like a kid again.  So she read The Eyes of the Dragon this month.  Once again, she was captivated.  And enchanted.

Just like reading any other book written by Uncle Stevie.

So, here is her recap and review of The Eyes of the Dragon.  As always, watch out for the fierce beasts known as Spoilers!

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Synopsis

The book introduces us to man named Roland.  Roland is the king of a land called Delain.  Roland is not hated in Delain, although he is not loved either.  Most people think that Roland is a competent king, and have no strong feelings towards him, one way or the other.

Roland is not a very bright man, and relies on the advice given to man by a man known as Flagg.  Flagg is Roland’s trusted adviser, and is also a man familiar with magic and its various uses.  There are many who do not quite trust Flagg, but no one dares to cross his path, as most people actually fear him.

At nearly 50 years old, Roland is still single, and this must be remedied, so that he can bear a son who will take over his royal duties one day.  Flagg introduces Roland to many women, and eventually, a woman named Sasha marries Roland.  Sasha is only 17 when she marries Roland, and is inexperienced in the ways of men.

Roland is also inexperienced in the ways of women, and has trouble bedding Sasha.  However, she becomes pregnant with the couple’s first child, Peter.  Peter is handsome and well liked, and takes after his mother.  Peter’s favorite toy is a dollhouse that was a gift to his mother.  The dollhouse is intricate and even has working parts, such as a small stove that heats up.  Peter spends hours playing with this dollhouse, making up fantastical stories to go along with it.  Peter also shows leadership skills at an early age, as he is able to exert his influence over people.  One day, Peter is able to prevent the unnecessary death of a horse.  Naturally, Flagg notices this and becomes uneasy.

Queen Sasha is well loved by the people of Delain, and is able to influence Roland when he makes certain decisions.  She also insists upon making sure that Peter is taught manners and etiquette.  Specifically, she makes sure that Peter uses his napkin, no matter the circumstances.  This is a lifelong habit that becomes ingrained in Peter.

Eventually, Sasha becomes pregnant with the couple’s second child, Thomas.  Flagg distrusts Sasha, and plots to kill her.  He is successful in accomplishing this when Thomas is born, as he convinces Sasha’s midwife to sever a vital artery, so that Sasha dies from blood loss.

As Peter grows older, Flagg distrusts him more and more.  He realizes that if Peter were to become King, Flagg may be vanquished from Delain.  After much thought, Flagg decides to kill King Roland and pin the death on Peter, so that Thomas will become King.  Thomas lives in the shadow of his brother, as he is not handsome and smart like Peter, but is more like his father.  Since Thomas is feeling neglected, this makes it easy for Flagg to exert his influence over Thomas.

One autumn night, Flagg poisons a glass of wine and gives it to King Roland, who drinks the wine, not suspecting that anything is amiss.  While this is happening, Thomas is spying on his father by peeking through the head of Niner, a dragon slain by his father on a hunting expedition.  Thomas feels that something is amiss, but does not say anything.

Flagg plants evidence in Peter’s room that will be found after his father’s death.  Roland does not show any signs of illness for a few days, but dies a sudden, painful death.

Shortly after the death of Roland, preparations are made for the coronation of Peter as king of Delain.  However, the preparations are halted after Dennis, the royal butler, finds the evidence planted by Flagg in Peter’s room.  Peter is then tried and convicted for the murder of his father, and Thomas is crowned king of Delain.

Thomas is reluctant, but accepts his new title, but feels guilty for his complacence in his father’s death and the false accusations against his brother.  In the meantime, Peter is imprisoned in a tower known as Needle.  His cell is several stories off the ground.

Within a week of his imprisonment, Peter makes two demands:  that his mother’s old dollhouse be brought to him, and that he receive a napkin with every meal.  Peter sends a message to Anders Penya, the Judge General of Delain, with this demand.  With the help of Ben Stadd, Peter’s best friend, Anders is able to grant these requests.

Ben Staad stands by Peter in claims of innocence, and refuses to to believe that his friend could have committed such as act.  Even Anders Penya, who had questioned Peter in regards to the murders, begins to have his doubts in regards to Peter’s guilt.

The dollhouse is finally delivered to Peter, and he begins receiving his napkins at each meal.  Peter then removes a few threads from each napkin, and begins to weave a rope using the miniature loom in the dollhouse.  It is painstaking work, but Peter is patient, and spends the next five years making this rope so that he may escape his prison.  Peter also finds an old locket and letter one day, and realizes that Flagg has been spreading  his evil throughout the kingdom of Delain for several centuries.

In the meantime, Thomas attempts to rule over Delain as king.  However, he is a very unpopular king, as he has raised taxes on the kingdom, due to advice from Flagg, whom he has become dependent on.  Thomas is very unhappy and moody, due to the fact that he is not ready for the responsibilities as king, and the guilt over his father’s death.

One night, Thomas sleep-walks to his secret hiding spot, and re-enacts the night of his father’s death in his sleep.  This is witnessed by Dennis, Thomas’ royal butler.  Dennis is badly frightened by what he sees, and begins to question King Roland’s death.

A few days later, Dennis pays a visit to Anders Peyna, and tells his tale.  Peyna becomes distressed, realizing that he has falsely imprisoned Peter, the true king of Delain.

The next morning, Peyna sends Dennis back to Delain, advising him to be careful.  Peyna then heads north to the camp of the exiles, where many have fled to escape the situation in Delain.  Peyna plans to seek the help of Ben Staad, Peter’s old friend.  The Staad family are among those who have fled Delain.

Since Dennis is able to read and write, Peyna tells him to send a note to Peter in secret.  Dennis writes the note, and hides it among the napkins, in the hope that the note will reach Peter.

Peyna also speaks to Ben Staad, and sends Ben back to the kingdom of Delain to help Peter.  Ben is accompanied by a woman named Naomi Reechul, who drives a sled pulled by Husky dogs.  With Naomi’s help, Ben reaches the former home of Peyna.  In order to track down Dennis, Naomi has Frisky, one of her dogs, track Dennis’ scent, in the hopes that they may find him.

In the meantime, Peter has finished weaving his rope and plans his escape from Needle.  However, he has second thoughts when he receives Dennis’ letter, which states that Peyna does not believe Peter is guilty of murder and was in fact wrongfully imprisoned.

Peter re-thinks his plans to escape the next night, and uses his blood to write a note to Dennis.  He bundles it in a napkin, in the hopes that Dennis will find it.

Dennis lurks outside The Needle and catches a glance of Peter.  He also finds the note, and decides that he will do anything to help Peter.

Ben and Naomi are able to track down Dennis, with the help of Frisky.  The three then exchange stories, and make plans to rescue Peter.

That night, Flagg finally realizes that Peter means to escape, and begins to head up the stairs of Needle, to Peter’s cell.  Peter hears Flagg coming, and using his rope, begins to make his escape.

As he is making his escape, Peter’s rope breaks.  However, his fall is cushioned by a pile of napkins, which were loaded into a cart by Ben, Naomi and Dennis.  Peter falls, but survives, much to the anger of Flagg.

Flagg then chases Peter and his friends to the former chambers of King Roland.  Flagg says that he will kill Peter.  Peter then confronts Flagg with the knowledge of the murder of his father, along with Flagg’s past evil deeds.

Thomas then appears, with his father’s bow and arrow.  Flagg believes Thomas to be the ghost of Roland, which makes him forget about his plans to murder Peter.  This allows Thomas to shoot Flagg with his father’s bow and arrow.  The arrow then hits Flagg in the eye.  After he is hit by the arrow, Flagg vanishes, leaving only his clothes behind.

After the confrontation with Flagg, Peter is acquitted of his father’s murder.  Peter invites Thomas to stay in Delain, but Thomas declines.  Instead, Thomas says that he will spend his life tracking down Flagg, so that he may avenge his father and brother.  Dennis offers to accompany Thomas, and Thomas gratefully accepts the offer.

Thomas leaves Delain, and it is not known if he ever returns, although he did have many strange adventures.  Peter continues to rule in Delain as king, and Ben and Naomi eventually get married.


My Thoughts

Well, I did say that I wanted a break from the scary stuff.

In other words, I needed a break from watching Indianapolis Colts football!

NFL: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

Haha, just joking!  Even though the Colts are frightening to watch at the moment, I will still be loyal to them!

But seriously, The Eyes of the Dragon though…

The Eyes of the Dragon is a fairy tale.  And it is a fairy tale written by the King of Horror.

And…wait for it…

It is actually a good fairy tale written by The Master!  Who knew?

Stephen King

Ok, it’s confession time…I hope all both  of the readers of this blog have some tolerance and don’t judge me…

For many years, I put off reading this book.  There was something that just did not sit right with me, in regards to this book.

In my little mind, Sai King was not supposed to write fantasy children’s stories (although this one does have some adult themes, more about that later.)  He was supposed to write about the scary hotels, rabid St. Bernards, possessed vehicles, cursed burial grounds and all those other things that have kept me up at night over the years.

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In other words, there was no room for princes, evil wizards and faraway kingdoms.  Absolutely not allowed!

Well, as one might say in another faraway land created by King, “I cry your pardon.”

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I finally read The Eyes of the Dragon a couple of years ago.  And I enjoyed it then.

And when I re-read it this year, I was again reminded of what I had missed out on, due to my obstinate nature.

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While The Eyes of the Dragon is not in my top 10 (too many others overshadow it), I still consider it to be one of King’s underrated gems.

And it even has tie-ins to some of my favorites, like The Dark Tower series.  And The Stand, which is one of my books of all time, period.

The Eyes of the Dragon could be considered to be a children’s tale.  And in many ways, it is. My parents read me fairy tales when I was child, and I was constantly reminded of those when I was reading this book.

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There is land that is far, far away, aka the kingdom of Delain.  King never specifies just where Delain is, but it is not on any map that exists in this world.

There are kings, queens and princesses.  King Roland, Queen Sasha and Prince Peter are almost “textbook” fairy tale characters if you will.  They are well loved by the people they rule over, and strive to the right thing.

And there is an evil wizard.  Flagg fits the bill of evil wizard perfectly:  he is a scheming, evil and ultimately prideful creature who does his best to wreak havoc wherever he goes (again, more about Flagg later.)

However, like almost all of King’s books, there is more than meets the eye (pun not intended) in The Eyes of the Dragon.

First of all, there is King Roland.  Now, I am not calling King Roland necessarily a bad guy, because he does try to do what is right.

However, King Roland is DEFINITELY not a bright man.  And time and time again, his actions remind of that fact.  Usually, it is the bad guys in fairy tales that are bumbling buffoons, not the good kings who want to do what is right.  But Roland is an exception in this book, and this actually makes the book more interesting, and adds a little depth to the story.

Then there is the character of Thomas, aka Thomas the Tax Bringer, whom I actually find to be one of King’s most fascinating characters.

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On the one hand, Thomas appears to be a bad dude.  When the narrator described how Thomas killed a dog because….well, just because, I immediately felt the need to go home and hug my dogs (luckily, they are the tolerant sort and don’t mind random hugs, unlike my cats, who revel in blood sport.)

But, on the other hand, I would agree with the narrator:  Thomas is not a bad boy.  Repeat:  Thomas is not a bad boy.

Now, Thomas may have done some pretty bad things.  Killing that dog, for instance.  And watching Flagg murder his father and not saying a word about that to anyone.

However, some of Thomas’ actions are understandable.

Thomas was basically screwed from the moment he came into existence.  When he was born, his mother died.  Even though that was not his fault, Thomas (and possibly others) blamed his birth on the death of his mother.  So he had to carry that guilt.

Then there is the fact that Thomas is the brother of Peter.  Growing up, it was my brother who had friends and was the musician.  I was just the awkward nerd that no one else noticed.  So of course, this created resentment with me, just as Thomas resented his brother, even though he did love Peter, as I love my brother.  Being in someone’s shadow and never being noticed for your accomplishments (and Thomas was actually a good archer) is difficult, and can be pretty depressing.  Thomas only wanted the approval of his father, and not getting it made him understandably upset.

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So, while some of Thomas’ actions were deplorable, at least they were understandable, given the context.  I don’t think that Thomas was an inherently evil character.  In fact, there is only one inherently evil character in this book.  We will talk about him in a bit.

One thing I love about The Eyes of the Dragon is that it is a fairy tale.  It tells of fantastical lands, kings and queens, magic, evil wizards and all that good stuff.

I also love that The Eyes of the Dragon is a Stephen King book.

So, Captain Obvious strikes again, right?

Well, let me explain a bit.

What I mean is that I love fantasy and fairy tales.  When I was a child, my parents had to constantly read to me from various books of fairy tales and fantasy stories, as they were my favorite.  We read Peter Pan.  We read the non- Disney version of Pinocchio (seriously, my parents wonder where my horror obsession comes from.  Read that one sometime.  It is far more disturbing than most “horror” stories.)

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So, I feel at home when I read those types of stories.  They are my bread butter, you might say.  George RR Martin, JRR Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey and Madeleine L’Engle are just a few of my favorite authors.  The land of fantasy is my home.

But, despite the fact that The Eyes of the Dragon appears to be a fairy tale, it was written by the King of Horror.  And throughout the book, we are constantly reminded of that fact.

For one, The Eyes of the Dragon has some gruesome deaths.  Gruesome deaths are Sai King’s bread and butter, after all.  The death of Queen Sasha definitely counts as gruesome, as a mid-wife used a knife to cut a vital organ so that Sasha would bleed to death.  Not only is this gruesome, this is also one of the most tragic deaths I have ever come across in any book.

Speaking of gruesome, there is the death of King Roland.  Roland is poisoned, but not with just any poison.  No, only “Dragonsand” would do for Roland.  This was a poison that burned someone from the inside out…shudder.

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Most fairy tales end on “happily ever after.”  The evil is defeated, and justice is somehow served.  However, this is not the case in regards to The Eyes of the Dragon.

For one, Flagg is not defeated.  Sure, he exits the kingdom of Delain, but he still alive!  And read to make mischief wherever he can.  Seriously, I wonder if he found the world of The Stand because he got evicted from Delain?  Seems legit, right?

There is also Thomas.  I did say that Thomas was not a bad guy.  But he was also complicit in the murder of his father and imprisonment of his brother.  However, Thomas never faces any consequences for his actions, and basically leaves the kingdom in shame, although he leaves under the guise of doing something noble, aka tracking down Flagg so that Flagg can answer for his actions (wish I could find out how that worked out, actually.)

In other words, Thomas did not get a happy ending.  The only one who really got a happy ending was Peter, and maybe his friend Ben.  And Peter probably spent years trying to clean up the mess made by Flagg and his brother, so I am really not sure how happy his ending really was.

Ok, I saved the best for last.

Or is it the worst for last?  Maybe best of the worst for last?

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am talking about that bad guy that we all love to hate…

Can I get a round of loud booing for…

None other than Randall Flagg himself!

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Now, Randall Flagg is ubiquitous in the Stephen King universe.

He shows up, in one way or another, in so many different books.  And he seems to be the equivalent of the cockroach in the King universe:  he just won’t go away!

Or perhaps the equivalent of Von Miller:  a one man (or maybe one demon) wrecking crew who is impossible to game plan for.  Instead of see “Miller, V,” we have see Flagg, R.

Flagg is perhaps most associated with the novel The Stand.  A world has been ravaged by the super flu and trying to rebuild itself.  Of course, with no help from Flagg, R.

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The Stephen King cockroach also makes several appearances in the Dark Tower series (both the books and the comics.)  In fact, he is part of the best opening line in history:  The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

(Again, see Flagg, R.)

And he is also a character in The Eyes of the Dragon.

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Out of all the different flavors of Flagg (kind of gross if you think of it that way, actually), I think that his character in The Eyes of the Dragon is my favorite flavor.  Not that I don’t think he’s great in all the other books, but there is just something about him in The Eyes of the Dragon that makes my heart go pitter-patter…

For one thing, he is pretty creative in this particular book.  I mean, a poison called Dragonsand?  Talk about a different, painful kind of death on the person you inflict it on!

He also has the old school, evil wizard feel to him in The Eyes of the Dragon.

He is crafty, cunning and enjoys evil for the sake of…well…evil.  There is no other way to put it.   We, as readers, tend to like to assign motivations to characters, to give them a reason for their actions.

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Well, there is no reason for Flagg’s actions in The Eyes of Dragon.  He is a bad guy who enjoys being a bad guy.  He does evil things because he likes it.  He only feels remorse when his plans fail and he is unable to unleash chaos  like he wants to.  He garners no sympathy from the reader.  In fact, the reader roots for him to die, and is disappointed when he doesn’t (one of the perks of being an evil wizard includes the ability to perpetually exist and stir up trouble everywhere, even breaking the inter-dimensional barrier.)

So it’s refreshing, actually.

Almost as refreshing as glass of wine that includes that extra touch of Dragonsand…


So, that’s it for The Eyes of the Dragon!

Join me next month as we return to the “real world…”

In other words, I will be reviewing and dissecting an oldie but goodie, otherwise known as The Shining.

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

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Connections

Although it takes place in the “faraway” land of Delain, there are indications that The Eyes of the Dragon is indeed a part of the Stephen King universe.  Here are some of the connections that I found:

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-The most obvious connection to King’s other books is the character of Randall Flagg.  Flagg appears in several other King works, including The Gunslinger, Wizard and Glass, The Dark Tower, The Stand, The Wastelands, The Wind Through the Keyhole and even in the title story of the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  Flagg apparently possesses the ability to travel to other worlds, and can perhaps even travel through time.

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In The Drawing of the Three, Roland speaks of an encounter with Thomas and Dennis, while they are on a quest to find Flagg.  It is not known if Thomas and Dennis are ever able to confront Flagg and force him to answer for his crimes against Delain.  In fact, it is doubtful if their quest was ever successful, and it is more likely that this quest eventually results in the deaths of both Thomas and Dennis.

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-King Roland shares a first name with with Roland Deschain, the main character in King’s Dark Tower series.  However, this is all the two share, as Roland Deschain is clever and skilled, unlike his Delain counterpart.

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-Peter’s time in The Needle can be said to be similar to Andy Dufresne’s imprisonment in Shawshank State Prison in the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (part of the collection Different Seasons), as Andy was also imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit.  Like Peter, Andy Dufresne also spent years devising and ingenious escape plan, under the noses of his captors.

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-Randall Flagg owns a two-headed parrot.  Parkus, the man responsible for law and order in the Territories in the novels Black House and The Talisman, also owns a similar creature.  It is unknown if these creatures are one in the same, or merely just similar.

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-Mention is made of Rhea of the Coos.  Rhea is a major character in the novel Wizard and Glass, as well as The Dark Tower comics.

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How I spent my vacation: My review of Wind Through the Keyhole

Ah, vacation.  Nothing like a vacation when you have been busting your hump during tax season, and dealing with every single question that seems to come out of the woodwork between January 5th and April 15th…well, maybe this is just me!

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Well, everyone deserves a vacation.  Especially our favorite ka-tet.  Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy did also bust their humps, after all.  Maybe taking on an insane talking monorail, fighting off killer lobsters and birthing people from the real world to Mid-World isn’t quite as stressful as tax season, but all that is still taxing (see what I did there) and these guys need a break just as much as the rest of us do!

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And the tet did indeed receive a break.  The weather may not have been so great, but they were treated to story time by none other than their friendly neighborhood gunslinger!  And the reader also got a bit of a break from that pesky Tower thingy that Stephen King has been torturing us with for so long, and was treated to a little more insight into Roland’s mysterious world, although the questions still remain.

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So let’s all take a break, and venture into my review of The Wind Through the Keyhole.


Synopsis

The Wind Through the Keyhole picks up shortly after the events at the end of Wizard and Glass.  Roland and his friends are continuing with their journey, but run into some trouble in the form of what Roland refers to as a “starkblast” (severe windstorm).  The tet is able to find shelter, however, and settles into their shelter for a few days.  The storm causes Roland to recall an incident from his early manhood, along with a story that his mother used to tell him at bedtime, titled “The Wind Through the Keyhole.”  Roland is convinced by his friends to tell both stories, and happily obliges.

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The incident from Roland’s boyhood takes places about two years after the events in Meijis, and the death of Roland’s mother is still fresh on his mind.  Roland’s father calls upon Roland and his friend Jamie DeCurry one day to assist him with a matter in one of the surrounding towns.  It appears that a creature known as the Skin-Man is terrorizing the town.  The creature is human, but is a shapeshifter, and may or may not realize what it has done.  Roland and Jamie take a train to the town, but it is derailed and they finish the journey on horseback.  On the way to the town, Roland and Jamie encounter the convent of women who had sheltered his mother, Gabrielle, after her affair with Marten Broadcloak.  He learns that one of the women was attacked by the Skin-Man and survived, but is horribly disfigured.

Jamie De Curry

Once Roland and Jamie arrive in the town, they team with local law enforcement to investigate the mysterious deaths.  The Skin-Man has attacked a farm and killed nearly every inhabitant of that farm.  However, there is one survivor, a boy of about 11 years old named Bill Streeter.  Roland hypnotizes Bill Streeter, and learns that Bill has seen the Skin-Man in his human form, but only his feet.  Bill tells Roland that the Skin-Man has an unusual tattoo.  Roland and Jamie determine that the Skin-Man is likely one of the local salt miners and is also able to ride a horse.  Roland puts Bill in one of the cells in the local jail (for Bill’s protection), and begins the process of rounding up all the salt miners in town who may have the identifying tattoo.  Roland and Jamie plan to bring the suspects to the local jail, in the hopes that Bill may be able to identify the Skin-Man.

In order to bring some comfort to Bill Streeter, who is still in shock from the attack and the loss of his father, Roland bunks with him in the jail cell, and tells him the bedtime story told to him by his mother, titled “The Wind Through the Keyhole.”

“The Wind Through the Keyhole” tells the story of young Tim Ross.  Tim Ross lives in a forest, in a land that is probably part of Mid-World.  Tim’s life is ordinary until he is 11 years old, when he loses his father.  He is told by his father’s friend Big Kells that Tim’s father, known as Big Ross, was killed by a dragon.  The death of Big Ross leaves Tim’s mother Nell in dire straights and she is unable to pay her taxes on the land she lives on with her son.

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In a moment of desperation, Nell marries Big Kells.  This proves to be almost an immediate mistake, as Big Kells begins to abuse Tim’s mother.  In the meantime, the Covenant Man, who is the tax collector in Tim’s part of the world, makes a visit to Tim and his family, in an attempt to collect the taxes that are due.  However, the Covenant Man also does more than to attempt to collect taxes.  He shows Tim the true nature of the death of father, and it is revealed that Tim’s father was murdered by Big Kells.  It is also revealed that Big Kells has beaten Tim’s mother so badly that she has lost her vision and also suffered a severe concussion.

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Tim rushes back to his mother, as he fears for her life.  He is also extremely angry at Big Kells, and the village searches for him, so that he can answer for the murder of Tim’s father.  Tim also wants to restore his mother’s vision, and sets off on a quest to attempt that feat.  His school teacher, the Widow Smack, has armed him with a gun, along with a warning about the true nature of the Covenant Man.

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Tim wanders deep into the forest.  He is nearly killed by a dragon, but pleads for his life and is granted mercy.  Tim also encounters humanoid creatures that reside in the swamp, and these creature mistake him for a gunslinger and are more than willing to aid him on his quest.  They give him food, and a GPS like device with a strangely human voice that calls itself Daria.  Daria aids Tim on his quest, providing him with directions to his destination.

A few days into his quest, Tim comes across a structure known as as Dogan.  Some wild billy-bumblers warn Tim that he must take shelter, as a starkblast is on the way.

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Tim discovers that there is a cage, and locked in that case is an extremely large tyger.  Tim choose not to kill the tyger, and instead seeks shelter with the creature.  There is a magical blanket in the cage with the creature, and this blanket keeps both Tim and his mysterious new friend warm and sheltered from the starkblast.

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The next morning, the tyger urges Tim to place drops of a magic potion in its eyes.  Tim is afraid, but complies with the request.  The tyger then transforms into a human man who is obviously a magician.  In fact, the tyger is actually none other than perhaps the most famous magician of all time:  Maerlyn.

Maerlyn's rainbow

Maerlyn tells Tim that a creature called the Red King had imprisoned him in a moment of vulnerability.  Maerlyn gives Tim the rest of the magic potion, and tells him to use it to restore his mother’s site.  He also tells Tim to wear his father’s coin around his neck, in remembrance of his father, but to give his mother his father’s ax.  Tim is then transported home via the magical blanket.

magic carpet

Tim rushes into his house.  The Widow Smack is asleep  and his mother is also resting in her bed.  There is no sign of Big Kells.  Tim restores his mother’s site.  He takes another look at the Widow Smack, and is horrified to discover she is actually dead.

Big Kells then attacks Tim from behind, nearly killing him.  However, Tim had followed Maerlyn’s instructions to the letter, and gave his mother his father’s ax.  Tim’s mother attacks Big Kells with ax and kills him, saving the life of her son.  Tim and his mother live out the rest of their days in relative peace, although Tim becomes a gunslinger and has a few adventures.

Roland then finishes telling his story to Bill Streeter.  Bill is comforted a little, so Roland takes him to a local bar to identify the Skin-Man who killed his father.  Bill identifies the man by his tattoo and the scar that runs through the tattoo.  The man then changes to a snake and kills the mine foreman, but Roland puts a bullet through the creature’s skull.

Roland and Jamie are heralded as heroes, and the town celebrates. Roland and Jamie head back to Gilead, and drop Bill off at the women’s convent.  Roland is given a letter from his mother.  He learns that his mother knew that she would die at the hands of her son, but that she still went back to their home to see him one last time.  His mother also lets Roland know in the letter that she forgives him for his crime.  Roland then forgives his mother for her adultery, and forgives himself for killing her.

Gabrielle 1

Roland finishes the tale, and the storm passes.  Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy then continue along the Path of the Beam in their quest to seek the Dark Tower.

the dark tower cover_0


 

My Thoughts

The Wind Through the Keyhole is quite different in tone that the rest of the Dark Tower series, and even from most of King’s other work.  However, these differences are what makes it unique, and they are  why I love it.

As a child, I was a huge fan of fairy tales.   I remember that my parents had several large books of fairy tales which they read to me (probably repeatedly, but I am sure I wasn’t counting).  When I grew old enough to read on my own, I re-read those stories again, and checked out countless books on fairy tales, fables and myths from the library.  These type of stories hold a treasured place in my heart, and you can bet if I reproduce my spawn my own children will be huge fairy tale geeks as well.

fairytale_landscape_by_reinmar84-d6uaii7

So imagine my surprise (although King really should not surprise at this point, since he has proven himself the master of surprise) that my favorite writer, who is billed as a “horror writer” to boot, took the time to indulge me and write me a fairy tale.  But that is exactly what Wind Through the Keyhole is:  a fairy tale.  There is a magician.  In fact, two magicians:  The Covenant Man and good old Maerlyn.  There is adventure.  The adventure is even in a forest.  And King even included an evil stepparent, since what fairy tale would be complete without an evil stepparent?  Just like all of his other work, it is tied into that awesome universe he has spent nearly 40 years creating.  Even evil stepparents have their place among master gunslingers in the Stephen King universe.

Wind Through the Keyhole is also fascinating in that it provides us with a glimpse into the world of Roland, and teases us a little more about just what kind of a world Roland comes from, and how close it is to our own world.  The Coventry Man even references our world, and makes mention of a vehicle called a Dodge Dart.  The device Tim uses as guide on his journey seems to be somewhat similar to the app known as Siri, that many people rely upon when they feel the need to ask a question to their smartphones.  Even Maerlyn is a familiar figure, as almost everyone knows the legend of King Arthur and his magician Merlin.

Merlin 1

Another thing I remember about fairy tales is that most of them contained some kind of life lesson at some point in the story (be nice to your sisters or you will get your eyes pecked out per Cinderella, beauty is in the eye of the beholder per Beauty and the Beast, etc).  And Wind Through the Keyhole also delivered on this premise.  And the lesson wasn’t gory, no one got their eyes pecked out, nor was it preachy.  The lesson was forgiveness.  And forgiveness is a beautiful thing when it is sincere.  But forgiveness is also a difficult thing, especially when we need to forgive ourselves.  At the beginning of the story, Roland is still grieving the death of his mother, and blames himself.  He is unable to let go of the guilt.  It takes a letter from essentially beyond the grave in order for Roland to finally move past his guilt.  Once Roland realizes that his mother knew what was in store for her, but lets her love for her son win out in the end, he is finally able to move on.  And Gabrielle’s act of forgiveness for her what she knows her son will do to her is simply beautiful.  Somehow, in a what is almost a children’s story, King was able to sneak in a lesson that all children (and most adults, for that matter) would benefit from:  forgiveness is a beautiful and needed act.

Forgive


 

So here you have it:  my recap of my, er the vacation of our favorite ka-tet!  But like all good things, vacations must come to an end.  I am back to work, and so are they.  Join me next week as my next review throws them to the wolves…The Wolves of the Calla, that is!

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


 

Time for connections fun!  Here are some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in The Wind Through the Keyhole:

-The connection that stands out the most is the character the Covenant Man.  This character can be none other than Randall Flagg in some form.  Flagg is perhaps King’s most ubiquitous villain, and the fact that he shows up in a “fairy tale” is just further proof of that.  Flagg is featured in Eyes of the Dragon, The Stand and a few other King works.  Obviously, Flagg is a timeless source of pestilence in the King universe.

the stand

-A being called the Red King is also mentioned.  This being is probably the Crimson King, who is another ubiquitous villain in the King universe.  The Crimson makes an appearance in the novel Insomnia, and it is implied that he is responsible for many of the evil deeds that are committed in the King universe.

The_Crimson_King_by_Verin88

-The Widow Smack’s first name is Ardelia.  Ardelia is also the name of the creature who torments the protagonists in the short story The Library Policeman, which is part of the collection of Four Past Midnight.  This creature is similar to Widow Smack, in that it attempts to “teach” children by telling them awful versions of their favorite fairy tales.  The Widow Smack is also a teacher, but a kind one.  Also, like Ardelia Lortz, she seems to possess some magic powers, but again, she uses her powers for good and not harm.

The_Library_Policeman_by_TheHouseOfIdeas

-The mine foreman states there appeared to be a part in the salt mine that was infested by some of otherwordly, supernatural presence, and it was responsible for turning one of his men into a shape-shifter.  This brings to mind Tak, the villain in the books Desperation and The Regulators.  Tak was an entity originally discovered in the mines of the Southwest, and was able to possess people’s bodies and force them to commit acts that they normally would not commit.  Tak had many powers, and one of them may have been the ability to shape shift.

Tak_Likes_TV_by_bluefreak

 

-The phrase “There’s no place like home” is uttered.  Of course, this is from the movie The Wizard of Oz, which was heavily referenced in the book Wizard and Glass.

wizard of oz 1

-The character Maerlyn is a major character in The Wind Through the Keyhole.  Maerlyn has been alluded to in previous books in the Dark Tower series, but not much was known about him.  It was even implied that Randall Flagg and Maerlyn were one in the same, although King has now shown us otherwise.  Maerlyn is the creator of the Wizard’s Rainbow mentioned in Wizard and Glass, and may not necessarily be on the side of the good.  However, in Wind Through the Keyhole, Maerlyn was shown to have a vulnerable side (the Red King imprisons him while he is drunk).  Maerlyn also helped Tim and saved his life via the advice he gave.  In other words, he did not seem to be an evil being and actually appeared to be a benevolent one.  It is difficult to tell where Maerlyn belongs in the grand scheme of the Stephen King universe and just exactly what he is fighting for.

Merlin