Saturday, March 6, 2010

9-Reading the Gunslinger's Fortune - and Lost's Future?

Spoiler Alert for The Dark Tower - Major plot elements and character destinies are revealed

This post relates the tale of the Man in Black telling Roland the Gunslinger's fortune. In the first book of The Dark Tower series: "The Gunslinger", Roland the gunslinger pursues the Man in Black across the wasteland. He sacrifices a young boy, Jake, in order to catch the Man in Black (MIB). Roland attempts to kill MIB but because of MIB's sorcery, he is unable to. Roland and MIB parlay and MIB reads Roland the Gunslinger's Fortune in a Tarot Reading.

MIB: "These are Tarot cards, gunslinger--of a sort. A mixture of the standard deck to which have been added a selction of my own development. Now watch carefully...I'm going to tell your future. Seven cards must be turned, one at a time, and placed in conjunction with the others."

Roland: "Read my fortune then".

The first card was turned. "The Hanged Man," the man in black said..."Yet here, in conjunction with nothing else, it signifies strength, not death. You, gunslinger are the Hanged Man, plodding ever onward toward your goal over the pits of Na'ar (Hell). You've already dropped one co-traveller into that pit, have you not?"

The Hanged Man
"The Sailor! Note the clear brow, the hairless heeks, the wounded eyes. He drowns, gunslinger, and no one throws out the line. The boy Jake."
John (Jake) Chambers is a young boy who the Gunslinger initially sacrifices to catch Man in Black, and begin his path to the Dark Tower. Jake drowns in an underground river when an ancient bridge crumbles. Roland can either save him and abandon his quest or let him fall and pursue the man in black. Roland lets him fall. 'Later', Gunslinger 'saves' Jake's life by traveling through a door to Jake's reality and saves his life and prevents him from being transported to the Gunslinger's world so that he never meets Roland and Roland never sacrifices him.
This creates a time paradox for both Jake and the Gunslinger and they begin to go mad. They are saved when Roland's companions help him create a door to Jake's reality. Jake is drawn to the connecting door in his reality, they overcome the demons guarding each entry way and Jake is united in Roland's world and becomes part of his Ka'tet, a brotherhood united by Ka (fate).
He becomes' the Gunslinger's symbolic son. During their quest, Jake sacrifices his life to perserve the life of someone essential to the universe's survival.

The Prisoner
The third card was turned. A baboon stood grinningly astride a young man's shoulder. The young man's face was turned up, a grimace of stylized dread and horrow on his features. Looking more closely, the gunslinger saw the baboon held a whip. "The Prisoner," the man in black said..."A trifle upsetting, isn't he?"

Eddie Dean is a heroin addict and faces heroin withdrawal symptoms when he is drawn into Roland's world, but despite his suffering, he also shows an affinity for the ways of the gunslinger. Unwillingly at first, and somewhat under duress, Eddie becomes Roland's companion through Mid-World, and he soon falls in love with and marries Susannah, the next member of Roland's ka-tet. He has an irracible wit and humor that transfroms from sarcasim to a boyish, if crude, humourous nature that buoys his companions. He is absolutely loyal and brave. He has a keen insight, intuition and intelligence which is critical in solving several obstacles that stymy Roland and his companions. He is so persuasive that his brother remarked he could "convince the Devil to set himself on fire." He dies in the attack to free the 'breakers of the beam' from their prison.

The Lady of the Shadows
"The Lady of the Shadows," the man in black remarked. "Does she look two-faced to you, gunslinger? She is. Two faces at least. She broke the blue plate!"
Susannah has a split personality schizophrenia caused by an attack by Jack Mort. Her dominent personality Odetta Susannah Holmes, well-mannered but priggish woman active in the civil rights, her other personality, Detta Susannah Walker is murderously psychotic, paranoid and incredibly crafty. She eventually manages to integrate her personalities into a single, far more balanced individual, and she becomes Susannah Dean, Eddie's wife.
During the drawing of Jake, she submits to sex with the demon of the doorway in order to distract it and afterwards, she becomes pregnant. Susannah shares the experience of her pregnancy with a demon-turned-mortal named Mia, resulting in Susannah housing yet another personality in her mind. Mia takes over Susannah's body (and melds with it, giving her legs for a short while) and runs in it to yet another when of New York, this one circa 1999, to give birth to the demon child.

Susannah is the last member of Roland's ka-tet to leave him (and the only one to survive in a Keystone world), having been given the chance to return to another form of Eddie and Jake in a parallel world.

He tittered and turned the fifth card. A grinning reaper clutched ascythe with bony fingers. "Death," the man in black said simply. "Yet not for you."
Death surround Roland the Gunslinger. In one early scene, he guns down an entire town of folk who are sorcereously manipulated by the Man in Black to attack him. But after he draws his three companions, he begins to transform. Instead of sacrificing his companions they join his quest and prove themselves to be loyal and fearless and become gunslingers in their own right. Indeed two, willingly lay down their lives.
The Tower
The sixth card. The gunslinger looked at it and felt a strange, crawling anticipation in his guts. The feeling was mixed with horror and joy, and the whole of the emotion was unnameable. It made him feel like throwing up and dancing at the same time...The man in black placed the Tower over the Hanged Man, covering it completely.
The Tower is the nexus of all realities in the multiverse. It is the Axle on which all worlds spin. The Tower is the focus of Roland's quest. He is obsessed with attaining it. When his tale begins in "The Gunslinger", nothing remains in his life except his pursuit to find the Tower. But the 3 componions that fate and the dark arts of the Man in Black mingle to draw to him gives him new purpose and he finds companionship and love which transforms him and his quest.

The man in black turned the seventh. A sun rose in luminoously blue sky. Cupids and sprites sported around it. Below the sun was agreat red field upon which it shone. Roses or blood? The gunslinger could not tell. Perhaps, he thought, it's both. "The seventh card is Life," the man in black said softly. "But not for you."...He flipped the card carelessly into the dying fire. It charred, curled, and flashed to flame. The gunslinger felt his heard quail and turn icy in his chest.

Next time I will try and make some comparisons of who might mirror the gunslinger's ka'tet in Lost.
take it easy
it ain't all half badd
mr badd

p.s. leave me a comment or e-mail me at -- I guarantee you'll get a response, just can't guarantee it will make sense.


  1. Do you think that a ka'tet has actually formed among the losties on the Island?

  2. I think it very possible that the variables represent a Lost ka'tet.
    4 - Locke
    8 - Reyes
    15 - Ford
    16 - Jarrah
    23 - Shephard
    42 - Kwon
    They are very significant players in the story that is unfolding and have worked (to various degrees) together to stay alive and help each other. I had been toying with the idea that the Lost ka'tet would mirror Roland's ka'tet in regards to the fortune and destines of it's members. But the variables certainly seem a very strong alternative if any such correlation actually exists.

  3. I think there are 2 additional variables
    7th hidden variable 51 = Kate (Austen)
    8th variable 108 = wallace
    4 - Locke
    8 - Reyes
    15 - Ford
    51-Kate-7th hidden variable
    16 - Jarrah
    23 - Shephard
    42 - Kwon
    108 - Wallace (8th culminating variable)

  4. i think that the way the daark tower ends, when the author states that 'ka is a wheel may it do ya'when Roland realises its to start all over again, his life, his journey.I believe that Roland at that time is a demi-God, and he is the agent for the dark tower, he is immortal....what say you?

  5. I wouldn't use those words, but I think when Man In Black speaks with Roland in "The Gunslinger" and talks of the days of MIB's manhood before his apotheosis and that "You are that apotheosis, gunslinger. You are my climax." This definitely suggests that something beyond the 'normal' cycle of life and rebirth has touched the gunslinger (and some of his enemies). That he is bound by fate and destiny and his cyclical attainment of the Tower and his passing through it, may have made Roland a creature of destiny or a man locked into Fate. I think he is still flesh and blood but would not argue with your use of the term demi-god. Perhaps hero quester might be more appropriate from my point of view. I don't think Roland is an agent of the dark tower though. The tower is a symbol of power and control over life and I think Roland clearly has chosen to be an agent protecting life and does not try to control the power and energy of the tower for his own purposes. I think that is why he succeeds in passing through the levels of the tower to be reborn to his quest. The crimison king became trapped in the very 1st level of the tower. You can say that he fell into its very first and most basic trap, the alure of power and control. The crimson king is the arch typical tyrant who is obsessed with control and rather than release that power he would see all reality destroyed in order to stay in control of everything. So the tower is, in my opinion a symbol of the corruptive influence of power. And Roland's story is it's antitheses, since Roland evolves as the protector of all life symbolized in the Rose.