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«Wizard and Glass», Wizard and Glass
This book is dedicated to Julie Eugley and
Marsha DeFilippo. They answer the mail, and
most of the mail for the last couple of years has
been about Roland of Gilead—the gunslinger.
Basically, Julie and Marsha nagged me back
to the word processor. Julie, you nagged the
most effectively, so your name comes first.
All hail the crimson king!
Her arms and belly and breasts breaking out in gooseflesh
Cuthbert, meanwhile, had already reloaded
But he and his love were no longer children
Smiling lips revealed cunning little teeth
There they died together-o
Of the three of them, only Roland saw her
It cut the old man's throat efficiently enough
A flash as the big-bang exploded
The dark tower rearing to the sky
The wicked witch of the East
Wizard and Glass is the fourth volume of a longer tale inspired by Robert Browning's narrative poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came."
The first volume, The Gunslinger, tells how Roland of Gilead pursues and at last catches Walter, the man in black, who pretended friendship with Roland's father but who actually served Marten, a great sorcerer. Catching the half-human Walter is not Roland's goal but only a means to an end: Roland wants to reach the Dark Tower, where he hopes the quickening destruction of Mid-World may be halted, perhaps even reversed.
Roland is a kind of knight, the last of his breed, and the Tower is his obsession, his only reason for living when first we meet him. We learn of an early test of manhood forced upon him by Marten, who has seduced Roland's mother. Marten expects Roland to fail this test and to be "sent west," his father's guns forever denied him. Roland, however, lays Marten's plans at nines, passing the test . . .due mostly to his clever choice of weapon.
We discover that the gunslinger's world is related to our own in some fundamental and terrible way. This link is first revealed when Roland meets Jake, a boy from the New York of 1977, at a desert way station. There are doors between Roland's world and our own; one of them is death, and that is how Jake first reaches Mid-World, pushed into Forty-third Street and run over by a car. The pusher was a man named Jack Mort . . . except the thing hiding inside of Mort's head and guiding his murderous hands on this particular occasion was Roland's old enemy, Walter.
Before Jake and Roland reach Walter, Jake dies again … this time because the gunslinger faced with an agonizing choice between this symbolic son and the Dark Tower, chooses the Tower. Jake's last words before plunging into the abyss are "Go, then—there are other worlds than these."
The final confrontation between Roland and Walter occurs near the Western Sea. In a long night of palaver, the man in black tells Roland's future with a strange Tarot deck. Three cards—The Prisoner, The Lady of the Shadows, and Death ("but not for you, gunslinger")—are especially called to Roland's attention.
The second volume, The Drawing of the Three, begins on the edge of the Western Sea not long after Roland awakens from his confrontation with his old nemesis and discovers Walter long dead, only more bones in a place of bones. The exhausted gunslinger is attacked by a horde of carnivorous "lobstrosities," and before he can escape them, he has been seriously wounded, losing the first two fingers of his right hand. He is also poisoned by their bites, and as he resumes his trek northward along the Western Sea, Roland is sickening … perhaps dying.
On his walk he encounters three doors standing freely on the beach. These open into our city of New York, at three different whens. From 1987, Roland draws Eddie Dean, a prisoner of heroin. From 1964, he draws Odetta Susannah Holmes, a woman who has lost her lower legs in a subway mishap . . . one that was no accident. She is indeed a lady of shadows, with a vicious second personality hiding within the socially committed young black woman her friends know. This hidden woman, the violent and crafty Detta Walker, is determined to kill both Roland and Eddie when the gunslinger draws her into Mid-World.
Between these two in time, once again in 1977, Roland enters the hellish mind of Jack Mort, who has hurt Odetta/Detta not once but twice. "Death," the man in black told Roland, "but not for you, gunslinger." Nor is Mort the third of whom Walter foretold; Roland prevents Mort from murdering Jake Chambers, and shortly afterward Mort dies beneath the wheels of the same train which took Odetta's legs in 1959. Roland thus fails to draw the psychotic into Mid-World … but, he thinks, who would want such a being in any case?
Yet there's a price to be paid for rebellion against a foretold future; isn't there always? Ka, maggot, Roland's old teacher, Cort, might have said; Such is the great wheel, and always turns. Be not in front of it when it does, or you 'II be crushed under it, and so make an end to your stupid brains and useless bags of guts and water.
Roland thinks that perhaps he has drawn three in just Eddie and Odetta, since Odetta is a double personality, yet when Odetta and Detta merge as one in Susannah (thanks in large part to Eddie Dean's love and courage), the gunslinger knows it's not so. He knows something else as well: he is being tormented by thoughts of Jake, the boy who, dying, spoke of other worlds. Half of the gunslinger's mind, in fact, believes there never was a boy. In preventing Jack Mort from pushing Jake in front of the car meant to kill him, Roland has created a temporal paradox which is tearing him apart. And, in our world, it is tearing Jake Chambers apart as well.
The Wastelands, the third volume of the series, begins with this paradox. After killing a gigantic bear named either Mir (by the old people who went in fear of it) or Shardik (by the Great Old Ones who built it… for the bear turns out to be a cyborg), Roland, Eddie, and Susannah backtrack the beast and discover Path of the Beam. There are six of these beams, running between the twelve portals which mark the edges of Mid-World. At the point where the beams cross—at the center of Roland's world, perhaps the center of all worlds—the gunslinger believes that he and his friends will at last find the Dark Tower.