The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King (Dark Tower, Book 4.5)

On their way to Calla Bryn Sturgis, Roland and his ka-tet take shelter from a starkblast, and Roland tells the story of his first quest after killing his mother, and within it tells a fairy tale about a brave boy who tangles with a demonic trickster.

Oh, my, and it was good to hear Roland’s voice again, you say true and I say thankya. With the series complete, King didn’t need to add to his Dark Tower saga, but The Wind Through the Keyhole feels like it’s been there the whole time.

The framing story follows Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy the billy-bumbler as they leave the Emerald City and follow the Path of the Beam towards the Dark Tower. Caught in a sudden, immense freezing storm called a starkblast, the ka-tet finds shelter. To pass the time, Roland volunteers a story in which he tells a story about a fictional starkblast and a boy named Tim Stoutheart.

In Roland’s story, he goes back to the time just after he killed his mother, when is father sent him out to a remote mining town where a skin-man is performing brutal murders in the form of an animal. One survivor holds the key to trapping the vicious monster, but Roland is inexperienced and may not have what it takes to bring peace to the town.

To wait out a terrifying night with the witness, a terrified young boy, Roland tells him a story that his mother used to tell him. Tim Stoutheart loses his father and his mother remarries. Her new husband is a brute, and when the Covenant Man comes to town, he gives Tim a token that unlocks a devastating series of events for Tim and his family. Tim, just a boy, must gather all his courage to take a magical journey into a forest populated by dragons, bad fairies, venomous pythons, mud people, and a wizard out of mythology.

Much has been made of the changes that happen offscreen between Wizard and Glass and The Wolves of the Calla (my personal favorite). Eddie, Susannah, and Jake become true gunslingers and we don’t really see how it happens. This is King’s answer. Becoming a gunslinger, in the end, simply means choosing to be a gunslinger. That’s how Roland and Tim Stoutheart survive their tales. It’s like they put on an identity, and when they succeed, it’s like they’ve never not been gunslingers. And that’s what Jake, Susannah, and Eddie will have to do.

The three stories are deftly embedded and the whole thing moves and I just didn’t want it to end.

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