Sexuality in Wolves of the Calla
Father Callahan is an Asshole
Fadda, fadda, fadda!
Father Donald Callahan is one of the coolest characters in The Dark Tower series. The Pere’s a nomadic, queer, bible thumping, vampire slaying alcoholic with a giant scar across his face.
On the one hand, Callahan is a pawn of ka; after all, Flagg does give him black 13 for Roland to find, and for another, Callahan (spoiler alert) does die on his way to rescuing Susannah. All this kind of redeems his assholiness. But, on the other hand, Father Callahan is definitely still an asshole.
In The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, Father Callahan nearly kills Susannah Dean. Callahan, who is otherwise quite likable, pulls the asshole move of the century when he makes Roland promise to stop Susannah from aborting her baby.
You could even argue that Callahan is responsible for Oy’s death, since that very pregnancy yeilds Mordred, as thee knows.
And Callahan knows Mia’s chap isn’t human. What’s more, Roland lets the Pere know Eddie would kill him for his interference. But Callahan is stubborn as a mule.
And I hate him for it.
Father Callahan’s reaction to Susannah’s pregnancy is one of the most annoying parts of TDT because he’s such a huge supporting character.
Hell, for a while in books 6 and 7, Callahan is even going to be a part of the ka-tet. So why is Callahan such an asshole about aborting an killer demon spider baby?
Father Callahan and Pontius Pilate
“‘And if it kills her? Will you say the same then and so wash your hands of her?’ Roland had never heard the tale of Pontius Pilate and Callahan knew it.” -The Dark Tower V, Part 3: The Wolves, Chapter 1: Secrets
I’m not Catholic, and I wasn’t raised around any kind of Christian stuff. Sai King seems to take it for granted that Christianity is a well-known religion, but as for me, I had to Google Pontius Pilate. Frankly, I still don’t really understand Callahan’s reference, even after a bit of research. According to the story, the guy washed his hands of a trial, and then he wound up killing himself. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.
“Now listen to me as I’ve listened to you, for you now have a responsibility to all of us. Especially to ‘the woman.'”
That’s a line from Roland Deschain.
And what a line that is.
Roland’s sarcasm here suggests to me that the Wolves of the Calla is, to an extent, a commentary about society, particularly about women, and more generally, gender roles and sexuality.
Before I develop this theory any further, I want to point out the genius of how S.K. implemented his commentary: it never preaches or breathes hot air into your face. Sai King never beats you over the head with his messages; he is able to allow the story to be the story, and for the theme to be the undercurrent. The result? A subtle literary theme that we can mull, chew, and digest on subsequent reads while staying involved in Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower.
If you think I’m giving King too much credit, think again.
What he has done is hard to pull off.
So many others have butchered their own work by making the theme too obvious, which takes you out of the story.
Like many others, I often cringe when I see Hollywood blatantly presenting societal engineering in the middle of a movie. For example, and this is just the one that sticks out in my mind, consider Star Wars: The Last Jedi , including the character, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo.
Star Wars: a Brief Digression
In this film, Rian Johnson approached inclusion and equality with all the finesse of a house pet scrambling across a waxed linoleum floor.
Most of the important characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi were female.
Poe Dameron was a drooling boob: a daring pilot with the patience of a book of matches.
Anyway, my problem with The Last Jedi was with how the question of inclusion was addressed. I wasn’t able to enjoy the movie because noticing the gender role reversal distracted me.
This Vice Admiral lady was reversing heroic male tropes left and right. It happened with such frequency that every time she opened her mouth, all I could think was “the script writers are trying to make a statement.”
Back to The Dark Tower
In other words, the fact that Stephen King gets it right shows he’s a master of his craft, even if you thought the Tick Tock Man was an annoying, flat character who you didn’t care whether he lived or died.
The Orizas are plates, probably manufactures in one of the southern Callas, that are beautifully designed and possessed of a razor-sharp edge. Women throw Orizas, and men fight with a bo or a bah. Orizas can kill much better than a bo or bah, but that isn’t why women are the ones who use them.
Women throw ‘Rizas because of the Tale of Gray Dick, a story that has a feel like an Arthurian medieval tale that melds religion with adventure. The important part of that story is that Lady Oriza kills Gray Dick by first using his sexuality and a very masculine brand of hunger for power against him. This origin story explains the region’s only native religious competitor to Christianity.
In fact, one could make the case that this binary – Christ and Lady Oriza – represent two genders. Christianity being, of course, the masculine of the pair, with so many Outworlders praising “the man Jesus.”
That explains why Margaret Eisenhart left Henchick and the Manni folk for the regular Calla folken: to escape her overbearing father figures. Obviously, she had two of those: a literal one (Henchick) and a figurative one (Jesus).
But Margaret Eisenhart didn’t just leave the Manni for the Calla folken. She chose Vaughn Eisenhart. Although Margaret was resigned to follow Calla society’s gender norms, obeying her husband in an official capacity, I think she felt she had more pull in the marriage than he did. And I think she knew it. After all, she was the one who convinced Vaughn to back Roland and the ka-tet in facing the wolves. And Vaughn really didn’t want to do that.
Like, he really, really didn’t.
Like, he threatened to curse Roland if Margaret died.
Spoiler alert: a lightsaber decapitated her.
Sorry: a “light stick.”
There are other events, characters, and concepts in TDT 5 that are related to this theme, and I will be exploring them in detail in the future. For now, please be content with these tidbits, and do drop me a line to let me know what you think.