What Roland Saw in the Wizard’s Glass
The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass
You may be on your first read, or as I am now, on a repeat journey (one of many and many-a, I wot). Well, let me tell you, I’m not ashamed to admit that the ending of the Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass always brings a tear to my eye. Every time I reread the Dark Tower, I well up at the end of Wizard and Glass. Often, unfortunately, I’m in public, listening to Frank Muller’s heart-wrenching, goosebump raising performance (may he rest in peace in the clearing at the end of the path). His cadence collides with King’s powerful prose in such a way that tugs deep at the soul strings.
So, here I am again: though I am far from home, I’m in this most familiar of places: I live in Japan, and just this evening I found myself riding my bike on a trek across Tokyo, from Shinjuku to Kudanshita to Kiba. My point is, while the scenery all around me was different than anything back home, the story was still the same, and it found its way to my heart once again.
Luckily, it was night this time. No one could see my face, and no one was around anyway. So I indulged myself.
The whole wild, emotional ride goes down in the Chapter entitled, “Beneath the Demon Moon II.” That’s where Sai King really starts pulling on the old heart strings. But it was right in the middle of that crazy ending, right before the Charyou Tree, that I caught a deeper level of foreshadowing than I ever had in previous readings.
Let me tell you what I mean.
Rhea’s Pink Ball
If I said that Maerlin’s Grapefruit was a tool Stephen King used as a device for foreshadowing, I would be stating the obvious. Here’s a quick refresher.
The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass forms a bridge between the original Gunslinger novel and the Dark Tower books that came after it. In part, Sai King builds this bridge with the help of a pink magic ball, which is held in Rhea of the Coos’ custody for most of the book. However, when it falls into Roland’s hands, he looks into his future.
When Roland looks into the future, he sees much.
What does Roland See in the Pink Ball?
Roland sees Sheb, and someone who is, by my account, probably Brown (the man with the wild shock of strawberry hair from TDT I: The Gunslinger), and the Lady of Shadows, and a fertile green land that is probably Mid World, then Caprichoso (Sheemie’s mule), and on to desert lands (The Calla? The Mohaine Desert? Both?) before finally ending up at Thunderclap, and beyond it, the Dark Tower.
What a fascinating species of foreshadowing! On the one hand, it’s unique because he’s seeing things that are yet to happen, yet for us (the reader), they are in the past, since Roland is telling us the tale of Hambry and Susan from the perspective of his “future when”, a time in which he is in palaver with Oy, Jake, Susannah, and Eddie. On the other hand, Merlin’s pink ball really does foreshadow future events that are yet to happen in any of the books up to that point.
And by the way, did you notice that King foreshadowed events in the order in which he wrote them? Yes! Because despite the fact that Wizard and Glass starts out of order, Roland sees Caprichoso between the lush lands of Mid World and the desert land before Thunderclap!
A Bad Case of the Calvins: Author is God
So what does it mean? What should we make of that?
This is the first time we get a sense of the author’s role as a character in the lore.
Let me explain.
Sai Stephen King, the word slinger, is a character in his own book, as thee knows. It is common for writers and their readers to think of the author as god, since they created everything between those covers.
“Light! Let there be light!” the voice of the Turtle cries, and Roland has to put his hands to his eyes and peek through his fingers to keep from being blinded.”Stephen King, The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, p. 382
When Roland sees the Dark Tower, which is his destiny, a voice calls out the first words that god says in the bible. He says let there be light.
Sai King is indeed the voice of the turtle.
A Future that is Already Happening
One more thing.
I’m excited about this one! May it knock your proverbial socks off.
After Roland has his vision into the pink ball, He inadvertently gives the biggest bit of foreshadowing out of all of them. It’s this kind of thing that makes the Dark Tower so rich and deep, and such a pleasure to read and reread.
Because there’s something hidden in his words, when he’s trying to explain his trip to Alain and Cuthbert. Something that explains everything, including the ending to the last Dark Tower book. What does the ending of the Dark Tower mean? The ending like a riddle, but here’s your clue:
“Reynolds took her back to Seafront. She’s locked in the pantry . . . or was locked there. I can’t say which, exactly, because . . .” Roland paused, thinking. “The ball sees far, but sometimes it sees more. Sometimes it sees a future that’s already happening.”
“How can the future already be happening?” Alain asked.
“I don’t know, and I don’t think it was always that way. I think it’s more to do with the world than Maerlyn’s Rainbow. Time is strange now.Stephen King, The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, p.386
The pink ball sees a future that is already happening. Because it’s happening over and over, in spirals that fold in over themselves. Because Roland has to do it again. Because the future is already happening. Only, next time, he gets to bring the horn of Gilead.
One Final Theory: Could it Be?
I’m not going to tell you this is canon. I’m not even sure if I believe it myself. But this last theory that popped into my head was too tantalizing not to offer it as a final morsel of food for thought:
What if the Wizard’s Glass is the only reason why Roland is cursed to go to the Dark Tower in the first place, in his infinite time loop?
The pink ball steals people’s life force in exchange for its answers to hidden secrets. For Rhea, those secrets are the bad things people do when they think they’re alone. For Roland, those secrets might be the reason why the world is moving on.
In this theory, the pink ball is like the proverbial evil genie: you get your wish granted, but at the cost of a terrible curse.