The End of the Beginning & the Beginning of the End

Wind Through The Keyhole:
Pages 247-End of Book
& Wolves Of The Calla:

*This post contains full series spoilers

This week’s chapters contained the end of one book, wrapping up the three nested stories in The Wind Through The Keyhole, and the prologue of the next. At first I was kicking myself for not cutting the reading short and cleanly separating the installments—there’s certainly plenty to say about each novel on its own—but now I’m glad I combined them. Forcing myself to find a connection between the end of Wind and the beginning of Wolves has helped me realize how arbitrary labels like “end” and “beginning” actually are.

The conclusion of the story young Roland tells Bill Streeter is indeed the end of that tale. Tim’s mother is healed, his steppa is dead, and the Covenant Man won’t be coming back to Tree; all is resolved. And yet, we know that Tim goes on to become a gunslinger and has many adventures, gaining several heroic nicknames along the way. The end of “The Wind Through The Keyhole” is really only the beginning of Tim’s story.

He was known first as Lefty Ross, then—after a great battle on the shores of Lake Cawn—as Tim Stoutheart. His mother finished her days in Gilead as a great lady, or so my mother said. But all those things are—”
“—a tale for another day,” Bill finished.

The Wind Through the Keyhole, p. 268

One level of narrative higher, in the story of young Roland in Debaria, they root out and kill the skin-man. The town throws them a party, and a home is found for Bill Streeter. Again, all the conflict has been resolved with satisfying finality (including the issue of Jamie’s virginity). Roland finds closure in his mother’s letter. Not only that, the mission to Debaria also marks the last days of Gilead, the end of Roland’s youth. But just like the tale of Tim Ross, this ending is also the beginning of something bigger; remember, the world doesn’t end when Gilead falls, it just “moves on.” Young Bill is starting a totally new life, and teenage Roland is about to set out on his quest for the Dark Tower.

It’s also notable that all of three of the stories in this book end with “once upon a bye,” a phrase that is repeated eleven times in The Wind Through the Keyhole, and which several characters point out is traditionally how stories in Mid-World begin. They start stories the same way they end them, and end them the same way they start them, which is fitting when you consider how Stephen King begins and ends the story.

The prologue to Wolves of the Calla provides an example of the inverse. It’s the beginning of the story, but it’s the end of another. Through a subtle act of courage, Tian Jaffords starts the story by calling a town meeting. His determination to stand against the wolves is what sets this entire Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven plot in motion, but his goal wasn’t to start anything; he’s trying to put a stop to something. This book begins with the end of the Calla’s complacence, the end of their cowardice. The story of a village that allows robotic Wolves on horseback to take their children is over.

And you’re right to look at me so, the farmer thought. For I’ve had enough of such cowardly common sense, so I have.

Wolves of the Calla, p. 22

The Dark Tower series, especially this week’s pages, show us that no story ever ends without another one beginning, and nothing new can start without the end of what came before it. In this way, no story is ever truly over, it just becomes prologue to larger stories. Our lives are nothing but a subplot in an epic that isn’t even about us. As the Man in Black tells Roland at the end of The Gunslinger (which is also the beginning of the series), “think how small such a concept of things makes us, gunslinger!”

It is indeed a humbling lesson, and I imagine some people might be frightened or unsettled by the prospect of such insignificance, but I for one take comfort in it. I find it comforting to know that the story will go on long after my small part in it is done.

Next Week’s Reading
Wolves Of The Calla:
Part One, Chapters 1.i-4.vii

Published by Joe Rechtman

Screenwriter/watcher. Constant Reader & Dark Tower Junkie.

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