Wolves Of The Calla:
Part One, 7.x-7.xvi
& Part Two, 1.i-2.ix
This week the Ka-Tet got to enjoy the most fun they’ve had since stopping for lunch in River Crossing. First, a quick todash trip takes them to New York where Susannah gets to feel the thrill of running on legs again, while Roland, Jake, and Eddie get a chance to see the “the best thing in the world”: the rose (p. 211). After that, the Calla treats them to a massive feast and throws them a party, and they get to spend the night indoors, in actual beds. And yet despite these luxuries, the gunslingers are still on duty, meeting (and taking measure of) various members of the community, and limiting their graff consumption to the first toast so they don’t get drunk. The todash trip is still a business trip; the party in the Calla is still a work party.
“Head clear. Mouth shut. See much. Say little,” Roland instructs (p. 221), and the ka-tet does just that, answering almost none of the Calla’s questions while learning quite a lot about the character and characters of the town. They learn that as individuals the Calla folken are as varied as any random sampling of people—some are touchingly brave like Neil Faraday, some are cloying and distasteful like George Telford—but when acting as one, as the Calla, the folken do the right thing. When the gunslinger asks the entire town the first two questions, they all joyously cheer out “aye” together; they stop being individual folken and become ka-tet, one from many. And as ka-tet, they choose to stand and be true.
Eddie talked until his mouth was dry, then exchanged his wooden cup of graf for cold tea, not wanting to get drunk. He didn’t want to eat any more, either; he was stuffed. But still they came. Cash and Estrada. Strong and Echeverria. Winkler and Spalter (cousins of Overholser’s, they said). Freddy Rosario and Farren Posella . . . or was it Freddy Posella and Farren Rosario?– Wolves of the Calla, p. 240
This is nothing new; King has always been fond of writing about the power of ka-tet, even if he doesn’t always use that term. The Stand, It, and Dreamcatcher are just a few of the King books in which the love between a group of friends takes on an almost magical quality, giving them the strength to prevail over evil. In this case, the ka-tet might not be strong enough to defeat evil, but it’s strong enough to do the right thing and at least put up a fight.
But where does all this power come from? Does it come from the line Eld? Is it the way of the White? Is it the gift of Gan or the blessing of this blog’s titular turtle? What makes ka-tet so much stronger—so much truer—than individuals? I have always wondered that, and this week I realized that it’s not derived from any higher power, and it’s not just that there is power in numbers. The power of Ka-Tet lies in its diversity.
I don’t just mean that in terms of race or gender—although those things are part of it—but also in terms of experience, skill and ethics. Roland’s ka-tet is a great example, with each member bringing a completely unique perspective and breadth of knowledge to any given problem. They have the benefit of being able to view things through different lenses: male, female, black, white, rich, poor, young, adult, disabled. They’re even temporally diverse, each being drawn from different whens.
Being able to draw from this vast pool of experiences has helped the ka-tet overcome countless obstacles. They certainly couldn’t have bested Blaine had it not been for Eddie’s unique upbringing, and they wouldn’t have escaped Lud in the first place if it hadn’t been for Susannah’s father teaching her prime numbers. Even Eddie’s history as an addict comes in handy, lending him the expertise to know Balazar’s Keflex would save Roland’s life in Drawing of the Three. Just like a good pub trivia team, a ka-tet made up of diverse backgrounds increases its chances of knowing what they need to know, or doing what needs to be done.
Maybe that’s why Roland’s original ka-tet did not survive. Maybe by the time Farson came around, the line of Eld had become a little too inbred, a little too homogenous, leaving a ka-tet of gunslingers that all saw the world the same way. The gunslingers of Roland’s past were all rich, powerful men who grew up in Gilead, and they were only able to view the problem of the Good Man from that perspective. Perhaps if they hadn’t been so selective when doling out the guns, there might have been someone in their ka-tet who could think outside the box and stop the fall of Gilead.
Eddie saw people from the old neighborhood: Jimmie Polio, the kid with the clubfoot, and Tommy Fredericks, who always got so excited watching the street stickball games that he made faces and the kids called him Halloween Tommy.– Wolves of the Calla, p. 201
This week’s chapters bolster this idea that diversity is a power for good when Roland, Jake, and Eddie visit the rose. When the gunslingers look at the rose, they see “faces in every angle and shadow” (p. 201) and they hear “a strong harmonic humming. The sound of many voices, all singing together. Singing one vast open note” (p. 196). Anyone and everyone ranging from sweet old ladies like Ms. Greta Shaw to evil bastards like Flagg, Tick-Tock, and Gasher. All those different faces are in one rose: one from many, and maybe that’s what makes it the best thing in the world.