Reading Dark Tower 4.5: Wind Through the Keyhole

“The Wind through the Keyhole” was released in 2012, several years after King had published what was assumed to be his final “Dark Tower” book. This book was intended to be volume ‘4.5’ in the series, providing a thematic bridge between the first four books in the series and the three books that followed. “The Wolves of the Calla” contained considerable reference to fiction works such as “The Magnificent Seven,” Harry Potter, Marvel Comics’ Doctor Doom, and King’s own “’Salem’s Lot” and King felt that future series readers needed to be better prepared for how the overall story shifted gears into that fifth book.

As Roland and his party (his ‘ka-tet’) continued their journey to the Dark Tower, they sat out a storm in a protected shelter building. The group members passed the time by listening as Roland told another story of his youth.

A flashback picked up young Roland where he left off in the aftermath of the Mejis storyline and the death of his mother. Roland and a companion named Jamie De Curry were sent by Roland’s father to the town of Debaria to find a ‘Skin Man’ that has caused violence in that area. En route, they happened into the Serenity ‘women’s community’ that Roland’s mother had visited in the time after she was caught having an affair with the villainous Marten. This brush with the community was notable but its relevance would not pay off until later in the story.

Once in Debaria, Roland and Jamie met with the local Sheriff. They also met with the survivor of a recent Skin Man attack named Bill. Bill eventually helped Roland to identify the Skin Man via a tattoo and scar that the man had on him. Once identified amid a number of local miners, the Skin Man turned into a snake that the young Roland shot dead with a special silver bullet.

Roland’s story concluded with him and Jamie taking the orphaned Bill to the Serenity women’s community for care. While re-visiting Serenity, Roland was given a letter that his mother had written during her stay in the community. The content foreshadowed her later demise in that she forgave her son for her eventual death at his hands.

Roland’s flashback story concluded at this point and, with the storm having cleared, his Ka-tet continued their journey toward the Dark Tower.

That flashback to Roland’s youth was not all that was embedded in the novel though. Making up nearly half of its content was a story that had been related within Roland’s flashback. In that story, a boy named Tim Ross went on a journey along one of the Dark Tower’s beams after encountering an evil tax collector known as The Covenant Man. The Covenant Man was another alias for the Man in Black. Tim ended up journeying more than fifty miles on his own and he ultimately freed a ‘tyger’ that transformed and revealed itself as the magician Maerlyn. Maerlyn rewarded Tim by curing his mother’s blindness and Tim’s evil stepfather was then killed by his mother via use of his late-father’s ax.

“The Wind through the Keyhole” felt like a direct sequel to “Wizard and Glass” in that it continued the flashback story from that novel. That adventure and the embedded story about Tim were not as compelling as the tales in “Wizard and Glass” but both stories were still entertaining in their own ways. The story of Tim offered a glimpse at some of the legends in Roland’s world and the Maerlyn character provided the nugget of information that the Crimson King was trapped on a balcony outside the Dark Tower. Fittingly, the novel’s strongest moment came at the very end with the reader offered a satisfying closure in regards to the relationship between Roland and his mother.

D.S. Christensen
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