The Wind Through the Keyhole
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Reading Group Guide from The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance
1. In the novel The Wind Through the Keyhole,
we discover that the book takes its title from a Mid-World folktale with the same name. This folktale, in turn, was part of a collection of stories entitled Magic Tales of the Eld.
What is the literal significance of this title? What is the symbolic significance of this title? Why do you think Stephen King chose to name his novel after this folktale? Once you discovered where this title came from, did it affect how you read or interpreted the novel’s three intertwined narratives?
2. The Wind Through the Keyhole
is composed of three intertwined narratives. What are these three narratives? How do they relate to one another? How does Stephen King manage to link them together so that the stories transition smoothly, one into another?
3. All of the Dark Tower novels are told predominately in the third person, through the voice of a narrator. However, in The Wind Through the Keyhole,
Roland becomes the narrator. In “The Skin-Man,” Roland recounts an autobiographical tale in the first person, and then in “The Wind Through the Keyhole,” he narrates a folktale. How does this switch to first person in “The Skin-Man” affect how you perceive Roland? Do you feel you have learned more about his personality? His soul? Roland is often presented to us as distant, reserved, and emotionally cool. Does this first-person narrative alter this perspective? Does Roland’s narration of a folktale affect how we see him? What about the circumstances under which he narrates this folktale?
4. Roland refers to Jamie DeCurry as his ka
-mate. What is the significance of this term? What is its literal definition? What does it say about Roland and Jamie’s friendship? What does it tell us about the relationship between gunslingers?
5. Over the course of the Dark Tower novels, Roland Deschain changes tremendously. In The Gunslinger,
he was depicted as an emotionally distant, goal-obsessed loner who was willing to sacrifice anyone—including Jake Chambers—in order to fulfill his quest. By the time he reaches the Dark Tower in the seventh book of the series, he is a man who has reclaimed his compassion and humanity. How would you describe the adult Roland we meet in The Wind Through the Keyhole
? How does he compare to the young Roland we meet in The Wind Through the Keyhole?
In what ways can you see the adult man in the boy? What parts of the boy have been lost by the man?
6. “The Skin-Man” begins after the death of Roland’s mother. How was Gabrielle’s death explained publicly? How does this compare to the truth? Why do you think Steven Deschain chose to explain his wife’s death the way he did? Do you think it was the right thing to do? How do you think word of Gabrielle’s death in places such as Arten affected the position of the gunslingers? How might it have affected people’s support for John Farson?
7. In Roland’s mind, what is the relationship between Gabrielle Deschain and the starkblast? Why does Roland associate them?
8. Although Roland’s mother is dead and never appears as a character in our tale, she is a haunting presence throughout the narrative. How does Roland’s mother haunt young Roland? How does she affect his behavior at the beginning of “The Skin-Man”? How does she haunt his time in Debaria? What about how she haunts the adult Roland? What new light did this novel shed upon Roland’s relationship with his mother? Did anything about that relationship surprise you?
9. What does the young Roland have in common with the Young Bill Streeter? What does Young Bill Streeter have in common with Tim Ross?
10. Although the story “The Wind Through the Keyhole” is a fairy tale, the evil figure of the Covenant Man turns out to be none other than Marten Broadcloak/Walter O’Dim, who is Roland’s enemy. Although it is tempting to take the Covenant Man’s identity at face value (after all, we know that Roland’s nemesis is an ageless sorcerer who can change his identity at will), it is important to contemplate the deeper reasons why both young Roland and adult Roland might have chosen to cast Broadcloak as the evil Covenanter. What personal grudge does the young Roland have against Broadcloak? What grudge does the older Roland have against O’Dim? Do you think that the tide of opinion against the gunslingers and in favor of John Farson, affected young Roland’s decision to cast Broadcloak as the villain of the tale?
11. What is a skin-man? Does this figure remind you of any other monsters in Stephen King’s fiction? (HINT: Think about the novel Desperation.
12. “The Wind Through the Keyhole” is a fairy tale. How would you define a fairytale? Why does this story have a special place in Roland’s heart? Although as a fairytale it takes place in the land of “Once upon a bye,” it has particular relevance to Roland and his ka-tet.
Why? Do you think that such fairy tales—in Mid-World and in our world—serve a greater purpose? Do you think the figure of Tim Ross—the lowborn lad who eventually becomes a gunslinger—is especially important in the context of our three intertwined tales? If so, why?
13. The wind is an extremely important force in Wind Through the Keyhole.
How does the wind bind the three tales together? What is its symbolic significance?
14. How do the emotions and actions found in Tim Ross’s story—jealousy, murder, grief, regret, questing, and redemption—relate to Roland’s story? What about how they relate to Young Bill Streeter’s story?
15. Who is Maerlyn? How does his depiction in this novel change how we view him?
16. At the end of “The Skin-Man,” Roland tells us that he kept his mother’s final letter for many years, tracing the words over and over. He says: I traced them until the paper fell apart and I let the wind take it—the wind that blows through time’s keyhole, ye ken. In the end, the wind takes everything, doesn’t it? And why not? Why other? If the sweetness of our lives did not depart, there would be no sweetness at all. What do you think Roland means? Do you think these words would be spoken by a younger character, and written by a younger author, or do you think that this perspective comes from maturity? Do you agree with what Roland says?
17. Why is it so significant that The Wind Through the Keyhole
ends with Roland’s dead mother telling her son that she forgives him and asking for his forgiveness in return? Does this affect how you see Gabrielle? Does it affect how you see Roland?