The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger

infobox Book |
name = The Dark Tower:
The Gunslinger
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = First edition cover
author = Stephen King
cover_artist = Michael Whelan
country = United States
language = English
series = The Dark Tower
genre = Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction,
and Western
publisher = Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc.
release_date = August 1982
media_type = Print (Hardcover)
pages = 224
isbn = ISBN 0-937986-50-X
preceded_by =
followed_by = The Drawing of the Three

portal|The Dark Tower

"The Gunslinger" is a novel by American author Stephen King, and is the first volume in the "Dark Tower" series, which King considers to be his magnum opus.cite book|last=King|first=Stephen|title=Everything's Eventual|publisher=Pocket Books|location=Toronto|year=2002|pages=167|isbn=0-7434-5735-8|accessdate=2008-06-23] It was first published in 1982. The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger who has been chasing after his adversary, "the man in black", for many years. The novel follows Roland's trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way.

Background and publication

The novel was inspired by the poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning, which King read as a sophomore at the University of Maine. King explains that he "played with the idea of trying a long romantic novel embodying the feel, if not the exact sense, of the Browning poem." King started writing this novel on a ream of bright green paper that he found at the library.cite web|url=|title=Stephen King Biography|accessdate=2008-06-23]

The five parts that constitute the novel were originally published in "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction":
* "The Gunslinger" (October 1978)
* "The Way Station" (April 1980)
* "The Oracle and the Mountains" (February 1981)
* "The Slow Mutants" (July 1981)
* "The Gunslinger and the Dark Man" (November 1981)

It took King twelve years to finish the novel. The finished product was first published by Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. as a limited edition in 1982. In 1988, Plume released it in trade paperback form. Since then, the book has been re-issued in various formats and included in boxed sets with other volumes of the series.

In 2003 the novel was reissued in a revised and expanded version with modified language and added and changed scenes intended to resolve inconsistencies with the later books in the series.


It tells the story of the gunslinger, Roland of Gilead, and his quest to catch the man in black, the first of many steps towards his ultimate destination - the Dark Tower.

The main story takes place in a world that is somewhat recognizable as the Old West but exists in an alternate time frame or parallel universe to ours; Roland exists in a place where "the world has moved on." This world has a few things in common with our own, however, including memories of the song "Hey Jude" and the child's rhyme that begins "Beans, beans, the musical fruit." Vestiges of forgotten or skewed versions of real-world technology also appear, such as a reference to a gas pump in a tunnel under a mountain that is worshipped as a god named "Amoco", and an abandoned way station with a water pump which is powered by an "atomic slug".

As Roland travels across the desert with his mule in search of the man in black, he encounters Brown, a farmer and Zoltan, his crow, who graciously offers to put him up for the night. While he is there, we learn of his time spent in Tull through a flashback. Tull is a small town which Roland came to during his travels. The man in black had passed through the town previously. After spending some time there, the leader of the local church becomes wary of Roland, and the town turns on him. In order to escape with his life, Roland is forced to kill every resident of the town, including his lover, Alice. Telling this story seems cathartic for Roland. When he is ready to leave the farm, his mule is dead, so he proceeds on foot.

At the way station Roland first encounters Jake Chambers, who died in our universe when he was pushed in front of a car while walking to school. Roland is nearly dead when he makes it to the way station, and Jake brings him water and jerky while he is recovering. Jake does not know how long he has been at the way station, nor does he know exactly how he got there. He hid when the man in black passed by the way station. Roland hypnotizes him to determine the details of his death, but then makes him forget before he awakes. Before they leave the way station they encounter a speaking demon in the cellar while looking for food. Roland snatches a jawbone from a skeleton in the cellar, and carries it with him.

After leaving the way station, Jake and Roland eventually make their way out of the desert into more welcoming lands. Roland rescues Jake from an encounter with an oracle, and then couples with the oracle himself in order to learn more about his fate and path to the Dark Tower. Roland gives Jake the jawbone from the way station to focus on while he is gone. After Roland returns, Jake discards the jawbone. As Jake and Roland make their way closer to the mountain, Jake begins to fear what will become of him.

During their travels to the mountain, some of Roland's childhood is developed, both through flashbacks and conversations with Jake. In a flashback, we learn about Roland and Cuthbert Allgood's chance encounter in a kitchen which leads to the hanging of Hax, the cook. The apprentice gunslingers are allowed to witness the hanging with their fathers' permission. Later, Jake asks Roland about his coming of age. Roland reveals how he was tricked into calling on his teacher Cort early, through the treachery of Marten. He succeeded in defeating Cort in battle through his ingenious weapon selection - his hawk, David.

Once they reach the mountain, and begin to travel through it, Jake's trepidation is even more clear. Even after the encounter with the slow mutants where Roland protects him, Jake does not fully trust Roland. When they are nearing the exit from the mountain, they must cross a fragile train trestle. When they are almost across, the man in black appears at the exit. Jake slips, and Roland must choose between saving Jake and following the man in black. Jake knows what his decision is: "Go then, there are other worlds than these." Jake falls to his death, and Roland chases the man in black.

Roland and the man in black hold palaver in a Golgotha. Using Tarot cards, the man in black tells Roland his future. After his encounter with the man in black, Roland sleeps for an impossible length of time. When he awakes, all that is left beside him is a pile of bones. Before proceeding further on his quest, Roland takes the jawbone of the skeleton to replace the one Jake had earlier discarded.

The Revised and Expanded edition

, King revised "The Gunslinger". As stated in the new introduction, King felt it was necessary for many reasons. First, he felt the first book was 'dry' and hard to get into for new readers. He also revised it to make it more linear with the series' ending. The added material was about 9000 words (35 pages).cite book|last=King|first=Stephen|title=The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded Edition|publisher=Signet Fiction|location=Toronto|year=2003|pages=xxii|isbn=0451210840]

Errors that conflicted with the rest of the series were removed as well. For example, a scene with Roland reading a magazine in Tull is removed as later information presented in "The Drawing of the Three" suggested that paper is a scarcity in Roland's world. The town of Farson is changed to Taunton, as Farson was a character (John Farson) in the later books in the series. All mentions to the Beast are removed and are instead replaced with that of the Crimson King.

Foreshadowing to later books is also prominent. "Blue Heaven" and "Algul Siento", terms that are revealed in the final books are mentioned, as is the strange Taheen.

By far one of the biggest changes is the fate and identity of the Man in Black. In the original version, Walter dies at the end of the story. In the revised edition, King implies that he survived, as well as revealing that Walter is yet another identity of Randall Flagg.

In the expanded edition of the novel, on the last page before the text the single word RESUMPTION appears; King explains that it is the subtitle of the novel.Fact|date=July 2008


* ISBN 0-8488-0780-4 (hardcover, 1986)
* ISBN 0-606-04112-5 (prebound, 1988)
* ISBN 0-452-26134-1 (paperback Plume, reprint edition, September 28, 1988)
* ISBN 0-451-16052-5 (paperback reissue edition, 1989)
* ISBN 0-14-086716-3 (audio cassette with paperback, 1998, abridged)
* ISBN 0-670-03254-9 (hardcover, 2003)
* ISBN 0-452-28469-4 (paperback, 2003)
* ISBN 0-451-21084-0 (mass market paperback, 2003)
* ISBN 0-7865-3721-3 (e-book, 2003)


* King, Stephen (1989). Afterword. "The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger". New York: Signet. ISBN 0-451-16052-5

External links

* [ : French encyclopedia]

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