TheoryBox: How the Horn of Eld will change everything in the Dark Tower movies

Welcome to TheoryBox, a Looper series focused on original TV and movie theories. From Game of Thrones to Star Wars and beyond, join me on a trip down the rabbit hole with my own slightly crazy theories every week. Even though I am personally of the mindset that spoiler tags are for the weak, I'll offer this disclaimer: Below the cut, this article contains untagged spoilers from the entire Dark Tower book series as well as other related Stephen King works, set photos and more. You've been warned!

Fans of Stephen King's Dark Tower book series rejoiced when a film adaptation was not only announced, but started production in 2016. After an excruciating wait of over a decade since the final book in the series was published, we will finally get to see Roland and his ka-tet on the silver screen when the movie arrives in theaters on February 17th, 2017. But fair warning—don't have your heart set on a direct adaptation of King's novels, because you won't get one. Why not? Because this time, Roland has one little item that changes everything: The Horn of Eld.

Ka like the wind

If you're new to the Dark Tower universe, or if your memory is a little rusty, here's a primer. The Horn of Eld is an ancient rallying horn used in battle, passed down to the descendants of Arthur Eld—the last of whom is our hero: Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger. In the books, we learn that the Horn was lost long ago at the Battle of Jericho Hill. Roland gave the Horn to his close friend Cuthbert Allgood, who blew the Horn to rally the remaining Gunslingers against the army of John Farson. He blew and blew, but no more reinforcements came, and Cuthbert was cut down where he stood. Roland only managed to survive Jericho Hill by hiding amongst the dead bodies on the field of battle. Later, Roland is impatient to pursue the Man in Black, and he accidentally leaves the Horn lying on the battlefield.

Death, but not for you, gunslinger

Major Spoilers Ahead: At the end of the novels, Roland enters the Dark Tower and sees memories from his life as he climbs the steps. Things he's done, things he hasn't done, things he wished he'd done differently. It's essentially a top 1000 list of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of sai Roland Deschain. It's painful to read, but not as painful as what happens when he opens the door at the top of the Tower and steps through. Roland is instantly transported back to the Mohaine Desert—where his story begins in The Gunslinger—and he has a momentary realization that he has done this before. He has reached the Dark Tower before—not just once, but many times, perhaps times beyond number.

He's stuck in a perpetual time loop where he's doomed to retrace his steps and repeat his actions—or perhaps change them slightly—until he get it right and finds some final redemption. That's right, Roland is essentially Bill Murray in Groundhog Daybut each time, his world changes slightly as a result of his actions, and he remembers nothing of his previous journeys. Before his memory is wiped and this enlightening knowledge is ripped from his mind yet again, we are shown a glimmer of hope for poor Roland: this time, he's carrying the Horn of Eld at his hip. This changes everything.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed

Au contraire, mon ami. If you've been paying attention to Stephen King's Twitter feed over the last few months, you may have spotted this status back in May:

What does this mean? Well, it's essentially a confirmation that the movie will not be a direct adaptation of the books, but pick up where we left off with Roland—and this time he has the Horn of Eld. There have also been behind-the-scenes photos from filming in New York, and in a couple of them you can clearly see the Horn peeking out of Roland's gunna sack. Also, let's not forget the text overlaid on King's Twitter status—"Last Time Around"—which has huge implications for the storyline of the movie.

If you're familiar with the significance of the number 19 in the novels, I like to think that perhaps the story of the books was the 18th cycle in Roland's time-trapped existence, and the plot laid out in the films will be the magic 19th time. This time, everything that happens will be for keeps.

If you have given up your heart for the Tower, Roland, you have already lost

Throughout the books, King makes a point of the significance of the Horn, and Roland frequently reflects on his decision to leave it behind. During the description of the Battle of Jericho Hill: Roland will let it lie in the dust. In his grief and bloodlust he will forget all about Eld's Horn. In Wolves of the Calla we see that the Horn continues to trouble Roland all these years later: Roland awoke from another vile dream of Jericho Hill in the hour before dawn. The horn. Something about Arthur Eld's horn. Also in Wolves, Father Callahan (from Salem's Lot) is telling the ka-tet about his struggle with alcohol addiction and his first encounter with the Type-3 Vampires. While listening, Eddie Dean thinks about his problems with heroin. Roland thinks this: Roland agreed, thinking of Jericho Hill. Thinking of the fallen horn.

In the final book, when Roland reaches the Dark Tower, he hears the sound of a Horn calling—a sound he's heard in his dreams thousands of times. But he knows it couldn't be the Horn of Eld, because it was lost at Jericho Hill. In reply, he hears a voice: the voice of the Tower, the voice of Gan (God) himself: A voice whispered from above him: It would have been the work of three seconds to bend and pick it up. Even in the smoke and the death. Three seconds. Time, Roland – it always comes back to that.

 

As he climbs the stairs within the Tower, Roland at first marvels that he's finally made it here, despite all the obstacles and tribulations. But then he realizes that his single-mindedness and dedication to the Tower made it not that surprising after all. Another part of him was not surprised at all, however. This was the part that dreamed as the Beams themselves must, and this darker self thought again of the horn that had fallen from Cuthbert's fingers—Cuthbert, who had gone to his death laughing. The horn that might to this very day lie where it had fallen on the rocky slope of Jericho Hill.

First comes smiles, then lies. Last is gunfire

In a way, the Dark Tower is a very psychological series. It's essentially an allegorical story about addiction: Eddie's addiction to heroin, Father Callahan's addiction to alcohol, Odetta's addiction to preserving her self-image, Stephen King's own personal addictions as a younger man, and Roland's addiction to the Tower. When you are extremely addicted to something, you sacrifice all sorts of things in order to fulfill your craving. It's a deep-seated need you place before everything else, and it's extremely difficult to break. While Eddie, Father Callahan, and Susannah all find ways to break free from their inner demons, Roland is unable. In his case, his dedication to the Tower has left a trail of dead companions behind him. This is a place of death, he thought, and not just here. All these rooms. Every floor. The voice of the Tower replies: Yes, gunslinger. But only because your life has made it so.

But there's hope for Roland, because through the journey of the novels—and particularly because of Jake Chambers—he has learned to love and care for other things. He helps the townspeople in Calla Bryn Sturgis, he turns aside from his quest in order to bury Jake when he dies, and he does many other things in the name of love and friendship that the old Roland would never have done. The old Roland didn't even pause three seconds to pick up the Horn of Eld—the most ancient relic of his house (besides his sandalwood-handled six-shooters, forged from the blade of Excalibur.) The Voice of the Tower (or Gan) recognizes these changes in his character, and makes him a promise by giving him the Horn this time. And perhaps this time if you get there it will be different, a voice whispered. This is your promise that things may be different, Roland—that there may yet be rest. Even salvation. If you stand. If you are true.

 

Time's the thief of memory

Let's start with what will be the same this "last time around." I believe that the old tale of Roland's first love—Susan Delgado, who was burned at the stake by the townspeople of Mejis—will have to end the same way: with Susan's death. I believe her tragic tale has to be the start of what sets the changed course of Roland's life. In his previous incarnation from the books, Roland doesn't learn the lesson of letting people take precedence over his quest, even for a moment. This is the whole reason he leaves the Horn behind. The fact that he has it this time means that her death (and his journey with Eddie, Susannah, and Jake) taught him to cherish the important things in life, and put them first.

The characters of Randall Flagg (the Man in Black), Eddie Dean, Jake Chambers, and Susannah Dean will all be in the new movies. We already know from set photos that Randall (Matthew McConaughey) and Jake (newcomer Tom Taylor) will be in the first movie. Presuming the studio has greenlit sequels, Eddie and Susannah have to be included. Even though this movie is a successor to the books and not a direct adaptation, I think longtime Dark Tower fans would seriously rebel if Eddie and Susannah were left out. The characters may look drastically different than their descriptions in the books (as we saw when Idris Elba was cast as Roland), but their souls will be the same. Lastly, due to the special edition of Charlie the Choo-Choo handed out by Simon and Schuster at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con (signed by "Beryl Evans," even), we're almost certainly going to see an encounter between the ka-tet and Blaine the Mono at some point.

Go, then. There are other worlds than these

Tom Taylor has teased fans with a Tweet showing Jake in what appears to be the interior of the Dutch Hill Mansion, standing in front of an open door. The photo also has the text, "There are other worlds than these," which readers will remember from the first novel when Jake falls to his (first) death. I'd like to note that the photo is missing the first part of the exchange from The Gunslinger, when he tells Roland to "Go, then." The photo is also captioned, "Traveller, beyond lies Mid-World."

I believe that in the movie, Roland never lets Jake drop into the abyss under the Cyclopean Mountains in order to continue pursuing the Man in Black. We've already seen a set photo of the two embracing in a hug on the New York set. I think this will be the pair's first meeting in the movie. Other set photos and production stills back this idea up: there is a picture of the two on a bus, and another on the rooftop of a building. There's also a photo of Jake in the interior of the Dutch Hill Mansion, as well as Jake and Roland each standing alone in the Mohaine Desert, and then together again in a grassy field.

All is forgotten in the stone halls of the dead

Of particular note to me is the photo showing Jake in his room, staring at a wall covered with his drawings/sketches. Among the drawings are some tantalizing clues: sketches of Roland as he appeared in the novels, the Dark Tower itself (both whole and shattered), monsters that most likely represent the Taheen, the Man in Black, a figure—perhaps Jake—strapped to a chair connected to wires inside some sort of Dogan which might be the interior of the re-worked Dixie Pig, Roland standing behind three seated figures (his future ka-tet?), and several images showing the magical doors standing in what appears to be a desert—not a beach. The number 19 is featured prominently in many of the sketches. It's interesting to note that in several of these drawings, there are two suns in the sky.

Time is a face on the water

Here's my wild speculations regarding what I think will go down in the first Dark Tower movie. Because it really can't start any other way, we have to begin with Roland and the Man in Black in the Mohaine Desert. The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. At some point, the Man in Black will take a doorway through to New York City, and Roland will follow. At this point, Roland loses the trail temporarily. Jake Chambers has been having dreams about Roland, the Dark Tower, and Mid-World, and perhaps remembers his death(s) from the novels. He may go in search of the Dutch Hill mansion. The pair are reunited somehow, and search together for the Man in Black in New York City. Flagg sends his Low Men to kidnap Jake and take him to the Dixie Pig, and Roland has to rescue him before he's killed or otherwise destroyed by the device seen in Jake's sketches. Roland will be faced with a choice—rescue Jake and lose the trail of Flagg again, or follow Flagg but leave Jake to his fate. Because Roland has the Horn of Eld this time, and he values other things besides the Dark Tower, he will save Jake—and the Man in Black will flee through a magical doorway in the Dixie Pig.

Roland will despair that they can't follow him (perhaps the door locks behind Flagg), and Jake offers a solution: the Dutch Hill mansion. The pair flee across NYC to Brooklyn, perhaps with Taheen pursuing them. They face the doorway demon within the house and make it through to Mid-World. The final shot will show them walking down a grass-filled slope back towards the Mohaine Desert (or maybe the Western Sea), where the outlines of the magical doorways can be seen in the distance.

I will remember the face of my father

Have you ever heard of the Butterfly Effect? No, not the horrible Ashton Kutcher movie. The idea from chaos theory and meteorology that a butterfly flapping its wings could eventually cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. Small changes can cause a completely different outcome than expected. Our actions and decisions, no matter how seemingly insignificant, set the course of our future.The implications of the Horn of Eld, and the changes it means for Roland's character, are enormous.

If this version of Jake and Roland meet in New York for the first time, this means that Roland never sacrifices him to catch the Man in Black at the golgotha. Roland is never left unconscious on the beach by Walter, and never loses his fingers to the lobstrosities. If Jake never dies the first time in the mountains, there's no need for Susannah to hold the speaking-ring demon at bay while Jake is pulled back into Mid-World through the Dutch Hill Mansion. This means that Susannah will never get pregnant and give birth to demon-child Mordred.

As Roland is still chasing Flagg (who plays a big part in the fall of Gilead), he's obviously not still dead from Mordred eating his face in the books. I also presume this means the Crimson King is still a major threat, and one that will have to be dealt with more directly and finally than he was with Patrick Danville's eraser. If Susannah never gets pregnant, there's no need for Jake and Father Callahan to enter the Dixie Pig to save her from the low men (although we do see the Dixie Pig in set photos, so it will factor in somehow.) Father Callahan never dies, Eddie and Roland go to save Stephen King instead of Roland and Jake, and Jake never dies. Mordred never attacks Roland, and Oy never dies to protect him. The fight at Algul Siento would play out much differently with Father Callahan present, as well as Roland with both hands fully functional. This might mean that Eddie never dies by Pimli Prentiss' bullet.

Each man owes a death

Ka is a wheel. The Dark Tower is the embodiment of Gan—the creator of Roland's world. Originally held up by magical Beams, forces the Old Ones (essentially modern humans somewhere in our distant future) sought to manipulate and use to visit other dimensions, places, and times. In order to do this, they created artificial Beams, powered by radioactive sources and protected by mechanical guardians. The problem was that these beams could be broken, and machinery eventually wears down (as seen throughout the novels). The hubris of the Old Ones was the entire reason the world "moved on"—and endured massive nuclear and chemical wars—in the first place.

I firmly believe that it will not be just Roland alone at the end of this tale. All the implications I just mentioned make it likely that potentially all of Roland's ka-tet might be alive to fight the Crimson King and stand together in the field of Roses at the Can'-Ka No Rey under the lengthening shadow of the Dark Tower. I believe that together they will be able to bring about a final end to the Crimson King, not the ambiguous conclusion we got at the end of the books. Finally, I think that Roland will blow the Horn of Eld, and the ka-tet will enter the Dark Tower together through the Unfound Door. May you find your Tower, Roland, and breach it … and may you climb to the top!

They were the hands of Gan, the hands of ka, and they knew no mercy

I believe that when Roland blows the Horn of Eld and they enter the Dark Tower, the mechanical constructs which currently guard and are powered by the Tower will be destroyed. The name of the battle where Roland originally lost the Horn—Jericho Hill—may offer a clue. In the Bible, the city of Jericho was taken in a battle by the Israelites—who blew their ram's horns and brought the walls of the city down. The mechanical devices of the Old Ones are the walls keeping Gan confined, unable to heal the world. The Tower itself will remain standing, but all the artifice used to twist it to the Old Ones' purposes will be destroyed. Gan will be released from his prison, the natural magical Beams will be restored, and they will heal the world(s) and send the monsters of the Prim back into the darkness forever.

As the group climbs the Tower together, they'll each see moments from their lives as they pass the rooms along the stair—moments that brought them where they are, and made them who they are today. When they finally reach the Ghostwood door at the top, it will not open into the Mohaine Desert this time. Each of them will step through into the place where they truly belong: for Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy, this will likely be living together as a family in New York, as hinted in the novels. Father Callahan will probably be working in the homeless shelter in New York, or perhaps he'll be back with the good folk of Calla Bryn Sturgis. For Roland, I like to think that when he steps through the door this final time, he'll step out onto the Drop—with horses galloping through the grass in the distance and the voice of Susan calling out to him.

There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met

To view the last of me, a living frame

For one more picture! in a sheet of flame

I saw them and I knew them all. And yet

Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,

And blew. "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came."