“The stories we hear in childhood are the ones we remember all our lives.”
The Wind Through the Keyhole is a story within a story within yet another story. It’s a Russian nesting doll of a book of the highest class. No, the highest caliber is a more fitting description, I suppose, for this gunslinger’s fairytale. I loved it in the same way I loved The Eyes of the Dragon, but perhaps even more fervently. Actually, I did something I don’t recall ever doing before; I left a bookmark right at the beginning of the fairytale portion when I re-shelved the book, so I could flip it open and read just that section whenever I choose.
“Sometimes I feel the world has come loose of its moorings.”
“It has,” I said. “But what comes loose can be tied tight again…”
The Wind Through the Keyhole is the last Dark Tower story King wrote and added to the main series, but it takes place chronologically between books 4 and 5, Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. So that’s where I decided to read it. This story picks up immediately where Wizard and Glass left off, with Roland and his ka-tet leaving Lud. As they shelter from a terrifying storm called a starkblast, Roland tells the ka-tet an account from his youth, within which is embedded a gunslinger’s fable, The Wind Through the Keyhole, that his mother read to him when he was little. It’s this most internal story, this eponymous fable, that stole my heart in this book. I enjoyed both framework tales quite a bit, but something about The Wind Through the Keyhole struck me as special, even more magical than this series that has so captured my imagination over the past few years. This fable is the story of Tim, a boy of eleven who has a wonderful life on the edge of a deadly forest until the day it takes his father from him and Nell, Tim’s mother. Life after that is hard, and grows harder, until Tim embarks on a quest, an adventure the likes of which his world had never seen. King did a brilliant job balancing the stark and deadly against the dreamlike and beautiful. I was completely captivated.
“Time is a keyhole, he thought as he looked up at the stars. Yes, I think so. We sometimes bend and peer through it. And the wind we feel on our cheeks when we do—the wind that blows through that keyhole—is the breath of all the living universe.”
While the fable portion was one of my favorite things ever, I really loved the rest of the book, as well. The series as a whole is this wonderful blend of fantasy, horror, and western genres that work together weirdly well, and there’s something about that mix in King’s hands that pulls me in immediately. The setting is unlike anything else I’ve ever read, and I love it. I would hate to be sucked into it, obviously; it’s one of the deadliest settings I’ve come across, as well. But I love the visits I can make safely from my couch as I read the books.
“A person’s never to old for stories, Bill. Man and boy, girl and woman, never too old. We live for them.”
Then there are the characters. Roland is just a wonderful character who has developed so much over the course of this series. And I’ve loved the building of his ka-tet, and the characters who make that up. These other four characters are all delightful in their own ways, though I won’t discuss them by name here for fear of spoiling previous books. But suffice it to say that this core group, this ka-tet that Roland has accidentally accrued over the course of the series is diverse, well-rounded, and bursting with charm and heart. Every chance I get to spend time with them feels special. There was also an appearance by the Covenant Man within Roland’s story-within-a-story, a man who is known by so many other names in King’s worlds, which always gives me a thrill.
“He’s made of lies from boots to crown, and his gospels bring nothing but tears.”
I’m going to share something random that isn’t going to make a lot of sense if you have no exposure to this series, but it made my little nerd heart grow three sizes. I don’t think it could be considered a spoiler, but I apologize if I’m wrong. There are twelve Guardians of the Beam, huge sentient creatures who protect the Tower and hold creation together. The Guardian most often referenced in King’s work is the Turtle, Maturin. In this book the name of the Lion guardian is revealed to be Aslan, which just made my Narnia-loving self explode with happiness. It’s the small things in life, right? And this was one of my small things.
“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.”
I have to confess that I had a few sharp moments of sadness not having Frank Muller read this installment to me. I opted to read this book with my eyeballs only, instead of mixing my mediums as I did with the second, third, and fourth books. King reads this one himself and, while I’ve muscled my way through a handful of his self-narrated works, I knew I wouldn’t be able to help but compare his voice to Muller’s reading of this ka-tet I’ve so grown to love. And, somehow, I could hear Muller’s cadence in my mind as I read, which made me happier than I can express.
“The two most beautiful words in any language are: I forgive.”
I adored The Wind Through the Keyhole with every fiber of my being. I hugged it when I finished reading it. Was it perfect? Of course not. I’m sure I could find things to critique. But I didn’t even really look, if I’m being honest. I simply let myself love the experience of reading it. It’s one of those rare books that I can see myself revisiting on a bad day, not to read it from cover to cover but to just open it to the section I love the most and let myself sink into the fable at its heart. I still have three books to go, so I can’t say with any kind of certainty what kind of impact this book had on the story when it was published after the series was considered completed. And maybe the series could stand without it perfectly well. But I’m so glad that it doesn’t have to. I’m glad that King decided to revisit the Tower and brought readers back this fairytale of a gift.
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