The Dark Tower (Series) | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Dark Tower (Series) | Wolves of the Calla | Summary


About the Title

Wolves of the Calla refers to the cyborg minions of the Crimson King who terrorize the village of Calla Bryn Sturgis, taking their children for an unknown purpose and returning them broken beyond repair. Each volume in the series also includes a page within the front matter that shows a single word that serves as a subtitle. For Wolves of the Calla this word is "Resistance," which directly references the way the ka-tet helps the people of Calla Bryn Sturgis resist the Wolves who would take their children and ruin them. This battle also represents the ka-tet's continued resistance of the Crimson King's evil.


Going Todash

After surviving the starkblast beyond Topeka, the ka-tet moves into the borderlands between Mid-World proper and the End-World region where the Crimson King has his mountain lair at Thunderclap. Roland and the others suspect they are being followed. Roland observes Susannah catching and eating animals late at night. He suspects she may be pregnant from her encounter with the demon in the stone circle, but he says nothing.

Eddie and Jake use a dream state of todash to visit New York in 1977. They talk to Calvin Tower, the bookstore owner from The Waste Lands, and learn he owns the vacant lot where Jake found the rose and key. The rose is a physical manifestation of the Tower in New York and must be protected. Eddie's old dealer Enrico Balazar and his lieutenant Jack Andolini are trying to convince Calvin to sell the lot to Sombra Corporation, the Crimson King's corporate presence. If the sale goes through, it will lead to the destruction of both the rose and the Dark Tower.

Calla Bryn Sturgis

The ka-tet's followers are a group of citizens from the nearby town of Calla Bryn Sturgis led by Father Donald Callahan, a fallen priest from an alternate version of America. The town needs help defending itself against the Wolves who come from Thunderclap and take one child from each pair of twins every generation. The children return a few months later, "roont" or ruined, which means they are mentally stunted, physically huge, and die painful early deaths. If the townspeople resist when the Wolves come, the Wolves will kill them.

Father Callahan describes his departure from Maine to New York after a battle with a vampire named Kurt Barlow. He spends years in New York identifying and killing "Type Three" vampires and goes into hiding after the Crimson King's men attack him in a laundromat. Calvin Tower and his friend Aaron Deepneau save Callahan this time, but in 1983 another of the low men, Richard Sayre, lures Father Callahan into a building full of vampires. Callahan jumps out a window to his death and lands in the way station in Mid-World. At the way station Callahan meets Walter, who gives him the powerful wizard's glass Black Thirteen, which brings him to the Doorway Cave in the mountains near Calla. Now he ministers to the locals.

Roland uses Black Thirteen and the Doorway Cave to send the ka-tet to 1977 New York to protect Calvin Tower, the rose, and the vacant lot. Eddie fights Jack Andolini and threatens to kill him and his men if they bother Calvin again. Eddie knows Balazar's men will return, so he tells Calvin to flee New York and leave a message so the ka-tet can find him later. Calvin reluctantly agrees, but only if he can store some of his most valuable books in the Doorway Cave.

Back in the Calla, Susannah reveals she is pregnant from her encounter with the demon in the stone circle and is now inhabited by Mia, an entity occupying her body to protect the child. The rest of the ka-tet has already figured out the pregnancy, although Mia is a surprise. Roland consults Father Callahan, who threatens to raise the town against the ka-tet if Susannah attempts to terminate the pregnancy.

Betrayal and Battle

Jake becomes fast friends with the other children in the Calla, growing especially close with Benny Slightman. He discovers Benny's father, Ben, has been feeding information to a robot named Andy to keep Benny safe from the Wolves. Jake follows Ben and Andy to an electronic monitoring station called a "dogan," where he sees them meeting with Finli O'Tego, the Wolves' leader.

Jake's friendship with Benny cools, and Jake tells Roland what he saw at the dogan. Eddie shuts down Andy's circuits. Roland confronts Ben Slightman and calls him a coward and a traitor, but he spares Ben's life for Benny's sake and for Jake's sake.

Before the Wolves arrive, Jake and his friends, including Benny, create a false path to the children's hiding place to throw the Wolves off their trail. One of the children steps in a hole and breaks his ankle. Jake and the boy's sister save him, but they can't get back to safety. They hide in a rice paddy near Roland's ambush trench. Jake and Benny make up.

When the Wolves arrive, they are cyborgs with thinking caps like the bear guardian of the Beam, Shardik. They look like the Marvel Comics character Dr. Doom. They fire small flying grenades called "sneetches." These resemble the snitches from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and bear a manufacturer's mark from North Central Positronics that reads "Harry Potter Model." They also use weapons that resemble light sabers from Star Wars.

The ka-tet and townspeople retaliate with gunfire and are joined by an order called the Sisters of Oriza, who throw sharpened plates that remove the cyborgs' thinking caps with remarkable efficiency. They defeat the Wolves, but Benny Slightman and another child are killed in the crossfire.

The Doorway Cave

Mia tries to take over Susannah's body during the battle, but Susannah won't allow it. When the fighting ends, Mia does take over and uses Black Thirteen and the Doorway Cave to transport them to New York in 1999. Roland, Eddie, Jake, and Father Callahan give chase but are too late. The door is closed. In Calvin Tower's stash, Father Callahan finds a book by Stephen King called Salem's Lot, which is all about Callahan's experience with Barlow and the vampires. Callahan questions his own reality while the others try to determine how to open the Doorway and save Susannah.


The Gunslinger's Code

Wolves of the Calla provides the most detailed illustration of what it truly means to be a gunslinger. The apprenticeship period is well over for Eddie, Susannah, and Jake. They are fully fledged; they shoot with their minds, their eyes, and their instincts, not their hands. Moreover, the gunslingers have an obligation to help others whenever they are needed, whenever they can. This obligation compels them to remain in the Calla and assist the people when they could be on their way, making progress toward the fortress at Thunderclap and the Tower beyond it.

Logically speaking, the ka-tet would likely accomplish many of the same goals if they were to ignore the plight of Calla Bryn Sturgis. They would still encounter the Wolves when they reach Thunderclap. They would still learn about the Breakers. Since the ka-tet doesn't get access to the Breakers until more time has passed, it is possible they could stop them sooner, perhaps before they destroy another Beam.

Of course, it is equally possible that the ka-tet would be defeated if they engaged in a direct assault on Thunderclap. Ka has brought them to Calla at precisely this time, just before the Wolves come again, because the ka-tet has a better chance of defeating the Wolves in an open battle on ground the ka-tet knows. Furthermore, ignoring the pleas of Calla's parents wouldn't stop the Wolves from taking another generation of Calla's twins, who are chosen because they have stronger psychic energy and provide better nourishment for the Breakers.

Roland's decision to stay in Calla and honor his obligation to protect the innocent as a gunslinger—even though it delays his progress to the Tower—shows tremendous growth from the man who let a child fall into an abyss in The Gunslinger. Roland is less shortsighted now and seems to trust in ka more than he did in those early days. By honoring his obligation to the tradition of gunslingers over his desire to reach the Tower, he serves both the immediate good and the greater good.

Roland also shows growth in his dealing with Ben Slightman. In another time he would have executed Ben for his traitorous behavior. Now Roland berates Ben for his extreme dishonor, for forgetting the face of his father. At the same time he understands Ben's desire to keep his son safe at any cost because Roland wants to keep Jake safe. Roland's love for Jake ultimately saves Ben's life because Roland does not want to be the man who killed the father of Jake's new best friend—Jake's first friend his own age for all his time in Mid-World. In the end ka punishes Ben far more severely than Roland could have anyway, taking Ben's son as one of two casualties in the battle with the Wolves.

The Priest

In the series thus far, the reader has met characters who were moral but not good; good but not moral; and religious, but neither good nor moral. Father Callahan manages to combine all three traits. While he is flawed, he is also a good man who happens to be moral and religious. He has spent his life and given his life to fighting the forces of evil. The narrative presents an abridged version of his experiences with the vampires in New England and New York—a more complete version appears in Salem's Lot—but his essential commitment to what is right is unquestionable.

However, the innocence of Callahan's goodness leaves him vulnerable in a world where the rules he follows don't apply. When he arrives at the way station, he accepts the dangerous Black Thirteen from Walter. He doesn't know that Walter is a force of pure evil. He doesn't know the object he has accepted holds the power to destroy him. He is lucky the Wizard's Glass only allows him to travel to the Calla. But his possession of this object ends up facilitating Mia and Susannah's escape to New York and Mordred's birth.

Father Callahan facilitates Mordred's birth in a more direct manner, too. He forbids Roland from terminating or allowing Susannah to terminate her pregnancy. He makes this decree with the best of intentions. He believes firmly in preserving life, and his innocence prevents him from fully grasping the nature of the child Mia and Susannah are carrying. Roland doesn't truly know what the child is either, so Callahan makes a fair point. Roland can't very well assault Susannah the way he assaulted Sylvia Pittston in The Gunslinger, even though Susannah is carrying similarly demonic offspring. Roland doesn't know the genetics of the child as described in Song of Susannah; if he did he might have a different attitude toward the pregnancy. This is Callahan's point. Without knowing for sure that the child is irredeemably evil, he can't permit it to be killed. And they won't know the child's nature until it is born.

Art Imitating Life

Father Callahan experiences a crisis when he discovers Stephen King—a man he has never met—has written a book about him. He wonders if he is a fictional character in someone else's story, or if he even exists at all. This discovery recasts all the allusions and references in the series thus far as something possibly more than evidence of overlap and communication between an unknown number of alternative realities. The discovery raises the possibility that all those references and allusions exist because all of reality is someone's fictional story, and that someone is pulling references from their own existence and dropping them into the narrative they are creating. Do the Wolves look like a comic book character and use Harry Potter Model explosives because they are the product of a mind influenced by a different time and place? In Song of Susannah the reader learns this is at least partially true, but in the meantime the reader is left to question the nature of reality alongside Father Callahan.

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