Early this morning (May 19th, ahem), Stephen King Tweeted out the following:
The Dark Tower is close, now. The Crimson King awaits. Soon Roland will raise the Horn of Eld. And blow. pic.twitter.com/rqGSKM3dWL— Stephen King (@StephenKing) May 19, 2016
If you're not a hardcore Dark Tower nerd, this image probably isn't setting your world on fire. You've got an olde timey horn, some dirt, and a promise that the Dark Tower is en route, none of which is all that exciting on the surface.
But if you're familiar with the series, you know that's not just any old olde-timey horn: that's the Horn of Eld, an artifact which plays a pivotal role in the Dark Tower cycle. And if my calculations are correct, its appearance here may be offering a clue towards the approach Nikolaj Arcel (along with co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen) are taking with their adaptation.
Let's get this out of the way right now: what follows is going to involve a lot of deeply nerdy speculation, along with some spoilers. I'm going to do my best to dance around the most explicit of the latter, but be aware that in order to discuss why this image is important, we're going to have to reveal some sensitive information about King's series.
We all onboard with that? OK, let's move on.
In King's series, Roland Deschain, the final Gunslinger in Mid-World, is on a quest to reach the fabled Dark Tower, a nexus point where all of time, space, and many different dimensions converge. This Tower is under threat of being toppled by the unspeakably evil Crimson King, and Roland hopes that by reaching the Tower and defeating the King, he will prevent...well, the end of everything as we know it, basically.
Roland's been on this quest for most of his (very, very long) life, and along the way he's traveled with a number of friends, almost all of which have died in their efforts to support Roland's quest. From the very beginning, we are told that Roland is a single-minded hardass, the type of dude who will stop at nothing - up to and including sacrificing those closest to him - if it means preventing the Tower from being destroyed. He's sort of a selfish prick, in other words, and while Roland definitely softens over the course of the series (thanks in no small part to the relationships he forms with Jake, Eddie, and Susannah, the Earthlings who are drawn into his world early on in the Dark Tower cycle), his single-mindedness is never completely addressed. It may, in fact, prevent him from ever achieving his ultimate goal.
All of this selfishness is symbolized in the Horn of Eld, which Roland abandoned on a battlefield years before we meet him in the series' first novel, The Gunslinger. Eventually, we come to find out that Roland might've been able to change the entire course of his quest if only he had kept that Horn at his side.
Which brings us to the photo above. If, as this photo implies, Roland is carrying the Horn of Eld from the moment we meet him, that means that The Dark Tower films are fundamentally different from the novels. With that Horn in his possession, virtually everything is subject to change: the people he meets, the places he'll go, and - most intriguingly - the fate that awaits him at the end of his journey.
In other words: introducing the Horn of Eld into the Dark Tower film(s) gives the filmmakers carte blanche to do whatever they want with the story. They can essentially rewrite the entire series' mythology, and they can do it in a way that's in keeping with the rules established by the source material. That's a very clever move, one that will - ostensibly - protect the film from much of the nerd nitpicking that it's almost certain to attract.
Oh, are you mad that The Dark Tower completely removes the "under the Cyclopean Mountains" sequence from The Gunslinger? Well, guess what: shit's different this time, because now Roland has the Horn of Eld. Are you annoyed that somehow Pimli Prentiss is a character in the first Dark Tower movie, despite not appearing in the series until way late into the novels? Tell it to the Horn of Eld, which allows for that to happen.
This is a very intriguing development (and, for what it's worth, a development that's appropriately meta for this particular series), and it'll be interesting to see if this is actually the game that Arcel and company are playing. How will we approach this material if they make drastic changes to King's material while also playing by his rules? Would that allow hardcore fans to let go of their preconceived notions about what a Dark Tower movie should be, or will it be one more change to series canon that we refuse to acknowledge?
We won't know how to feel until we've seen the movie, of course, but for now: I'm considering this a cleverly-played hand. What do you guys think?