When you read Stephen King's Dark Tower series, you start to notice that there are a whole lot of books with Dark Tower connections you weren't aware of. Not only did King's epic fantasy western evolve into the multiverse that encompasses all of his work, but he brought other authors' books and characters into it as well.
Folks who are unfamiliar with the Dark Tower series might wonder how King was able to do this, so here's a quick rundown. The titular Tower is the lynchpin of all possible worlds, including the one in which we and Stephen King reside. There are other worlds than these, where we are characters in other people's fiction, and where our own inventions live and breathe. As we'll see, these aren't always 1:1 representations, however.
More than 40 years into King's career, his Constant Readers are still finding connections within his work. Additionally, because King enjoys talking about his favorite works of fiction, some of his references to books by other authors might be obscure to readers who haven't read the writers he likes.
That being said, some folks might be disappointed to find that they were well aware of all 19 connections mentioned here. If you're one of them, I cry your pardon. Share your favorite books with Dark Tower connections with me on Twitter, do it please ya.
1. It by Stephen King
Out of all of King's novels, It might have the most interesting Dark Tower references. Ritchie says that the evil residing in Derry arrived in primordial times, from "[o]utside everything." Another level of the Tower, perhaps, or todash space? It's possible that It is related to the Great Old Ones, and she — yes, It is female — might even be related to Dandelo, a minor villain in The Dark Tower.
Another prominent scene features a revelation by Stan, one of the Losers' Club's more unfortunate members, in which he realizes that another universe may exist, where "there might grow roses which sing." The Dark Tower is surrounded by singing roses, and, in one of the many versions of NYC, the Tower takes the form of a beautiful, singing rose that grows alone in an empty lot.
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
In The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz , Roland's ka-tet are treated to a large chunk of the gunslinger's backstory, including his adventures with Maerlyn's Grapefruit: a crystal ball infused with dark magic. All the while, the little band of warriors travels toward a castle hovering over I-70 in the distance, later revealed to be the Emerald City. When they reach the city, they are each given a pair of Ruby Shoes, and are permitted to pass through the Wizard's castle on their way to Thunderclap.
3. Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
In one of Hearts in Atlantis ' stories, "Low Men in Yellow Coats," the psychic Ted Brautigan is hunted by supposed G-men in flashy cars, who locate him with signs advertising lost pets. In Wolves of the Calla, we learn that something similar happened to Donald Callahan, after his vampire hunting led to a cruel branding by the Hitler Brothers. Also known as can-toi, the Low Men appear to be animal hybrids who attempt — and fail — to pass for human.
4. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
In Wolves of the Calla, Roland and his ka-tet do battle against a group of superpowered kidnappers known as the Wolves. Despite looking like Doctor Doom armed with a lightsaber, each of the Wolves is equipped with sneetches: spherical, golden explosives that fly. If that isn't enough to convince you that sneetches are snitches, consider that an examination of one sneetch reveals this serial number: 465-11-AA HPJKR.
5. The Stand by Stephen King
From the moment Randall Flagg appears as the primary antagonist of The Stand , we know he isn't normal. He has memories of being a killer and a criminal in several past lives, but doesn't quite recall how his current one started out. Dark Tower readers know that Flagg is someone else — really, several someone elses — entirely.
He's known by many names, most of which keep the initials R.F., such as Russell Faraday, Richard Fannin, Richard Freemantle. But he's also the man in black — A.K.A. Walter Padick, A.K.A. Walter o'Dim, A.K.A. Marten Broadcloak — whom the gunslinger chases across the desert. Without going into too much detail, let's just say that Flagg causes a lot of problems for Roland throughout his life and on his way to the Tower.
6. Shardik by Richard Adams
Richard Adams' novel about a hunter in pursuit of a giant bear lends itself to the Dark Tower in the series' third installment, The Waste Lands. Roland, Eddie, and Susannah encounter Shardik, a gigantic, biomechanical bear, who serves as one of the 12 Guardians of The Beam. By this point, Shardik's systems have begun to show their age, and he attacks.
7. 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
In 'Salem's Lot , Donald Callahan is a priest whose lack of faith allows him to be attacked by a vampire. When his church refuses to allow him to enter, he boards a bus and disappears, never to be heard from again. Until Wolves of the Calla, that is. Callahan reappears as the priest of Calla Bryn Sturgis, and ultimately helps Roland and his ka-tet on their quest for the Dark Tower.
8. "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning
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King drew the earliest inspirations for his Dark Tower series from Robert Browning's 1855 poem about an untested knight on a possibly doomed quest. In a 1989 interview, the author told the Castle Rock News: "Browning never says what that tower is, but it’s based on an even older tradition about Childe Roland that’s lost in antiquity. Nobody knows who wrote it, and nobody knows what the Dark Tower is." His wonder over the nature of the Tower led to the creation of his lengthy saga.
9. Insomnia by Stephen King
This lesser-known King novel might have more direct connections to the Dark Tower series than any other. Insomnia marks the first mention of the Crimson King: the primary antagonist in Roland's quest. Patrick Danville, an important child in King's 1994 work, is Dandelo's captive in The Dark Tower. The novel discusses the Dark Tower, Roland, ka, and ka-tet, as well.
10. "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot
Although not quite as connected as Browning's poem, T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" lends a lot to The Waste Lands . In addition to having a similar title, King's novel drew from lines in Eliot's poem to name the book's sections: "Jake: Fear in a Handful of Dust" and "Lud: A Heap of Broken Images."
11. The Regulators by Richard Bachman
The can-toi play a starring role in this Bachman book. A small town in Ohio is overrun by strange cowboys in brightly colored vehicles, who kill the residents they encounter. The strange events are caused by a demon called Tak, who bears a striking similarity to some of the todash creatures we've seen before.
12. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Written by King's son, NOS4A2 contains several connections to the Dark Tower series, including mentions of Mid-World and "the clearing at the end of the path." For his part, Joe Hill claims he didn't mean to seriously tie his novel into King's works. As he told the A.V. Club: "I was just fooling around."
13. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Although you'd be hard-pressed to find direct connections to The Neverending Story in the Dark Tower series, one Redditor made an interesting connection, nonetheless.
From the very beginning of The Gunslinger, we hear that "the world has moved on." Characters use the phrase to explain everything from missed connections to the disappearance of entire places. It's kind of similar to the Nothing in The Neverending Story: the destructive force that eats worlds. There's also the concept of a story within a story, told again and again, which plays a prominent role in both King's series and Michael Ende's novel.
14. The Deathlands Series by Jack Adrian and James Axler
As Dark Tower connections go, the Deathlands series is a pretty interesting development. In the fifth book of this post-apocalyptic series, the characters pass by Roland, who is standing on the side of the road. Discussions on James Axler forums indicate that the series' authors may have paid homage to writers other than King.
15. Desperation by Stephen King
This companion to The Regulators also features can-toi and the demon Tak. It's also set in a town near the Desatoya Mountains: the range mentioned in The Little Sisters of Eluria.
16. " Nyarlathotep " by H.P. Lovecraft
In The Stand, one of the characters refers to Flagg as "Nyarlathotep" : the Lovecraftian deity known as the Crawling Chaos. In later works, he's also the avatar of the Outer Gods.
King also borrowed the concept of "the Great Old Ones" from H.P. Lovecraft, although King's race are technologically advanced humans, not unknowable gods. However, King's todash creatures and other malevolent entities are quite Lovecraftian in nature.
17. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
The Eyes of the Dragon could well be called a prequel to, or retelling of, the Dark Tower series. Randall Flagg makes an appearance as an evil wizard in the service of King Roland — !!! — and Queen Sasha. Once Flagg successfully deposes the reigning monarchs, and frames their oldest son for the murder of his father, he acts as adviser to the new king: 12-year-old Thomas. The Drawing of the Three mentions the pursuit of Flagg by young Thomas and his butler, Dennis.
18. Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory
The Dark Tower series contains a lot of references to Arthurian legend. Roland is the descendant of Arthur Eld, the King of All-World and the first gunslinger, who carried the sword Excalibur, which may have later been used to forge the sandalwood guns Roland carries. King's series makes use of other Arthurian legends as well, including Maerlyn and Mordred.
19. The Shining by Stephen King
Like Danny Torrance, Jake Chambers has a touch of the shine to him. Jake and Danny are twinners: different versions of the same person, living on different levels of the Tower. In Doctor Sleep, Danny utters Jake's most famous line: "there are other worlds than these."