On Friday, June 5th, I finished Project Roland. It turned out to be a short-story of (unedited) about 6,000 words long. I’m calling it Childe Roland. I will probably edit it over the next 3 weeks and start submitting it at the end of June. It is, of course, based on the famous poem by Robert Browning, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
This project has been on my mind for years – I originally planned for it to be a novel (and I might still try to turn it into one later). After years of trying to unsuccessfully trying to plot it and expand it into chapters, I simply wrote down all the action that I saw in my head and shaped that into a story.
Childe Roland is about Roland’s quest to find the Dark Tower. It takes Robert Brownings’ poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came as its inspiration. Yes, I know Stephen King also has a famous series featuring the Dark Tower, but King’s Roland is a Gunslinger (in the tradition of Clint Eastwood or Yul Brenner).
Every since I read the poem in Dr. Shawen’s English Literature class as an undergraduate at UTC, I’ve imagined Roland as a “sword-bearer,” not a Gunslinger. This was brought home to me when I read about the sword Durandal (aka Durandel, Durindana) that Roland carries in The Song of Roland.
Very few of my stories actually have a genesis from my dreams, but this story is one of them. As a child, I’ve dreamed of the “Dark Tower” no less than 3 times. I can remember each dream as vividly as if they were from memory of events that actually happened even though they really didn’t. The clearest dream is from a school visit to Red Clay State Park. In the real trip, we traveled the park counterclockwise, from the main center, crossing a small stream, then seeing a remaining Native American meeting lodge, and finally back to the main complex. In the dream, we went clockwise and we started at the lodge, crossed the stream, and then where the right turn should be, there was a pass to the left, I took it and I would up in a darkened copse and there was the “Tower.”
Finally, as luck would have it, as a child, I happened upon the Dark Tower game in a toy store (the precursor to ToysRUs in the 80’s) and persuaded my parents to buy it for me for Christmas. It was, of course, the Dark Tower game. I learned the rules and learned how to beat the game on even its highest, most challenging session ). I even still to this day have the Tower and the Game Board (although I’ve misplaced the pieces and instructions) for this game!
So, in a weird way, the Dark Tower has been something that has been apart of my life from my earliest memories, through my childhood, into college, and now again as I a writer. It is only fitting that I should now write a story about the Dark Tower and one man’s quest to find it—even as I’m questing to find my own mythical Tower: success as a writer.