Warning: This post contains spoilers for all The Dark Tower books (and possibly also spoilers for the film).
Now that the trailer for The Dark Tower has dropped, we finally have a clearer idea of how the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s epic, eight-book fantasy series is going to take shape.
And that means one thing, and one thing only: it’s high time we talked about Cuthbert’s horn.
Back when The Dark Tower movie was announced, there was a lot of discussion about how the story might play out. Would it be a straight adaptation of the first book? How close to the source material was the movie going to stick?
Then Stephen King posted this image on Twitter, and blew the whole thing wide open.
Wait, so what exactly is this horn?
[HORRIBLE SPOILERS FOR THE NOVELS AHEAD]. In the books, Cuthbert Allgood is a childhood friend of main character Roland Deschain. One of Cuthbert’s most prized possessions was the Horn of Eld, which he lost after being killed in a battle that takes place way before the events depicted in the novels. It’s a memory that haunts Roland. He escaped the battle by pretending to be dead, but he never managed to retrieve the horn for his best friend.
Now here’s the complicated bit: when Roland finally reaches the Dark Tower at the end of the last novel in King’s series, the horrible twist is that he find himself back where he started; he reaches the top of the tower only to emerge back in the desert, exactly at the point where the first book began. The whole thing is a time loop.
Only things aren’t exactly the same — this time round, he has Cuthbert’s horn in his possession.
Yeah, but what’s this got to do with the film?
After Stephen King shared that first image on Twitter, many fans (understandably) assumed it meant that the movie will take place after the books. They thought that if Roland has the horn this time around, the movie must take place in the version of reality that begins at the very end of the seventh novel.
@StephenKing Ooh, might this suggest the films will take place in the version of the quest following that in the books?? @jpsmythe
— David Hopkins (@HoppoDS) May 19, 2016
This I can get behind! @StephenKing Was playing it out as an alternate reality version: this feels right. Many paths lead to the Dark Tower
— Bill Hargenrader (@billhargenrader) May 20, 2016
Now that the trailer has been released, though, I’m not so sure.
The absence of the horn
The thing is, there’s literally no sign of the horn anywhere in the trailer. In the books, Roland discovers it in his belt at the end of the series. It makes sense for it to be there: if he had possession of Cuthbert’s horn, he’d want to keep it close to him.
After zooming in on every still frame of Idris Elba in the trailer, though, there’s no sign of the horn anywhere.
If Roland is in possession of the horn in the film, he’d definitely, definitely have it on his person somewhere. Admittedly he does have a small man-bag he carries around with him in the trailer, but somehow I don’t see him stowing the horn in there — it makes sense for such an important item to be in his belt, like it was in the books. Next to his guns.
It’s possible, of course, that they just decided to leave the horn out of the trailer. Maybe Roland will discover it at some point in the film, or maybe it’ll turn out that it is in his man-bag after all.
If not, though, what does Stephen King’s tweet mean? Was it a symbolic way of saying that the movie will operate in a different plane of reality to the books? That it’ll just be a completely different thing altogether? Or was it simply a way of building hype among fans of the series?
It’s hard to say, but from the sounds of it Stephen King has been fairly involved in the script-writing process, so maybe the horn will feature in some capacity after all.
It just seems strange that it wasn’t included in the trailer after being the focus of the first-ever teaser image.