I'm going to surprise absolutely nobody who knows me or has read my blog (or has ever talked to me about books) and do my very first Character Connection post on a Stephen King character, Roland Deschain. Surprise! It's a good bet that if you have read anything King has written, it is connected in some way to Roland's world. He is one of my favorite characters, and if you haven't already met him, I'd like to introduce you.
Roland Deschain's epic journey starts with one of the best opening lines I've ever read: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." With this line, we're thrown into Roland's world and follow him as he follows the man in black, whoever he is. Almost before we even know the gunslinger's name, we see his sheer determination, his single-mindedness and his ruthlessness in action in a decision that would end the journey of many a lesser man. Throughout Roland's journey, but especially in the first book of the series, this is the theme that dominates: a complete willingness to do anything, sacrifice anything to reach his goal. It's not clear whether we should be rooting for him or against him at first, and he doesn't let us know until we're already fascinated by him and in awe of him... perhaps against our will.
This is a man who has been trained to be the best at what he is (a wise-beyond-his-years, but ruthless killer who nevertheless seeks to uphold peace). He is descended from an almost mythic King Arthur-like ancestor through an unbroken line of diplomats, known in Roland's world of Gilead as gunslingers, and he has lived through trials and loss and hardship before even reaching the age of 15 that would have had grown men calling for their mommies. But as we follow him, and learn more about this gunslinger, and as he intersects with people who will change his path and his life, we learn that there is a depth to him that is unexpected to say the least.
Roland's journey almost literally does take him to the ends of the earth, and just about every point in between. On the way, he battles all the forces of evil, with its many incarnations and faces and whispers and tricks, and finds companionship, understanding and help when he is in despair, all to try to save that which matters most. And in return, if he succeeds, he has a chance at salvation... if he's deserving of it.
Roland is one of my all-time favorite characters. He's brilliant and ruthless and harbors secrets and pain that would be impossible for a mere mortal to cope with. But he's Roland, and the road he chose to walk is necessarily one of pain, so he deals with it and pushes on relentlessly. And I admire him for his noble selflessness and sacrifice. His strength, of body, mind, and character, makes him one of the most fascinating characters I've ever met. I thought of Roland and his world when I named my blog, because reading about him and his quest is like slipping into his world and leaving my own.
"Go then... There are other worlds than these."