Wolves of the Calla is the thrilling fifth book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series—a unique bestselling epic fantasy quest inspired many years ago by The Lord of the Rings.
In the extraordinary fifth novel in Stephen King’s remarkable fantasy epic, Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World. Their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis, a tranquil valley community of farmers and ranchers on Mid-World’s borderlands.
Beyond the town, the rocky ground rises toward the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is slowly stealing the community’s soul. The Wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to, and they can give the Calla-folken both courage and cunning. Their guns, however, will not be enough.
Reading Group Guide
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The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla Reading Group Guide from The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance
1. In his author’s note, Stephen King acknowledges the influence that several films and film directors have had upon the Dark Tower series. Most notably, he mentions Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns starring Clint Eastwood (A Fistful of Dollars; For a Few Dollars More; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), and Akira Kurosawa’s classic The Seven Samurai. He also gives credit to John Sturges’s 1960 Western (a remake of the Kurosawa film), The Magnificent Seven. Can you describe the influence that any or all of these films have had upon the Dark Tower series as a whole and upon Wolves of the Calla in particular?
2. At the beginning of Chapter I of Wolves of the Calla, Eddie Dean reflects upon the old Mejis saying Time is a face on the water. Do his theories explain why time passes differently in our world and in the borderlands? Why or why not? Do his observations hold true for you, personally? Have you ever experienced such time-dilation or time-contraction?
3. Why are Eddie, Jake, Susannah, and Roland so wary of Andy when they first meet him? Why is this significant, both in terms of our ka-tet’s history and in terms of the history of Roland’s world?
4. What is happening to Susannah Dean’s personality? How did this come to pass? Do you think this process is part of her ka? Given her condition, what do you think will happen to our ka-tet in the final two books of the series?
5. Who are the roonts? How did they become roont? Do you think that the roonts understand what has happened to them? What, from the text, makes you say this?
6. What power do the Wolves ultimately serve? Why are the people of the Calla so afraid to fight them? Can you understand their fear?
7. What mythical event do the Sisters of Oriza honor? What purpose do they serve in terms of plot? Do you think that King is trying to make us reexamine traditional ideas about men and women?
8. Describe Black Thirteen. What is its history? What role does it play in the book? How does it compare to Maerlyn’s Grapefruit, which figured prominently in Wizard and Glass?
9. What is todash? Why is it dangerous to travel todash? Who are the Manni? Why do they believe that todash is “the holiest of rites and most exalted of states”?
10. What role does the number 19 play in Wolves of the Calla? Where have we seen it before? (Hint: You’ll need a 2003 edition of The Gunslinger to answer the second part of this question.)
11. Describe the Cave of Voices (also known as Doorway Cave). What is its function? Is it magical or mechanical? What voices do the various characters hear when they are inside the cave? In what way does the “demon” or “mechanism” of this cave expose unconscious fear or guilt? If you were suddenly transported to the Cave of Voices, who would come to speak to you?
12. What is the meaning of the term commala? Why would the Commala Song be so important in a rice-growing community? Does the Commala Song—and its accompanying dance—remind you of any ceremonies from our world?
13. Compare the tale of Lady Oriza to the story of Lord Perth, which we learned about in The Waste Lands. What do they have in common? How do they differ? What themes do they share with the Dark Tower series as a whole?
14. Where, in King’s fiction, have we met Father Callahan before? Why do you think King decided to link a non–Dark Tower book so closely to the Dark Tower series?
15. As we all know from experience, few people are completely good or completely evil. Even the most annoying individual can surprise us with a selfless act, and an otherwise admirable person can sometimes shock us with an angry word or an unfair judgment. The same goes for well-drawn, believable characters. Make a list of the most important characters we meet in Calla Bryn Sturgis. Who is “good”? Who is “bad”? Who would you say is “brave” and whom would you call “cowardly”? Now take a look at any scenes where these characters exhibit unexpected, opposite tendencies. How does the author make us sympathize with the wicked or feel disappointment with the opinions and actions of the “good”? How does King let us see both the savory and unsavory traits of each character?
16. Roland’s world contains both machinery and magic. Most of the machinery we’ve encountered so far has been hostile, but the magic is more ambiguous. In Wolves of the Calla, the most potent magical objects are the Rose and Black Thirteen. Is one completely good and the other completely evil? Why or why not? What greater forces do these objects represent? Do you think that they symbolize a struggle found in our world as well?
17. Both fans and reviewers often refer to King’s large body of work as “the Stephen King Universe” or “the Stephen King Multiverse.” How do you interpret these terms? What part does the Dark Tower play in this universe? What part does our world play in this universe? Do you think that Stephen King’s realistic fiction should also be classed as part of the “Stephen King Universe”?
18. Human beings have always craved magical, supernatural tales. In fact, many of the earliest and greatest of our stories—The Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and The Odyssey, to name just a few—tell about man’s interaction with the unseen worlds. Although “official” culture denies that telepathy, spirit worlds, and magic exist, such ideas still thrive as part of modern folklore. Why do you think that magical and supernatural tales are still popular? Do you think their appeal has grown over the past few years? Why? Do these kinds of tales serve a particular purpose, either socially or personally? Do you think the appeal of the Dark Tower series lies in the way it successfully weaves together both technology and magic?
Stephen King is the author of more than sixty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes the short story collection You Like It Darker, Holly, Fairy Tale, Billy Summers, If It Bleeds, The Institute, Elevation, The Outsider, Sleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King), and the Bill Hodges trilogy: End of Watch, Finders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and a television series streaming on Peacock). His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower, It, Pet Sematary, Doctor Sleep, and Firestarter are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest-grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2020 Audio Publishers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
Bernie Wrightson (1948–2017) was a comics illustrator and horror artist best known for cocreating Swamp Thing and his adaptation of the novel Frankenstein, both featuring his trademark intricate inking. He worked on Spider-Man, Batman, and The Punisher, among many others, as well as works including Frankenstein Alive, Alive; Dead, She Said; The Ghoul; and Doc Macabre, all cocreated with esteemed horror author Steve Niles. His bestselling collaborations with Stephen King on The Stand, The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, Creepshow, and Cycle of the Werewolf are considered fan favorites. As a conceptual artist, Bernie worked on many movies, particularly in the horror genre, including Ghostbusters, The Faculty, Galaxy Quest, Spider-Man, George Romero’s Land of the Dead, and Frank Darabont’s Stephen King film The Mist.