"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Hurt: The Ballad of Roland of Gilead
The other day I heard a song that I haven't in a while. The song is Hurt, not the Nine Inch Nails original, but the version sung by Johnny Cash that made such a splash about ten years ago. I love both versions, though the Johnny Cash version just feels so real. And to me, I've always, since the first time I heard the that version, thought of Roland of Gilead from Steven King's Dark Tower series. To me, that song embodies Roland perfectly.
Roland of Gilead is the last gunslinger, a holdover from a gilded age of civilization and prosperity. The world is decaying, humanity is decaying, and Roland is the symbol of it all, He's the decay of humanity, and the last hope for it. He's a deeply flawed and hurt individual, on a quest, perhaps the most noble of quests. But he's single-minded, selfish, and willing to sacrifice anything to reach the end of his quest, even his own humanity. He is the tragic hero.
The series itself if flawed, Roland is flawed, humanity is decaying, and the gilded age of before was never the ideal everyone remembers. The metaphor is strong, and perfect, and flawed. Say whatever you want of the series, but Roland is one of the most powerful protagonists I can think of in the fantasy genre. And he is so deeply imperfect.
So, I give you Hurt, the Ballad of Roland of Gilead. A song that nearly always brings me to tears - whether I think of Roland, Cash, Reznor, or others from my own life.
The Dark Tower begins with The Gunslinger and one of the best opening lines I've ever read.