Word for Word: Uncovering inspirations – a literary lineage

Word for Word

By Nicole McGee:

A gunslinger trapped in a desolate wasteland, the last of a legion of knights sworn to protect the world. A young boy destined to provide a link between two seemingly unconnected worlds. And a magic portal which, when opened, allows the two to join forces in an effort to save both worlds from an evil man in black. The film, The Dark Tower, promises all of this and more. Based off of the wildly popular Dark Tower series, written by Stephen King in the 1980s, The Dark Tower is a uniquely thrilling story, which combines the feel of Sergio Leone’s classic westerns from the 1960s with the infinite possibilities of J.R.R. Tolkien’s science fiction novels, written throughout the 1950s.

While this highly modern tale may seem as if it is specifically tailored for the 21st century, it may surprise many to learn that its origins stem from a literary lineage that stretches back almost 200 years. The acclaimed Dark Tower series was, in fact, inspired by Robert Browning’s poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” first published in 1894. While the poem and the books—and presumably the upcoming film—feature different takes on a similar story, many facets of Browning’s original work remain. For example, Browning’s highly conflicted knight, Childe Roland, endures, along with a grudgingly, lifeless desert landscape and, of course, the eponymous dark tower.

What’s more, Browning’s incredible poem found its own inspiration in the Byronic hero crafted by Lord Byron and introduced in many of his early works, dating as far back as 1810. Browning’s own hero, Childe Roland, possesses many readily discernible Byronic traits. For instance, Childe Roland is lonely and mysterious, consumed by internal and external conflicts he cannot escape. However, the literary journey does not stop here. Roland’s story originally came from an epic, French poem from 1040, titled The Song of Roland. This epic is based on the Battle of Roncevaux, which occurred in 778 under the rule of Charlemagne.

So make sure you check out The Dark Tower and enjoy a story almost 1300 years in the making.

This column about writing and the writing process is created by the Amarillo College Writers’ Corner tutors. The name “Word for Word” pays tribute to Robert W. Wylie (1923-2011), who worked at Amarillo College from 1963 until 1992.  He was chairman of the English Department from 1984 to 1992, served as Writer-in-Residence at AC for several years after his retirement and wrote a weekly column for the Amarillo Globe-News called “Word for Wordfrom 1992 through 2003.

The Writers’ Corner provides free tutors who review assignment requirements, provide constructive feedback, and guide students through all phases of the writing process.

The Writer’s Corner also offers

  • One-on-one tutoring sessions with trained tutors
  • Small workshops throughout the semester covering various aspects of academic writing
  • In-class presentations on the role of the Writers’ Corner
  • A waiting area for walk-ins and early arrivals
  • Coffee for students with appointments

The Writers’ Corner is located in Ordway Hall, Room 102 and can be reached at writerscorner@actx.edu or (806) 345-5580. Learn more at https://www.actx.edu/english/writerscorner.

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