Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Dark Tower

A classic Bad Place in tales of Chivalry: the term is now best-known through Robert Browning's poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" (in Men and Women coll 1855), whose title is a line sung by Edgar during feigned madness in Shakespeare's King Lear (performed circa 1604; 1608). The poem describes, with great intensity, the harried Childe's Quest through a Waste Land to the DT, but we never see inside: the symbol is of faceless Evil. The same is true of Barad-dûr and Minas Morgul in J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) and the Loathly Tower in Gordon R Dickson's The Dragon and the George (1957). Stephen King's Far-Future fantasy sequence The Dark Tower (1982-1991) takes its inspiration directly from Browning. C S Lewis's unfinished The Dark Tower (written circa 1938; 1977) updates the concept as a modern Edifice, here closely resembling the then-new Cambridge University Library. This was perhaps the cue for the typical skyscraper DT of later Urban Fantasy, often found in London; e.g., the Lateinos and Romiith building overshadowing Brentford in Robert Rankin's East of Ealing (1984), the sorcerer's DT on Cheapside in Tom Holt's Who's Afraid of Beowulf (1988), and the evil media magnate's black-glass Docklands pyramid in Kim Newman's The Quorum (1994). Diane Duane's So You Want to be a Wizard? (1983) features a 90-storey DT, also faced in black glass, in its alternate New York. An impressive cinematic DT is the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness in Time Bandits (1981). [DRL]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.