The Dark Tower glossary

The Dark Tower glossary

portal|The Dark TowerThe following terms are used in "The Dark Tower," a series of books by Stephen King. The series incorporates elements from several genres, but is in many ways a work of epic fantasy. The author created an original setting, All-World, for much of the books' action, a world with cultures, languages and themes that one new to the series would find unfamiliar.


Char (root word)

"Char" means death in the high speech and is a common root word for death in several dialects. Some examples are Blaine the suicidal monorail's other world counterpart "Charlie" the Choo Choo, and "Charyou Tree," a word relating to human sacrifice (in a farming community) to punish one's sins and give good crops to everyone else.


In "Wolves of the Calla", Commala is both a celebration of the harvest season and part of Calla-Speak, a dialect used in the Crescent-Callas of the borderlands between Mid-World and the vast wasteland of Thunderclap. It is used in a surprising number of slang terms, many of them sexual in nature.

:"One would reference '(sexual) orgasm,' as in 'Did'ee come commala'? (The hoped-for reply being 'Aye, say thankya, commala big-big.') To wet the commala is to irrigate the rice in a dry time; it is also to masturbate. Commala is the commencement of some big and joyful meal, like a family feast (not the meal itself, do ya, but the moment of beginning to eat). A man who is losing his hair is coming commala. Putting animals out to stud is damp commala. Gelded animals are dry commala, although no one could tell you why. A virgin is green commala, a menstruating woman is red commala, an old man who can no longer make iron before the forge is - say sorry - sof' commala. To stand commala is to stand belly-to-belly, a slang term meaning "to share secrets." (For that matter, why is a fork sometimes a commala, but never a spoon or a knife?) The Commala is also a dance to the goddess Oriza, to bless the rice."

(excerpt from "Wolves of the Calla")

Ka, ka-tet, and related terms

Ka can be described as destiny or fate, but is more complex than that; It is the will of Man. Many suggest it to be a wheel that can only be broken by death or by betrayal. But, as Cort put it, those are also spokes on the wheel of ka. The image of ka as a wheel is reminiscent of the philosophy, "what goes around comes around."

A ka-tet is a group of individuals bound together by ka. They share khef.Ka-Mai means 'fate's' fool, one who has hope but no choice.Ka-Me is the opposite- a wiseman of fate, as in "Listen to me Ka-me, not Ka-mai"Ka- Shume is the death of a fellow member of a Ka-tet, this breaks the tet.Kas-ka is a phrophetVes-ka Gan is the Song of the Turtle

Synonyms: Fate, Destiny, Karma, Luck, Kismet, Purpose, chi, and similar to "the Force" in Star Wars.


Literally the water of life. The idea of "khef" seems to be an adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s word "grok" from "Stranger in a Strange Land". Both "khef" and "grok" are used in roughly the same context. It is basically the life force of "ka". It's where "ka" meets the soul. The Manni believe it to be possible to live off this life force. The first book in the series, "The Gunslinger", also seems to refer to "khef" as a form of mental/spiritual discipline; as a fifth-level "khef"-adept" (for lack of a better term), Roland was able to use his khef-granted abilities to withstand traveling through vast portions of the desert on far less food and water than any "normal" human would need at a minimum under the same circumstances.

While the words "grok" and "khef" may have some sort of similarity, the word "grok" is a verb, "khef" is a noun.


The Manni tradition stems from the idea of a multiverse. The Manni are a religious group of ascetics, who, among other things, apparently believe in polygyny, travel between worlds, and the worship of something which they call "The Over" and "The Force". They wear dark blue robes (at other times are referred to being similar in appearance to Quaker and the Amish)and are known for having rather grim/pragmatic views on situations. They also have magical items that allow them to go todash. Though Henchick once notes that they are "sailors on the wind of ka" he had in fact earlier noted that the words "ka" and "ka-tet" were not Manni words, and seemed a little offended when Roland applies these phrases to the Manni situation.

The Manni religion could be the descendant or parallel of modern Christianity, showing another similarity that All-World has with this world. There are numerous references to the "Man Jesus/The Jesus Man" throughout the novels, and the Manni quote certain Bible verses, as shown in "". However in "The Gunslinger" Revised Version the Manni are somewhat differentiated from followers of the Man Jesus when Roland notes, "He was not a Manni, however, nor a follower of the Man Jesus, and considered himself in no way holy," implying that the two are different even if somehow related religions.


A sandwich.

The Red, the White, and the Black

The Red represents the collective forces of chaos and destruction. The most notable entity of the Red is the Crimson King.

The White represents the collective forces of order and goodness, and is the antagonist to the Red. The main character, Roland Deschain, is a gunslinger and therefore an agent of the White.

The Red and the White may be seen as an "Alice in Wonderland" reference; the two opposing sides in both "Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" are the Red Queen and the White Queen. This could be a coincidence, however, and 'White' could just be referring to purity and goodness whereas 'Red' represents the Crimson King.

The phrase "the coming of the white" is first used in the novel "Eyes of the Dragon" to describe the time when Peter would take the throne in the Kingdom of Delain. It is used again in the novel "Needful Things"; although not actually said, it comes to the protagonist's mind when he defeats the antagonist.

There are several instances, particularly in "Wolves of the Calla", where the White is said to oppose The Black, possibly suggesting that The Red specifically refers to the forces of the Crimson King, whereas The Black is evil in general. The Black may also refer specifically to the prime evil and darkness prior to the universe's creation, which is related to the todash darkness. While the Red do seek to send the world back into the forces of Black by destroying the beams and the tower, the Black is simple, carnal evil which holds equal contempt for all creatures living in the world of light, both white and red.


"Term used by the Folken of the Callas to refer to individuals who have been carried by the Wolves into Thunderclap and had a portion of their brain removed. This removed cerebral tissue was fed to the Breakers to further fortify their mental abilities. This term was first seen in Wolves of the Calla. [] Roont children come back severely mentally handicapped, experience excruciating growing pains that cause them to grow into giants, then die young." It is implied in the final "Dark Tower" novel that "roont" is simply "ruined" with a regional Calla accent.

Thankee, Sai

May also find references online to Say Thankee Sai and Thankee Big Big which essentially mean the same -- Thank you.

The phrase "Thankee, Sai" is used by several characters, including Roland, to mean "Thank you, Sir." The dialect appears to be derived from a combination of American mixed with Old World terminology both European and Asian. The quaint dialect highlights the "almost" mirroring between the Dark Tower universe and our world and may also be King's way of demonstrating the unstoppable evolution of human language. The dialect, which mixes old and new terms, is also a reflection of a Dark Tower theme -- that of old things/old ways enduring into the future even if they remain in a broken or dysfunctional way -- or vice versa -- even in evil times, the good in civilization may endure in very small ways. Thus, some people continue to use and MAY be identified by their polite language.


"An area where the barrier between worlds can be passed despite the absence of a true door. Typically accompanied by an unpleasant sound." []

A thinny is a "weak spot" in reality, where the fabric of reality has been worn thin. They are described as looking like large blobs of mercury and emit a warbling sound similar to a musical saw. This sound can set a person's teeth on edge and/or hypnotize the victim. Besides the insanity-inducing buzzing and warbling sound, the thinny plays on a person's thoughts; telling them what they want to hear and promising a fine outcome. Death is more likely. Transportation into other universes is possible by simply walking into a thinny, but this is a rare outcome. Roland encountered a thinny earlier in life that "devoured" almost an entire army, the story of which is recounted in "Wizard and Glass". His ka-tet also encounters one just outside Topeka, Kansas, in the reality of "The Stand". To counteract its maddening sound they use some of Roland's bullets as earplugs.

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