I'm currently reading the Dark Tower series in editions which are published in 2003/2006/2012 (Specifically these). They all (1–5 at least) feature the same introduction, written by King on January 25, 2003; beginning:

Hobbits were big when I was nineteen (a number of some import in the stories you are about to read).

I tried to keep that in mind while reading the book 1: The Gunslinger, but the idea faded quickly as I didn't stumble onto 19-references. Through books 2–5 I noted the whole introduction chapter was same as in book 1, while the following "Foreword" or "Argument" was more like an introduction to the book in question.

And hence I disregarded "in the stories you are about to read" as a reference to the series and thought of it more as a reference to the stories in the introduction (King writes about being 19 years old, and how we was at 19, and how 19 is an important age, and how he found out that "Pride goeth before a fall" at around the age of "19 × 2" etc.).

Fast-forward to book 5: Wolves of the Calla, which I'm reading right now at about 10%, the references to number 19 are rather in-your-face and I immediately recalled and reread the introduction chapter… which raised my question:

Did I miss references to number 19 in the books 1–4? Or is it more or less happenstance the introduction mentions the importance of number 19—because Wolves of Calla was first published on 2003-11-04 and the introduction was written on 2003-01-25, so King was probably working on WoC on some level while writing the introduction to the series.

I'm not asking about what the number 19 could mean or how it is referenced in books 5–7/8; I don't want to spoil the fun. The reason I ask this is because the introduction hints it is important, but I haven't experienced that until book 5.

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: Not often. Although it is featured in the revised version of book I, The Gunslinger, the obsession with "19" pops up rather suddenly in book V, Wolves of the Calla, and mostly disappears by book VII, The Dark Tower.

This makes some sense, since King wrote books V-VII over the course of a year or two after the accident that nearly killed him (on June 19, 1999), whereas the other books were written years apart from one another. Six years passed between the publication of book IV, Wizard and Glass, in 1997, and book V, Wolves..., in 2003. As such, new ideas - including an obsession with the day and year in which he almost died, (the 19th of June in 1999) and his age when he first came up with some ideas that would end up in the Dark Tower series (19 years old) - entered King's thought process in that period.

The one other book in which "19" appears in a meaningful way - the revised version of The Gunslinger - was also published in revised form in 2003: the same period as books V-VII.

  • Book I: The Gunslinger:

In this book, the Man in Black tells Allie that, if she says the word "nineteen" to Nort the Weedeater, Nort will tell her what he saw while he was dead, and it will drive her insane. She eventually uses the password, goes crazy, and is killed by Roland.

In the original version of The Gunslinger, first published in serial form from 1978-1981, and then as a book in 1982, this didn't happen, and the number 19 had no significance whatsoever.

  • Book II: Drawing of the Three: The only use of the word "nineteen" is insignificant. When Roland is checking his remaining ammunition for water damage, he decides not to test it by trying to fire it:

Slowly, slowly, he reassembled his revolvers and loaded them with the shells he presumed to be dry. When the job was done, he held the one made for his left hand, cocked it . . . and then slowly lowered the hammer again. He wanted to know, yes. Wanted to know if there would be a satisfying report when he squeezed the trigger or only another of those useless clicks. But a click would mean nothing, and a report would only reduce twenty to nineteen... or nine... or three... or none.

  • Book III: The Wastelands: The word "nineteen" is not used.

  • Book IV: Wizard and Glass: It is used three times, all in reference to the fact that there are nineteen operational oil derricks in the Citgo field.

Note: My Kindle for PC app won't let me search for numbers, only letters. Thus, I can look for "nineteen", but not "19". However, I've read the series three or four times now, and I am confident that "19" is no more significant in books I-IV than "nineteen" is.

  • 2
    So apparently the real-world dates explain the tone in the introduction. Thank you! About the revised book 1: I apparently failed to connect the dots while I was reading it. Feels good you brought it up, might be useful later on or might be not. (Side note: it feels faithful to the overall ethos of the series to begin the 19 references abruptly on book 5 while "reminding" of it on every books introduction. Like, were the references there all the time? Did I miss them, but only now gain consciousness along with the characters? Is time acting weird? Did the world move on for the 19th time‽) Jul 20, 2016 at 18:48
  • Drawing of the Three: In "The Pusher", Chapter 4 "The Drawing", Section 2: "Code 19" is called by the police radio dispatcher, meaning "Robbery in progress, shots fired", after Mort/Roland robs the gun store. In The Wind Through the Keyhole there are two more references which I include for completeness (although that book was obviously written later than the others): Daria's "Directive Nineteen", and Tim counting to nineteen before seeing The Man in Black.
    – tobiasvl
    Aug 8, 2016 at 20:10
  • (I don't have Wizard and Glass for Kindle so I can't search for "19" there, but searching for numbers work on the e-reader.)
    – tobiasvl
    Aug 8, 2016 at 20:16

For me as someone who began reading The Gunslinger in its first novel version back in the early 1980s and all fans of this series which Mr. King himself said often he wanted it to be his Magnum Opus. And as nearly every book written starting with Salem's Lot began to show passing to full blown outright references or connections to the Dark Tower universe. Example...slight reference in Needful Things to blatant ties that could have almost been part of the literal Dark Tower series found in Insomnia, The Talisman, and Black House. King said in real life this story was killing him, scaring him, and always in his mind regardless of time and place. Of course, readers of this series will know how these remarks become reality in the series in the final three books, though integral in the final two which he blasted out as if he thought his near death experience was 'real' in the sense he truly believed this story was trying to simultaneously force and prevent him from continuing and completing. I have no proof, but as someone who has read nearly everything King has written under both names I was very disappointed with how he chose to finish his greatest work as if he was terrified that he might only be rid of this torment by putting and end to it ASAP. I've even had many thoughts if these three books were not written by Stephen King except any materials he had written as he was going along before June 19, 1999. Now that I've begun to read the works of his two sons Owen and Joe. I'd not be surprised if the majority of these final books were co-written with his son Joe or both sons. Again, I have no proof or inside knowledge if my intuition has any real truth. All I know is from the constant insertion of 'everything is 19' only began in the final three books. Writing himself into the story where Roland is having King's pain likely during his healing process. Jake as who he might have thought was his better self. Roland as his actual self, Eddie as the self he once was, and so much more that encompasses Stephen King as a person, father, prolific writer, very successful, loved and in love, happy, sad, and on, and on...dela.

Perhaps by putting himself into the story was his way of excising his Dark Tower 'demons' and raced to the finish by using 'writer tricks' as he mentions in book 6 & 7 especially. How he could get his characters out of situations that should have not been able to be gotten out of. How convenient that Callahan is trapped in an ambush, but he's able to break through skyscraper glass that would have simply bounced him off. Yet instead breaks perfectly and as he falls is transported into the Calla. Nearly everything about how he wrote the first four books were almost thrown out, and now it was as if he was hurrying to finish as in some similar situation as his character in Misery. A writer writing to stay alive. And don't forget the tragic death of Frank Muller who became King's favorite reader of the audiobook versions. Personally, I don't believe in coincidences, but perhaps much in the life of Stephen King we know nothing about, plus what we do know about caused him to dismiss his own writing statements about how he writes when the stories come to him, and stop when the stories stop themselves. These final books were all published in less than three years with the final two stated in book 5 in the timeframe he knew ahead of time. Total departure from how King himself told us 'constant reader' how he writes and how it works for him although we might not believe or understand. If he wasn't literally in fear for his life, why the total departure to end this series that took more than 2 decades from its inception? And now we have a complete desecration approved by King in this violation of the Dark Tower series story! Is King nuts or just greedy? His entire family are successful writers. I can't imagine any desperate need for income that could cause his many movie adaptations to be such garbage 7 out of 10 times. His screenplays are horrible, which stumps me completely. Well, if he wanted or needed to literally destroy by desecration of his near lifelong story. I'm pretty sure any of the characters in lauding the Crimson King are long time banished. Oh discordia!

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    Very little of this lengthy post actually addresses the question of whether there are references to "19" in books 1-4. I suggest that you drastically edit the post to concentrate in answering the question.
    – Blackwood
    Nov 4, 2017 at 21:51

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