I have read the first four novels of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series where Roland Deschain comes from the kingdom of Gilead. Although I have not read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, I have noticed that this novel takes place in the Republic of Gilead.

Is there any connection between Gilead in the two works? Perhaps Atwood was inspired by King (as far as I can tell, King's The Gunslinger was published in 1982 - before Atwood's novel in 1985)? Perhaps the two authors were inspired by the same third source?

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    I haven't read The Dark Tower but my guess is that they're both inspired by the same Biblical allusion. Jan 9, 2018 at 14:04
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    @MissMonicaE Which one is that? I don't know the Bible that well ;-) Jan 9, 2018 at 17:12
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilead Jan 9, 2018 at 19:26
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    Sir Galahad. "Galahad was the natural son of Launcelot. His name may be of Welsh origin or come from the place name Gilead in Palestine." I'd assume the connection is the Arthurian Legend, but I haven't read Atwood.
    – Mazura
    Jan 9, 2018 at 23:39

4 Answers 4


In both cases the name derives from the biblical location "Gilead" which is described as part of ancient Israel (though now on the East Bank of the River Jordan and within the Kingdom of Jordan)

In the bible, it is a borderland peopled by the tribes of Manasseh, Reuben and Gad bordering the lands of the Moabites and Ammonites, and so a site of battles between tribes and sects. It was a hilly and rocky land, peopled by Israelites but far from the political centre in Jerusalem. It was the badlands of old Israel.

It is to this place that Atwood and King both allude. Atwood names her theocratic state as a region of ancient Israel, as its founders believe that they are the new frontier of the Land of God. King seems to allude to it as a distant land where strange things may happen, and is perhaps influenced by Arthurian Legend (through the name Galahad) and the crusaders who established fiefdoms in the region.

  • Also alluded to by Zenna Henderson in Gilead [isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?44991], a 1954 short story of the People. In this story, the main characters grow up apart from the People, effectively in a "wilderness" or Gilead. Oct 21, 2019 at 19:52

The Kingdom of Gilead is named after the town of Gilead, Maine, which is named after the Balm of Gilead trees in the town center. Balm of Gilead trees are mentioned in the bible, and are named after the supposed real-life kingdom of Gilead where the mystical balm originated. The Republic of Gilead is named so to allude to the bible and the misogyny inherent in the work (of the bible).


The simple answer is no the Gilead in The Dark Tower is not the same as the Republic of Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale; it might be inspired my the same biblical reference but not by each other. To be even more clear the fall of Gilead in The Dark Tower is not the fall of the Republic of Gilead as continuation of The Handmaid's Tale.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. This is almost undoubtedly correct, and is the simplest answer, but suffers from the usual problem of trying to prove a negative. Has either ever said anything about it?
    – DavidW
    Jul 2, 2021 at 15:56

Margaret Atwood and Stephen King certainly appreciate each others' work and as far as I know both are friends of each other too and have met. That said, both Gileads have both differences (In The Handmaid's Tale, it is a near future misogynistic dictatorship akin to a worst case scenario of current America gone off the rails; in The Dark Tower, it is a fantasy world with influences from Arthurian and Atlantis legends) and similarities (dominance of a hierarchy and a wall enclosing it). Gilead is a biblical place originally in what is now Jordan. It is also a very common name in America. A place both writers would be familiar with is Gilead, a town in Maine.

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    Do you have a source stating that they were friends?
    – Edlothiad
    May 16, 2019 at 12:08
  • google.ie/…
    – John
    May 16, 2019 at 13:43

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