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As I don't want to ruin the experience of those reading or planning to read this (wonderful) series, the question will be in spoiler mode and title is quite vague on purpose. Hover your mouse to see the question.
Do not do it if you are reading or plan to read the books!

So here we go:

When Roland enters the last room of the Dark Tower, he starts again, almost from scratch (The wheel of Ka turns...) but with the slight difference of now having Eld's Horn with him.
I found several references to when Cuthbert let the Horn and when Roland wakes up after dreaming about this (mainly in Wolves of the Calla).

Roland will let it lie in the dust. In his grief and bloodlust he will forget all about Eld's Horn.
Roland awoke from another vile dream of Jericho Hill in the hour before dawn. The horn. Something about Arthur Eld's horn.
... Roland agreed, thinking of Jericho Hill. Thinking of the fallen horn.

It's quite clear the horn is important and we understand why at the end ans the seventh book but I don't get how it will make things different as Roland will start again his journey, as I don't remember of any situation where Roland misses the Horn and where things would have gone differently with it. There should be one but I don't find it

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    Wilerson's answer is completely in line with how I felt about the ending. – the_e Jun 16 '11 at 12:55
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From Wikipedia:

At the end of the seventh novel, it is revealed that he is trapped in a repetitive reincarnation, his "damnation" for his crimes and killings (similar to Stephen King's short story "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French", in which he expresses that his idea of hell is repetition.) However, it is also suggested that this eternal repetition is not quite eternal; after his rebirth at the end of the novel, it is revealed that in this particular reiteration of his journey, he possesses the Horn of Eld which in his previous pilgrimages he had lost in the final stand at Jericho Hill, the one major element which was discrepant from his approach to the tower and Childe Roland's approach in Robert Browning's Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came ("Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set...") In this way, it is suggested that Roland might yet find salvation from his personal hell.

As I see, the horn might make him remember the pointless death of his first ka-tet and make him reconsider sacrificing his second ka-tet in order to reach the tower.

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  • My understanding was that his "repetitive reincarnation" would/could stop when he would have done a "perfect run". Forgetting to pick up the Horn was one mistake and he then has to start again from the beginning. But I still wonder why he would need it. Reconsidering the objective of the Tower is not an option in my opinion. It's not the first time he reaches the Tower as along the journey he knows things but don't know why "I just know it", meaning some memory or intuition remain from one run to the other. Objective is clear right from the first pages of the Gunslinger and never changes. – LudoMC May 4 '11 at 16:52
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    Sounds like Roland is the player character in a round of Nethack... – the_e Jun 16 '11 at 12:55
  • To fully understand this I believe you need to read the original version of the Gunslinger, where Roland did have the Horn all along. King talks of him arriving at the Tower, "winding his horn" - it's pretty obvious that the Horn is important. How important? We don't know, it's part of the take that was written out, and is something that's yet to come in the version of the ending we've been given. Maybe King will cover it in a future book, maybe he won't. – user8719 Mar 22 '13 at 23:32
  • I don't believe he sacrificed the Ka-tet. He certainly feels guilty about their deaths. Earlier in the story he wondered what he did wrong in a previous life (!) that caused people to love him enough to sacrifice themselves for him. Eddie dies at the hands of Pimli, not due to any action, other than following the quest, on Rolands part. Likewise, Jake sacrifices himself to save King when Roland falls when exiting the truck. Jake made (whether conscious or reaction) a decision to complete the task at hand regardless. Oy died saving he and Patrick from Mordred. They sacrificed themselves. – CodeWarrior Dec 19 '13 at 19:16
  • Recall that siguls and symbols of power are important to the opening of the Tower. Baby Mordred notes that the mark on his heel would be capable of allowing him entry into the Tower, just as Roland's Gun would. I heavily suspect that his mistake of not recovering his other Gun from Susannah also may have some part to play at the Tower. Being "Of the Eld" or "Of the Red" and possessing artifacts of power may dictate how one interacts with the Tower. After all, Los is shunted to a balcony and left there by the Tower. The Tower requires Siguls of the Eld to properly enter. – CodeWarrior Feb 27 '18 at 22:02
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In Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, it describes Roland sounding his horn in the face of the Dark Tower. The poem seems to be equal parts prophecy and advisory, although Roland only encounters it toward the end of his travels (The Dark Tower).

There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! in a sheet of flame I saw them and I knew them all. And yet Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.”

Like quite a few things that aid the Ka-Tet (and in this case only Roland, Oy, and Susannah) the poem is sent by either the Dark Tower, or Stephen King (who apparently is a direct agent of the Tower). Thus, the Tower wants, intends for him to have the horn when they meet. As he does not have it, and it would be impossible for him to retrieve it now, he must re-iterate his journey. It may be that his sorrow for allowing it to be lost (Wolves of the Calla) opens the way for the Tower to return it to him in his next journey.

Finally, I seem to recall (and I wish I had a concordance so that I might look it up) that at some point Roland dreams of his encounter with the Dark Tower and in it, he is striding toward the Tower, calling out the names of every important person in his life, and when he is done, the Tower sounds its horn, which he answers with his own. This may be mis-remembering, but of that I am not sure.

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  • Good point about the dream. I also remember something like that (particularly the point about running towards the Tower calling out the names). I will have to find a concordance book or check in the books (I have them in digital form so I can easily search but search for what...? Should you have a clue... :) – LudoMC Mar 30 '13 at 22:48
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I took it as a penance, that he had indeed been in the tower before, and would likely be again. Remember Cort quoted he would wear away the souls of countless boots on his walk to hell. I see the tower as something he will achieve when properly contrite and fully bearing the sting of his first action, the killing of mom, all the way to the sacrifice of Oy... Just my take.

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The fact that the horn was lost at jericho hill is a bit of a clue as to its purpose. In the king james bible, jericho is surrounded by an impenetrable wall, wich is brought down by the sounding of horns. From my understanding rolands world is in the future of our own timeline, we are the old ones, robots guard and machines power the dark tower. The world moved on at some point after these things were made, i believe that the tower itself was one of their technologies. It is described as a pinwheel that all universes spoke out from. I think that the old ones created the tower as a way to travel time and dimensions, as seen in the 9/11 tourist posters, but that once it stabbed through all realities it started melting down, creating thinnies and distortion between the varying worlds. I think that rolands true quest is to sound the horn and topple the tower.

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