The Eyes of the Dragon
First edition cover
|February 2, 1987|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
The Eyes of the Dragon is a novel by Stephen King that was first published as a limited edition slipcased hardcover by Philtrum Press in 1984, illustrated by Kenneth R. Linkhauser. The novel would later be published for the mass market by Viking in 1987, with illustrations by David Palladini. This trade edition was slightly revised for publication. The 1995 French edition did not reproduce the American illustrations; it included brand new illustrations by Christian Heinrich.
At the time of publication, it was a deviation from the norm for King, who was best known for his horror fiction. This book is a work of epic fantasy in a quasi-medieval setting, with a clearly established battle between good and evil, and magic playing a lead role. The Eyes of the Dragon was originally titled Napkins.
The Eyes of the Dragon takes place entirely within the realm of Delain (which itself is located within In-World from The Dark Tower series, as established in "The Little Sisters of Eluria"). It is told from the perspective of an unnamed storyteller/narrator, who speaks casually and frankly to the reader, frequently adding his own commentary on characters' motivations and the like.
King Roland's magician, Flagg, seeking to destroy the Kingdom of Delain, sees his plans being ruined by the good heart of Queen Sasha. After Sasha gives birth to Peter, a noble and worthy future king, Flagg realizes that his position, his plans, and his life may be in danger because of Peter. When Sasha is pregnant with a second son, Flagg seizes the opportunity. He forces the Queen's midwife to cut Sasha as the second son, Thomas, is born. Sasha bleeds to death and Flagg begins plotting to remove Peter. As Peter becomes a teenager, he begins the custom of bringing a glass of wine to his father before bed each night. Flagg decides to use this as a means of framing Peter. He dissolves a poison called "Dragon Sand" in a glass of wine and delivers it to the king after Peter leaves. Previously, in an attempt to win Thomas' friendship, Flagg had shown him a secret passage where Thomas could spy on his father. Unbeknownst to Flagg, when he delivers the poison, Thomas is watching through the glass eyes of the mounted head of Roland's greatest trophy, the dragon. Flagg plants evidence incriminating Peter.
After a brief trial, during which the judge decides Peter is guilty, he is locked up in the enormous tower called the Needle in the center of the city. Thomas is then crowned King, although he is only twelve years old; due to his youth and his fearful inexperience, he allows Flagg enormous amounts of power. At the start of his long stay in the Needle, Peter manages to send a note to the judge who convicted him, Anders Peyna, with the seemingly innocuous requests to have his mother's old dollhouse and napkins with his meals. Peyna is puzzled by the requests, but, seeing no harm in them, grants them. Five years later, Peter escapes from the Needle, having used the toy loom in the dollhouse and threads from the napkins to make a rope. After the escape he and his allies rush to get Roland's bow and arrow. However, it is not to be found because Thomas had it once they got into the king's "sitting room". Flagg, now revealed as a demonic being, is about to kill them when Thomas reveals himself and tells Flagg that he (Thomas) watched Flagg poison Roland. Thomas shoots Flagg in the eye, but Flagg uses magic to disappear and escape. At the end of the novel, Peter is declared to be the rightful king. Thomas, who has become deeply hated in Delain, sets off alongside his butler, Dennis, to find Flagg. They find him and confront him, but the narrator does not reveal the outcome.
- King Roland – The King of Delain. While renowned for slaying a dragon in his younger, more virile days, he has now become somewhat infirm and addled. He trusts Flagg, his advisor, but little does he realize that Flagg intends ill will toward Roland. However, early in the story he does favor his wife's advice more than Flagg's. He also is the father of both Thomas and Peter.
- Flagg – The Advisor to the King. Flagg is a powerful magician and has been around for centuries. In his incarnation in The Eyes of the Dragon, he has served as an advisor to four successive monarchs: Roland's grandparents and parents, Roland himself, and Thomas. Though he has lived in Delain for roughly seventy years, he has only appeared to age ten. Later in the story, it is revealed that he has appeared in Delain multiple times, under multiple guises, the oldest of which that is mentioned in the book took place over five hundred years in the past. His ultimate goal is to cause Delain to overthrow the monarchy and be plunged into "a thousand years of bloody anarchy, give or take a few years". Flagg, whose first name is not identified here but is Randall in other books, can be found in some form in quite a few of King's novels. In The Stand, he is the personification of evil. He plays a part in The Dark Tower novels, as well. Coincidentally or purposefully, the initials R.F. are used randomly in the names of antagonistic characters in a number of other Stephen King works.
- Peter – Roland's older son and the heir to the throne. Peter is a tall, lithe, handsome young man who has inherited his mother's good looks and his father's love of the common man. He is the clear favorite among the people to be the next King.
- Thomas – Roland's younger son. Thomas takes after Roland in that he is slow and heavy even in youth. He feels overshadowed by Peter and resents his brother in the knowledge that Roland clearly loves Peter more. He is, however, a talented archer like his father, and in this he can outstrip even Peter. As Thomas gets older, Flagg becomes his only friend and sole source of comfort. Crowned "Thomas the Light-Bringer," he soon receives the nickname "Thomas the Tax-Bringer" due to the merciless 80% tax increase he imposed upon the people of Delain at the urging of Flagg.
- Queen Sasha – Roland's wife and the mother of Peter and Thomas. Sasha was chosen for Roland because she was an innocent girl from a lesser noble family and seemed to be the shyest of the lot that Flagg had selected for Roland. Flagg also believed she posed the least long-term threat to his authority. Roland chose her since she seemed the least likely to frighten him. However, she revealed herself to be a strong, independent woman, who truly loved (and was loved in return by) both Roland and the kingdom. She was murdered under Flagg's orders while giving birth to Thomas.
- Ben Staad – Peter's best friend. The Staad family is described as the most unlucky family within Delain; but Ben and Peter strike up a close friendship. Ben is strong, handsome and loyal.
- Dennis – Peter's butler. Dennis's family has been butlers to the royals of Delain for centuries, and Dennis takes great pride in his work. He is complicit in Peter's imprisonment. This is because he found the poison that killed King Roland inside of Peter's room. He was then later transferred to serving as Thomas's butler upon his father's death. He then aids in Peter's escape. He later goes with Thomas on his quest to find Flagg.
- Naomi – A peasant girl who is with the exiles (a developing resistance group). She helps Ben to find where Dennis is with the aid of her dog, Frisky. She later marries Ben.
- Anders Peyna – The Kingdom's Judge-General. The people are far more afraid of Peyna than they are of the King. It is Peyna who condemns Peter to his imprisonment, but later believes in the prince's innocence. Along with Dennis and Ben Staad, he aids in Peter's escape (albeit mostly unknowingly) by providing the funding for the jailhouse bribe which allows Peter to have the dollhouse and napkins.
The Eyes of the Dragon was warmly received by professional critics. Barbara Tritel of The New York Times described The Eyes of the Dragon as drawing clear influence from European fairy tales and wrote that the novel was "more elegant than any other novel Mr. King has written so far."
Some of King's established fans rejected the novel, considering it a children's book - King originally wrote the novel for his children. Another reason for fan rejection of The Eyes of the Dragon was the fact that it was epic fantasy, with little to no elements of the horror that typified King's most successful work of this era. Negative fan reaction to The Eyes of the Dragon was an inspiration for King's subsequent novel Misery. The protagonist of Misery was a successful romance novelist who killed off his most popular character to allow himself to write in other styles of fiction only to be imprisoned by a deranged fan; King saw Misery as a metaphor for the fact that he felt chained to writing horror fiction.
- Flagg (Randall Flagg), the villain of this story, is directly involved with The Dark Tower series, appearing as one of Roland of Gilead's main antagonists. He is also the main antagonist in The Stand.
- In The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three, Roland Deschain mentions Thomas and Dennis visiting Gilead. "Great Letters" are also used in both novels.
- The witch Rhiannon (Rhea) of the Coos appears in The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, and uses Flagg's technique of becoming "dim". Garlan, the land Flagg claims to be from, is also mentioned several times.
- Flagg mentions Abdul Alhazred and the Plateau of Leng from the works of H. P. Lovecraft.
Rights to The Eyes of the Dragon have been optioned twice, once for a film and once for a television series.
Initially The Eyes of the Dragon was to be created as an animated film produced through the French company WAMC Entertainment. The movie would have a budget of $45 million and was expected to release in late 2001 or early 2002. However the movie did not progress into active production and the rights lapsed in 2000.
In 2012 Syfy announced that they were developing several projects for potential television adaptations, one of which was The Eyes of the Dragon. If successfully developed, the book would be made into either a movie or miniseries. Michael Taylor and Jeff Vintar were confirmed to be penning the script and Taylor and Bill Haber would act as executive producers.
- The Eyes of the Dragon, on the Club Stephen King
- Beahm, George (1992). The Stephen King Story (2nd ed.). Kansas City, Missouri: Andrews and McMeel. p. 114. ISBN 0-8362-8004-0.
- Alissa Stickler, "The (Mid)Evil Nightmare of Yesterday and Tomorrow: Flagg as the Immortal Monster in Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon and The Stand," in: The Year's Work of Medievalism 15 (2002), ed. Jesse Swan and Richard Utz.
- Tritel, Barbara (1987-02-22). "What the Wicked Magician Did". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
- Beahm, George (1992). The Stephen King Story (2nd ed.). Andrews and McMeel. pp. 136–137, 242. ISBN 0-8362-8004-0.
- Spignesi, Stephen J. (2003). The Essential Stephen King. Career Press. p. 78. ISBN 156414710X.
- Meaux Saint Marc, Francoise. "WAMC set to animate Stephen King's Dragon". Screen Daily. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
- Williams, Owen (August 1, 2011). "a WINTER'S TALE". Empire (subscription required). Retrieved 19 March 2014.
- Willmore, Alison. "Stephen King's 'The Eyes of the Dragon' Being Developed as a Syfy Series". Indiewire. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
- Hibberd, James (2012-04-24). "Stephen King's 'Eyes of the Dragon' in development at Syfy". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
- O'Neal, Sean. "Syfy is going to do something to Stephen King's The Eyes Of The Dragon". AV Club. Retrieved 19 March 2014.