- Books, Literature, and Writing
Child Heroes in Stephen King Books
And A Little Child Shall Lead Them . . .
I have always been amazed at how Stephen King could manage to bang out what seemed like a book every year, and I awaited eagerly for the next one. Maybe because I was younger then, but the heroes in the stories I wrote were always kids, and early on I saw Mr. King had the same understanding I did of kids in a grown up world.
Some of the children in his books are my favorite fictional characters. Anyone who has read a King book knows how well you feel you know someone within his 600-plus pages.
His child characters are usually misfits or outcasts in one way or another and mostly find themselves alone in their journey or battle and see or realize things others around them grown-ups don't. Kids easily believe there are monsters and have the faith to do what it takes to defeat them. I think much of his appeal has been his ability to pull us adults back to memories of not being listened to by adults, not being taken seriously, having the freedom to run around the neighborhood or town and discovering strange things and people, when there were mysteries and things really did growl, breath heavily or bump in the night.
Here is my tribute and list of six of my favorite child characters (maybe I relate to them more than to the adults) of Stephen King's twisted worlds.
"Vintage Picture Of Two Young Children" - Image courtesy of chrisroll / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#1) Bill Denbrough and the "Loser's Club" - Hands Down the Winners
This book exactly captures my point.
When his six year old brother, Georgie, is killed, "Stuttering" Bill Denbrough feels guilty. But his own life is made miserable from the town bullies, and in hiding from them, he makes friends with other kids. Ben is chubby, Eddie is small and convinced he has asthma, Richie is a loud-mouthed clown who does cartoon voices, Beverly is a chain-smoking girl, Stan is Jewish, Mike is one of the only black kids in town. Together, they make up the Loser's Club and create a lasting, supernatural bond.
What is IT? It is the unknown, unnamed monster that lives in the sewers, in the dark rooms, in creepy old houses. "It" isn't just a child's fear, it kills in very real ways, picking off lone children and feeding on their fear and bodies.. As children, they survived IT's last cycle, and thought they'd killed it, but vowed if IT ever returned, they would return to finish the job.
Stephen King taps into what scares us as kids and pulls us back into that time. We all know clowns are creepy, and IT is something More, feeding off of fear and children. IT becomes what is most scary to each child. Mr. King realizes adults can walk right by and not see the strangeness around them, even when they are affected by it. The kids in this story are on their own. They figure it out; because the monster preys on imagination, it can be hurt by the power of imagination.
Twenty five years later, they are adults, and have totally forgotten about the monster (except for the one who stayed behind in the town) when they are again summoned from comfortable lives to try to fight IT. Now they are mature, grown up, and must find a way to "believe" in make-believe again, to rediscover the imagination, resourcefullness,and strength of the inner child they once were in order to once-and-for-all defeat IT.
"Lucky" for them, IT is happy to taunt them, trying to kill them again as adults, setting off flashbacks of memories they had forgotten, reminding them of childhood fear and moving them closer to childhood instincts of what is "right" when it comes to finding a way to battle IT one final time.
#2) 12-Year-Old Jack Sawyer, The Talisman
This is a book I've had off and on most of my life, everytime I move or get rid of it, I end up looking for it to own once again. This book ties with IT in my heart as my favorite King book. Jack Sawyer's mother, sick and dying of cancer, drags him to the east coast to a deserted hotel. Only knowing that she seems to be fleeing someone instead of trying to get well, Jack, a 12-year-old boy, meets Speedy Parker, who convinces him there is more at stake then he realizes and Jack can save his mother with something called the Talisman. With a drink from a bottle, he finds himself on a quest, slipping from our world to some other alternate, connected world, called "The Territories" in his travels.
Along the way he meets and befriends Wolf, a 16-year-old werewolf who is pulled by Jack into our world, helping Jack escape dangerous situations along the way. Later he detours to pick up his friend, Richard, who is mature beyond his age and already left much of childhood behind him, causing Richard to have a rude wake-up call, unprepared for being thrust into these interwoven worlds and finding out his father is the bad guy, not just in our world but the other as well.
We see Jack grow from a frightened boy scared for his mother in New Hampshire, maturing to a young man who begins to understand the connection and purpose of what is going on in our world and "The Territories". The evil on the other side stains over to ours as they try to stop his his quest for the Talisman.
#3) 11-Year-Old Marty Coslaw; Cycle of the Werewolf
Perhaps Better Known as the movie, "Silver Bullet".
Marty Coslaw is an eleven year old boy, a parapalegic in a wheelchair who lives in a normally quiet town. Residents are being killed violently and evidence (for an 11 year old boy) is building, making him believe it's a werewolf. His friend, Brady is killed when out late one night, and later in the book, he is outside late one night setting off fireworks - a gift from his uncle when the town fireworks display is cancelled due to the killings - when the werewolf attacks Marty. He gets away by shooting a firecracker at him, blinding it in one eye. Even though livestock are dead surrounded by wolf tracks, of course the grown-ups can't truly believe in werewolves. Only his uncle Al realizes how real it is to Marty, and humors him, not really believing himself. The race is on to find out who is recently missing an eye in town, while the werewolf and animal disguised in human skin is out to kill Marty.
"Death is when the monsters get you."
Stephen King, Salem's Lot
#4) Peter; The Eyes of the Dragon
People tend to overlook this book Stephen King wrote for his own children, and was a fantasy with a fairy tale feel instead of horror. Peter is set up by his father, the King's, magician to make it looked as if he poisoned his father in order to put his little brother on the throne. He is sent to the tower to be imprisoned. All he asks for, is his mother's dollhouse and cloth napkins with his meals.
This is a tale of adults manipulating politics, power plays, being wrongly accused as a child, yet shows enormous patience and strength of will by Peter, the older son and next in line to be King. We all know not only in fairy tales, but historically in real life, children have often been victims of court power struggles with very little chance of survival. Peter is a hero showing so many traits of princely breeding and creativity.
I won't say anything more in case you haven't yet read this often overlooked book by Stephen King.
#5) 9-Year-Old Trisha; The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
Trisha is a nine year old girl on a hike through the forest with her mother and brother. She wanders off the path to go to the bathroom, thinking she will catch up, and instead wanders deeper into the forest. Remembering that following a water source will bring you to people, she follows a stream, which instead leads her to a murky swamp. Her food doesn't last long, and she tries to save the batteries of her radio, monitering her baseball hero, Tom Gordon's games, to keep her company in the dark night. Little by little reality, a child's imagination of bad things lurking in the dark, and a dash of Stephen King blurring reality with hallucination of her hero helping her along with real dangers to the point where we don't even know, test the resourceful young girl when the odds are totally against her.
I'm trying not to give away the entire book.
I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?
#6) 12-Year-Old Gordie Lachance; The Body
Better Known as the movie, "Stand By Me".
This story was a novella in the book, "Four Seasons".
Twelve year old Gordie's friend, Vern has heard his older brother telling his friends he found the body of a missing boy. The boy is the same age as Gordie and his friends. Together, he, Vern, Teddie and Chris decide to go on the quest that will keep them overnight, morbidly curious to see what death on one of their own age looks like close up. It's something boys might do.
As often is the case in Stephen King books, each of these boys are misfits. Gordie is ignored by his parents as they grieve for his older brother, a football star, who they seem to have loved more. Vern is overweight, timid and immature; Chris comes from a family of criminals and has a bad reputation, if only by association and name; and Teddie is often mentally unstable due to an abusive father he recreates to be a hero.
There is nothing supernatural or "lurky" about this story. It isn't a monster story, it's more of a quest, with the bad guys mainly being the older boys and adults. It's simply the story of four boys on a journey by foot several miles away, their relationship with each other and their families, their exchange of hopes and fears, and the strong bond they have, forever sealed by finding the body of the dead boy together. Afterwards they begin to drift apart. To me though, while they might not be heroes in the standard sense of the word, they are in their own way, heroic, struggling to deal with painful issues in each of their lives.
Two Runner Ups: Charlie McGee and Jake Chambers
From Firestarter and the The Dark Tower series
I kept arguing with myself about adding Charlie and Jake, then erasing this module. In the end, I kept it because I do like these two children.
Charlie (Charlene) is born with the ability of pyrokinesis, the ablity to create fire. As a child things would erupt in flames when she was upset but her parents were teaching her to deal with it in a responsible way as she got older, so she wouldn't hurt herself or others accidently. The circumstances of what happens began long before she was born. She and her father are on the run from the government, and eventually captured. The government wants to exploit, but she's still just 8-years-old, trying to cope with wanting to be with her dad once again and subject to manipulation by the "janitor" who befriends her. Everything escalates and she has to decide what to do to be safe.
I put her as a runner up because, well ... she does have super powers which helps a lot.
"Charlie McGee is a happy, healthy
eight-year-old little girl.
Normal in every way but one.
She has the power to set things afire
with just one glance.
It is a power she does not want.
It is a power she cannot control.
And each night, Charlie prays
to be just like every other child.
But there are those who will do
everything in their power to find her, control her,
or destroy her.
Charlie McGee is Stephen King's Firestarter.
Will she have the power to survive?"
In the "Dark Tower" series, Jake is an 11-year-old boy who is pulled into the world of "The Territories" - a dying world that has "moved on", a mixture of abandoned technology, ancient magic, and the old west. He is drawn into the heart of a group led by Roland, the last Gunslinger. Roland is a mysterious, quiet Clint Eastwood type on an quest to the Dark Tower, a hub connecting alternate worlds. During the seven book adventure (which with the usual Stephen King flair, goes by very quickly), Jake learns to trust his instincts, discovers a knack for solving riddles and grows in confidence and purpose. He realizes that he is a part of "The Territories", made whole there, becomes a Gunslinger himself, adopting Roland as a father-figure and a hero in his own right.
Both Jake and Charlie are very strong characters.