Stephen King’s favorite villain Randall Flagg may be currently residing in Castle County even if RF doesn’t know it yet.
After Castle Rock’s episode five “Harvest” insanity last week, the myth that is “The Kid” is becoming bigger and bigger. He clearly has an incredible amount of power, very little appetite, and the dead eyed stare of someone who has seen way too much. He appears to have the kind of bad joujou that makes people act on their most primal, negative impulses and might even be responsible for a terrible wild fire threatening Castle County. He feels immense guilt over these things but seems powerless to control them. With so much speculation running wild about whether he is or is not Randall Flagg, The Crimson King, some other yet to be revealed monster, or an innocent abused young man who just coincidentally seems to cause calamities all around him, we thought it would be a great time to examine just who Randall Flagg is and all his forms.
His real name is Walter Padick, but he goes by many monikers. The Walkin’ Dude. Marten Broadcloak. Richard Fannin, Raggedy Man, Raymond Fiegler, Richard Fry, Russell Faraday, Walter O’Dim, and Man in Black just to name a few. The consummate villain appears in multiple of Stephen King’s novels, depending on whether you include all his iterations and mentions it’s somewhere between seven and ten. For example if you buy the theory that he is He Who Walks Behind the Rows and Carrie’s never named Dad than there are even more connections. He’s mentioned in Salem’s Lot, Cell, among many others. Let’s examine some of his appearances and their significance in King’s broader universe.
Full disclosure – I’ve been on a Stephen King kick the past several months and have read a BUNCH of his work but like there ARE SO DAMN MANY BOOKS. Ugh, Stephen, you’re killing me. With that said, let’s start at the very beginning (not with a doe, a deer, but with widespread death and general anarchy).
The Stand (Book publication 1978, miniseries 1994, new TV adaptation in production talks!) SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!
Our first introduction of R.F. is as Randall Flagg in The Stand. He appears at the onset of a devastating plague known as Captain Trips, Tubeneck, or the Super Flu. He is a demon of great power, calling people like Trash Can Man to serve him as he tries to take over the world. The showdown in Las Vegas doesn’t go his way, however, as he narrowly escapes the hand of God via nuclear blast (and irradiated Trash Can Man…yikes).
Some of Flagg’s notable features show up in this first iteration. As Flagg begins to recruit his inner circle, he gives each of his closest followers a stone with a red eye, or a key, depending on the way it catches the light. He can levitate, and he has mental connections with and control over the low predators of the earth – wolves, ravens, weasels, etc. He appears in dreams and prompts his followers’ minds, including his unholy wife. The most extreme of his demonic nature appears during the consummation of his marriage and the conception of his child; this is a pretty horrific rape scene in which the literal demon appears from beneath the thin veil of human features that Flagg maintains. He is clearly some sort of sorcerer, potentially part human but all grossness. His next appearance is in The Eyes of the Dragon, where he is known as Flagg the Hooded or simply Flagg. He is again full of evil magic juice (gross) and wants to destroy everything good. At the end when he is defeated his clothes hold shape a few seconds after his body vanishes in much the same way as Randall Flagg does in The Stand. This leads us to my current jam (and bread…I’m sorry, the song just keeps popping up), The Dark Tower.
The Dark Tower Series (first book published 1982)
Flagg makes his appearance very early on as Walter O’Dim, but it’s not until later that we learn that Walter, Marten, and Flagg are one and the same. We see some more fantasy type sorcery from Walter in these stories. We then learn that Walter is also Marten, who also goes by Richard Fannin. Those Kingfishers (my name for Stephen King fans, 10 points to me for cleverness) were hopefully like me going WHAT RF WE KNOW THOSE INITIALS, especially after seeing the gunslingers walk down the I-70 that has been hollowed out by Captain Trips, with graffiti messages to beware the Walkin’ Dude and the Crimson King. It’s clear that his intentions for the world of Roland Deschain and the ka-tet of the Ninety and Nine are similar to the ones of the world in The Stand: to be in power, and to cause general chaos.
He figures prominently in Hearts in Atlantis a compilation of novellas and short stories where Flagg takes the form of Raymond Feigler a radical leader of an activist group. In Gwendy’s Button Box Flagg goes by Richard Harris and essentially gives a young girl a Pandora’s Box of Monkey’s Paws. Nothing ever really happens but it’s obviously one more in a long list of attempts at world annihilation. As Legion in Storm of the Century he is quite literary the Devil and it’s rumored he is Leleand Gaunt from Needful Things another nasty little small business in Castle Rock. Of course there is the glaring red balloon in the room that Pennywise himself is connected, but most generally agree he is either another form of The Crimson King or yet another demon who has made a home in the crowded Kingdom.(pun intended).
It remains to be seen whether or not “The Kid” is Randall Flagg and whether he knows it or not. The Randall Flagg we know from the King Universe is extremely powerful and intent on chaos and potentially revenge for his rape as a young person. In Patrick McAleer’s novel, Inside the Dark Tower Series: Art, Evil and Intertextuality in the Stephen King Novels he argues that Flagg is actually just a misguided pawn who has committed all of his bad acts because of his own assault. Since Skarsgard’s character has a history of abuse himself that’s another link in the chain to RF. “The Kid” seems to not know how he is making bad things happen(if he is). RF is a magical wizard and possible demon hybrid or lesser demon who is incredibly hard to kill. He is also ageless and unaffected by things things bullets, arrows and petty diseases. It might explain why “The Kid” never aged in all his years with Warden Lacey in the box. What I think is certain is that things are never what they seem in the land of Stephen King. A master manipulator of his readers he knows just when to use a good misdirect. Like a magician and his prestige the reveal is less important than the distraction. What we do know is Bill Skarsgard is creepy and deeply wounded by something and we can’t get enough.
Kati has been writing for Signal Horizon since its creation. She is an instructional coach in the KC area. She loves all forms of storytelling, and cupcakes.