Fans of The Dark Tower have been (rightfully) concerned about the long-developing movie adaptation, and those concerns have only been intensified as casting reports reveal that the film contains characters who don’t appear until (much) later in Stephen King’s series. But King himself has shared a new teaser image indicating that director Nikolaj Arcel has found a way to justify some of those changes, while also suggesting a big (possible) game-changer for the adaptation.

If you don’t mind potential spoilers for The Dark Tower movie, then feel free to read on, but if you’re a fan of King’s series, this is going to be of major interest to you. King posted this teaser photo to Facebook and Twitter this morning:

TL;DR version: this isn’t an adaptation, it’s a sequel. Kind of.

Even as a big fan of The Dark Tower, my first impression of this photo and caption was, “Oh hey, the Horn of Eld! Cool!” I’ll be honest: the implications of that image and its text didn’t immediately click with me. But our pals at Birth.Movies.Death caught King’s drift real quick. And if their speculation about King’s coy tweet proves correct, then Nikolaj Arcel has an absolutely brilliant plan for The Dark Tower.

As fans know, the books follow the gunslinger Roland Deschain (played by Idris Elba in the film) on an epic quest to save the titular tower, which essentially serves as a wheel connecting countless worlds and realities. At the end of the epic, seven-book journey, Roland reaches the tower only to discover that this isn’t the first time he’s completed the mission. Due to a grave error in judgment, he’s forced to continuously live out this quest over and over until he gets it right. Think Groundhog Day, but instead of reliving the same day, you have to repeat your whole life.

So, what does the Horn of Eld have to do with all of this? As Roland tells it, he left that horn on a battlefield years before the events of the first book in the series. Throughout the story, the horn symbolizes many things for Roland: the loss of numerous companions along the way, his deepest regrets, and — the root of it all — his selfishness. When Roland reaches the tower, it’s implied that if he still had the horn in his possession, a lot of things would be different: some people would have lived, others might have died, and he would have been successful in his journey.

What makes King’s photo significant is this: he’s not just hinting that the horn will make an appearance in the film, he’s suggesting that Roland will actually be carrying it. And if Roland is carrying the horn, then that means that we’re not seeing his journey as it played out in the books, but another one of his many attempts — one that he might get right this time. It allows for numerous changes between the book and the film, since we’re not seeing that version of events, and it also allows Arcel to basically remix the characters so that some appear sooner and others show up later.

It’s genius. But there’s another fantastic layer to the concept, as King’s books ultimately serve as a rich thematic exploration of the very act of storytelling itself. Book fans know how powerful symbolism is in the series (not to mention fate), and IF King is suggesting what I (and many other fans) think he’s suggesting with this photo, then the film has found a clever use for one of the story’s most important symbols.

Basically, this wouldn’t be an adaptation of the books, but a sequel, in a sense. And the very concept alone brilliantly plays into King’s overall theme in an unexpected and beautiful way. This is a lot of “what if,” but I can’t imagine King sharing that photo without knowing exactly what he was suggesting with it.

The Dark Tower hits theaters on February 17, 2017.

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