Welcome to Derry, Maine!
It has been 27 years since some of us have visited the sleepy town that exists in the Stephen King Multiverse as his own version of the real world’s Bangor, Maine. Those in the fictitious town and in our own world old and grimly-informed enough to know are eerily aware of what that means. Pennywise the Dancing Clown will return. Just as art imitates life, Pennywise will return to the big screen as he originally appeared on the small screen in the first adaptation of King’s four-pound paperback—you guessed it—27 years ago.
The residents of Derry will again have to beware the shadows and distrust their sight as they witness the vanishing of neighbors and, in particular, children. We in the really-real world would be brought to the brink of insanity by events such as these. Not so for the good and long-suffering residents of Derry, as they are seemingly used to not only these cycles of mayhem but to all manner of tribulation. King has run the town through his own industrial-strength mayhem machine (dare I call it The Mangler?) on more than one occasion in the past. Derry has been pummeled in titles like: 11/22/63, Insomnia, Bag of Bones, and Tommyknockers—and mentioned or referenced in many more. Should you happen to have visited Derry between the covers of those tomes you may realize that those strange events have some consistent factors of fear. Chiefly among these tools of terror is “Bad Dreams” and Pennywise was the founder of the feast.
Turn Back Lest Ye Find Spoilers!
If you’ve come this far, perhaps you’d go a little further. You see, Pennywise is a serious bad guy from the core of the King Multiverse. More appropriately, he (or perhaps she) is from the outside of the Multiverse. In the dark, formless terror dimension that exists outside of all of King’s worlds there are creeping and snarling things that only want to destroy and consume. Pennywise is one of those entities. He is referred to in the novel as an “enemy of the turtle.” It is here that we find ourselves at the foot of the Dark Tower (again) and consulting the stories of the animal guardians that protect our worlds. One of these is the Great Turtle. Not dissimilar to the Native American folklore regarding the great tortoise that bears the world upon its back ,the benign protector has a mirror imaged nemesis that embodies all the opposite characteristics held within its shell.
Pennywise feeds upon the energy of fear. Children are easier for him to exercise his powers upon, and he does just that until he has satisfied his hunger for another 27 years and chooses to retreat into hibernation for another cycle. This concept of gluttony upon the innocent is scary enough but the imagery of a clown makes it ever so much worse. King at his mind-poking best is found in this decision as he intentionally chose the thing he thought most terrifying to children and fleshed out Pennywise as a clown instead of his original intent to create him as a troll in the style of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. What remains of that early decision is that Pennywise dwells in the sewers as the storied troll dwelt beneath a bridge.
Even Pennywise’s powers are designed to take every childhood protection and render it useless. One cannot hide from the clown as he may invade the dreams and choose this method routinely in order to gather the deepest-held fears of his intended victims. There is no safety in the faces and arms of those held dear nor family when the nightmare clown can shift his shape and appear as them in all aspect in order to ensnare and horrify. The daylight provides no cover as the entity can appear anywhere at any time. If these hallmarks of adolescent spook protection are invalidated, what hope could a child have in Derry?
The ragtag bunch of “losers” who choose to oppose Pennywise are forced to pursue him into the dark of his lair to attempt to dispose of him. Using an ancient ritual from another wheel of the tower, they force him to reveal his true form. This form is as close as he can get to true and the closest they can conceive because the entity known as Pennywise or “Robert Gray” is not from a dimension that follows any of the rules that does our own. IT could be bigger and even more terrifying in other dimensions or other times and could be smaller and less obvious in others. IT could be a bat being chased out of a house by a man named Derry, for instance. But, rest assured (if that is even possible) that the entity called “IT” is not what you think and everything and anything that you fear. IT is also so very much more.