Stephen King’s IT has grown even more popular after the release of its successful feature film adaptations, but it turns out that the movie shares a connection with another pivotal King text, The Shining.
IT is often regarded as one of the most important Stephen King novels and it’s a really strong encapsulation of the author, for both better and for worse. The novel deconstructs fear in a very creative, nuanced manner while it tells an epic story that spans decades and generations. There’s a lot to love within IT, but the one element many people fixate on is the novel’s terrifying antagonist, Pennywise the clown.
Something that’s incredibly fun about Stephen King’s many novels is that he’s slowly created a connected universe between many of his stories that is full of Easter eggs for astute readers. It’s especially satisfying when two of King’s bigger works collide together, like when it’s revealed that Annie Wilkes from Misery had business at The Shining’s Overlook Hotel. IT crosses over with a number of King’s novels, usually in the form of Pennywise’s lasting legacy. However, the release of Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Doctor Sleep hints at an exciting connection between IT and King’s The Shining.
The biggest hint that there’s some kind of connection here is that both the True Knot and Pennywise feed off of the fear of children. While their methods may be slightly different, they fall back on the same basics. Furthermore, Pennywise speaks of the delicious fear that resides within children in an extremely similar way to how Rose the Hat and the rest of the True Knot do, almost as if they’ve spent time together.
It’s not hard to believe that in Pennywise’s lengthy lifespan, he may have briefly joined up with the True Knot. Similarly, the True Knot is a group that is held together by their rules and convictions, whereas Pennywise is more of a wild card. It’s possible that Pennywise didn’t discriminate over the children in which he killed, which would go against the True Knot’s way of only focusing on children who are psychically gifted and have the capacity to “shine.” Pennywise’s thirst for fear could have become too much and he be broke free of the True Knot when it no longer suited him.
The Doctor Sleep novel takes time to explain that the True Knot have camps all across the country including Sidewinder, Colorado and Jerusalem’s Lot, so it’s not crazy to think that Derry, Maine was also on their route at some point. It’s also a totally superfluous connection, but during IT: Chapter 2, Pennywise briefly recreates Jack Torrance’s iconic “Here’s Johnny!” moment when he’s taken control of Henry Bowers, which is another nod to The Shining’s universe.
Additionally, in Doctor Sleep’s introductory scene where Rose the Hat recruits Snakebite Andi, there’s a poster on the movie theater that’s advertising a comedian, Joe Collins. This is a pretty deep cut to the final book in King’s The Dark Tower series, which introduces Dandelo, a giant insect-like creature that’s implied to be the offspring of Pennywise. Rather than feeding off fear like the True Knot or Pennywise do, Dandelo feeds off of laughter. Flanagan’s film connects the dots that Dandelo, and therefore Pennywise, would be apart of the same ilk as Rose the Hat since they all have very similar abilities, even if steam isn’t outright mentioned in the other texts. Dandelo has a human form, Joe Collins, who used this power to his advantage as a stand-up comedian whose audiences would literally laugh themselves to death.
King’s books already do a wonderful job at tying his worlds together, but feature film adaptations like IT and Doctor Sleep are able to foster even more clever connections.
More: Doctor Sleep: Why Stephen King Wrote A Shining Sequel