Flagg made his first appearance in the 1978 apocalyptic novel The Stand
. In it, he was an antichrist-like being who was trying to stop civilization in the United States from rebuilding after a devastating plague. Flagg is portrayed as the personification of evil set against Mother Abigail, the personification of good, and attracts many drawn to technology, law and order and dictatorship-style culture around him in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Flagg is described by Tom Cullen with "He looks like anybody you see on the street. But when he grins, birds fall dead off telephone lines. When he looks at you a certain way, your prostate goes bad and your urine burns. The grass yellows up and dies where he spits. He's always outside. He came out of time. He doesn't know himself. He has the name of a thousand demons. Jesus knocked him into a herd of pigs once. His name is Legion. He's afraid of us. We're inside. He knows magic. He can call the wolves and live in the crows. He's the king of nowhere. But he's afraid of us. He's afraid of . . . inside."
Flagg plans to attack and destroy the other emerging civilization in Boulder, Colorado, leaving his civilization as the only survivors. His plans were foiled when the hand of God is turned upon him causing a nuclear bomb to detonate in front of his assembled followers.
Whether or not Flagg himself was killed in this event is left open. In the original version King implies that Flagg may have had an out-of-body experience in the instant of the explosion that allowed him to spiritually (possibly magically, as later books suggest) escape unharmed. Still, even in this case it is likely that Flagg's physical body was destroyed in the blast. While the original version of the novel does not tell of Flagg's fate afterwards, the 1990 expanded re-release of the novel, The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition, tells that Flagg reappeared somewhere on a beach with complete amnesia, where it is suggested that he continued to wreak havoc upon the human race in his new form.
Prior to The Dark Tower
, some fans suggested that the original edition of The Stand
and the expanded edition are actually parallel dimension variations of the same story. The theory was due to the multiple dimensions of the Dark Tower series, which the story of The Stand intersects. If it was, then it would have been possible that there was an infinite number of him spread throughout other dimensions. This theory was disputed in later books of The Dark Tower series where it is mentioned that there is only one true version of Flagg despite his use of several different names.
Flagg was depicted in film by Jamey Sheridan in the TV miniseries version of The Stand. This miniseries was based on the original edition of the novel. As of 2005, this is the only film appearance the character has had.
The Eyes of the Dragon
In the 1984 novel The Eyes of the Dragon, the villain is a wizard called Flagg. While it is not explicitly stated that this is Randall Flagg, hints are made to this when a connection between this novel and The Dark Tower
series indirectly connects The Eyes of the Dragon to The Stand
. The two characters are even further connected by an event in Hearts in Atlantis
(see the Other appearances section) and the use of the alias "the Dark Man".
Because Flagg here acts and looks slightly different than he was in The Stand
, (most likely because The Eyes of the Dragon
features a medieval setting while The Stand took place in more modern times) some have argued that the two are different versions of him from two different dimensions, given the presence of parallel dimensions in the Dark Tower
series. However, Stephen King strongly implies that the two are indeed one and the same in the final Dark Tower novel, in which we find out Flagg was born in Delain, the setting of The Eyes of the Dragon.
We are told that in the medieval country of Delain, he has a white corpse's face, and is described in an uneasy way as "well preserved", a "thin and stern faced man of about fifty":
"He had, in fact, come to Delain often. He came under a different name each time, but always with the same load of woe and misery and death. This time he was Flagg. The time before he had been known at Bill Hinch, and he had been the King's Lord High Executioner [and] had made an end to hundreds — thousands, some said — of prisoners with his heavy axe. The time before that ... he came as a singer named Browson, who became a close adviser to the King and a Queen. Browson disappeared like smoke after drumming up a great and bloody war between Delain and Andua.
"Flagg always showed up with a different face and a different bag of tricks, but two things about him were always the same. He always came hooded, a man who seemed almost to have no face, and he never came as a King himself, but always as the whisperer in the shadows, the man who poured poison into the porches of Kings' ears.
"He wanted what evil men always want: to have power and use that power to make mischief. Being a King did not interest him because the heads of Kings all too often found their way to spikes on castle walls when things went wrong. But the advisors to Kings . . . the spinners in the shadows . . . such people usually melted away like evening shadows at dawning as soon as the headsman's axe started to fall. Flagg was a sickness, a fever looking for a cool brow to heat up. He hooded his actions just as he hooded his face. And when the great trouble came – as it always did after a span of years – Flagg always disappeared like shadows at dawn. Later, when the carnage was over and the fever had passed, when the rebuilding was complete and there was again something worth destroying, Flagg would appear once more."
Though Flagg is never killed in the course of the novel, he is wounded badly by an arrow that is shot into his eye, and vanishes, perhaps to escape mortal death. The book ends with the cryptic comment that "Thomas and Dennis ... did see Flagg again, and confronted him," but no details are given.
Due to the fact that the story takes place in the same world as The Dark Tower
, it could be assumed that, if he did in fact die, then he had reincarnated once again in this same world, much like in the case of the extended version of The Stand
. This may also explain the Stand-like variation of him that appears in the Dark Tower series.
The Dark Tower series
Flagg has made the majority of his appearances in The Dark Tower series. He is hinted at early on in the series, but his role in the story does not become evident until near the end of the third book, The Waste Lands. Though he is referred to as a wizard in this series, he appears to be the Flagg of The Stand.
Flagg appears in the first line of The Gunslinger as "The Man in Black", going by his true name Walter o'Dim (though the character is not identified as Flagg at this time) and practicing the art of necromancy. After leading Roland Deschain, the series' main hero, on a lengthy pursuit across the Mohaine Desert, he gives Roland a tarot reading which predicts events to occur in several of the following novels. He also, oddly enough, warns Roland about himself, telling him that he must be defeated before Roland can enter the Tower and, paraphrasing the Bible, identifies himself as Legion (Mark 5:9: "And [Jesus] asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.") He then gives Roland a vision of the Tower that sends him into a deep delirium. When Roland awakes, Flagg is gone, having left behind a skeleton that convinces Roland, for only a moment, that Walter is dead.
He next appears near the end of the third novel, The Waste Lands, in the city of Lud to save the Tick-Tock Man, who becomes Flagg's devoted servant afterwards (similar in the way that the Trashcan Man became Flagg's servant in The Stand). He appears for just a short time in this book, so there is little else of him until the fourth book, Wizard and Glass. In this, Roland reveals Flagg to be the wizard Marten, who had corrupted Roland's homeland, seduced his mother Gabrielle and has been conspiring along with the Crimson King
to cause the fall of the Dark Tower. Flagg manages to escape from Roland in this book before Roland gets a chance to kill him.
Flagg also appears in the lengthy flashback that comprises the middle part of Wizard and Glass. Once again in the role of Walter O'Dim, he entrusts a cursed crystal ball to the witch Rhea of the Coos, hoping its presence will drive the people of Mejis to madness. He also acts as an emissary for the rebel leader John Farson (who may also have been one of Flagg's identities.)
Flagg met his death in the final book of the Dark Tower
series. Before this, it is revealed that his goal all along has been the same as Roland's, to climb The Dark Tower and see the room at its top. To unlock the tower, Flagg believes he needs the red-marked foot of Mordred Deschain, the bastard son of Roland. In their first and only encounter, Mordred senses Flagg's intentions telepathically, and devours Flagg's eyes and tongue before killing him and eating the rest of his body.
Flagg's death was met with much controversy by the fans. Supporters claimed that it was fitting that Flagg would be ultimately undone by his arrogance and that it suited King's general opinion that all evil are ultimately 'bumhugs'.
On the other side of the argument, fans were disappointed that one of King's greatest villains was met with such a mediocre end before getting the chance to face Roland. It also seemed to them like a cheap ploy on King's part to give Mordred extra credibility.
Flagg has had more subtle appearances outside of the above books. In the 1999 book Hearts in Atlantis
, he makes a brief appearance towards the end of the book. While little is said to show that it is him, the disturbing nature of his presence along with the use of the name "Raymond Fiegler" (which follows Flagg's "RF" theme in his aliases) clue readers into the character being him. Also worthy of note is the connections made to previous books with Flagg as a character. For instance, Carol Gerber mentions that she was taught by someone how to turn "dim" (which hints at the possibility that Flagg from The Eyes of the Dragon
may be Randall Flagg, as Flagg in that novel had this power). She also says that she and Fiegler were the only survivors of an act of arson on a small house in Los Angeles. This is quite similar to an event in Randall Flagg's life that he brings to mind in The Stand
In the made for T.V. movie Storm of the Century
the villain Andre Linoge displays various characteristics associated with Flagg; specifically the use of red paint or ink when composing messages, the reference to him being Legion (which "Linoge" is an anagram of), and Linoge's final purpose of obtaining an heir to pass on his knowledge to. He also reveals his "true form" as an aged man in the obvious guise of a wizard, and uses chanted spells through out the mini-series. Many fans believe these characteristics may be implications that Andre Linoge and Randall Flagg are the same person.
That being said, there are many differences between the two. Andre Linoge states that while he has been able to live a long life, he will eventually die of old age. Although Flagg is indeed ancient, he has never faced this problem. Another thing to note is that at the climax of Storm, Andre Linoge takes away the young boy Ralphie to be his heir to carry on in his place when he dies. While Flagg has had similar agendas, he has never made reference to having Ralphie or anything indicating that he is indeed Andre Linoge.
It is also speculated that Flagg appeared in the novel The Long Walk
by Richard Bachman (a pseudonym King once wrote under). In the end of the novel, the last surviving contestant in the Walk sees a "dark man" in the distance, and attempts to follow him. It is speculated by fans that this man is either Flagg or the Man in Black from King's The Gunslinger. Still, it is possible that this is only a coincidence, or that in the context of the story, the contest winner, having walked compusively for his life to the point of exhaustion, may have been hallucinating.
Recently it has been confirmed by King's office that these two characters are not manifestations of Flagg.