Norman as "Ze Bool"

Norman Daniels is the abusive husband of Rose McClendon, the protagonist of Stephen King's Rose Madder. He pursues his wife after she leaves their abusive household, determined to "punish" her.


Prior to the events of the narrative, Norman met and married Rose on the promise of a diamond ring and that he'd be a decent lover. However, over time, he revealed his darker qualities as a corrupt cop prone to violence and various prejudices such as racism and homophobia. Towards Rose, he would often abuse her through bites with the warning statement of wanting to talk to someone "up close". (To say nothing of violating her with a tennis racket, among treating her kidneys as punching bags.) However, his particularly defining moment of villainy was described in the prologue set a few years before the events of the novel. Norman lost his temper and beats up Rose while she was pregnant with their child, causing her to suffer a miscarriage. He then threatened her into saying it was an accident, knowing that he'd kill her if she said otherwise.

Role in Story


Alternate cover showing Norman's transformation

In the beginning of the narrative, Rose discovers a single drop of blood on their bedsheets and, after fourteen years of dealing with Norman's abuse, decides living with him is too dangerous and to leave him with his bank card in hand. However, Norman soon catches onto Rose's escape from their hellish domestic life and pursues. In the meantime, he is shown resorting to various forms of torture and intimidation for information, such as when he graphically squeezes the testicles of the man who found his bank card for answers. Rose also discovers that Norman's "diamond ring" is actually worthless and trades it for an unusual portrait of a woman seemingly named Rose Madder. She also takes residence in Daughters and Sisters, a women's shelter run by Anna Stevenson, soon leaving for her own place.

As the plot develops, Norman becomes more hellbent on capturing Rose and even more insane. Norman disguises himself by shaving his head and moving about in a wheelchair and expresses much contempt, usually throwing out filthy, misogynist insults towards the various women he encounters. He assaults and murders several of Rose's associates at Daughters and Sisters, breaking Cynthia's nose and murdering Anna. His attempt to murder Rose's associate Gertrude however results in his temporary defeat and humiliation. In a fit of insanity, Norman steals a child's bull mask (hearing the phrase "Ze Bool" in his mind) and dons it as his own. He also assaults Rose's new lover Bill Steiner, although he fails to kill him when he is led on by Rose.

During this time, Rose has entered the world of the painting and aided Rose Madder, who resembles Rose but harbors a monstrous nature of her own, in retrieving her child in the labyrinth guarded by the bull beast Erinyes. Seeking revenge, Erinyes possesses Norman and fuses the bull mask to his face, effectively transforming Norman from monstrous man to monstrous minotaur. However, he meets his end when he is led by Rose into the painting where he crosses paths with Rose Madder, mistaking her for his wife. Determined to "punish" her, Norman falls into the trap and is violently bitten to death by Rose Madder who "speaks to him up close".