The Sword of Shannara

The Sword of Shannara is a fantasy novel by Terry Brooks. It chronicles the adventures of the brothers Shea and Flick Ohmsford in a world that is a strange blend of sorcery and technology. Many sequels and one prequel followed, expanding on the world of the Four Lands and tracing the Ohmsford lineage. It was first published in New York by Random House in 1977. It was also the first fantasy novel to make the New York Times bestseller list since The Lord of the Rings. A paperback edition was reissued in New York by Del Rey Books in 1995 with ISBN 0345314255.

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According to the history of the Four Lands, mankind once gained such technological advances as it could no longer control them. The apocalyptic battles that followed were known as the Great Wars, in which most life on earth perished and the continents themselves rearranged. (This is often considered to be a nuclear fallout, thus placing the Shannara stories sometime in our future.) Mankind split into several distinct races: Men, Dwarves, Gnomes, and Trolls. Elves also appeared at this time, though they came from a distinct lineage from man. In a futuristic return to the past, the natural world once again flourished, and magic appeared out of the skeletal remains of skyscrapers and subways.

The Druids

In a backward time of ignorance and war between the races, there were those from each race who retained some of the old knowledge. Led by the Elf Galaphile, these wise men formed the Druid Order. From their fortress of Paranor in the center of the known world, the Druids guided the races to peace and preserved the wisdom of the ages. However, with the revival of magic, it soon became all too clear that any power, be it magic or science, was susceptible to corruption. The Druid Brona and his followers experimented in the dark arts, until the power they sought to wield instead controlled them. They were cast out of Paranor, leaving them with a desire for revenge against the Druids.

The Wars of the Races

Brona convinced Men to attack the other races, becoming his unwitting pawns in the First War of the Races. He almost succeeded, but the Druids led the other races against him. Brona disappeared, presumably dead, and the Druids partitioned the Four Lands out to each of the races to lessen tension. However, they were shamed by the betrayal of one of their own, and became reclusive, withdrawing to the walls of Paranor where they jealously guarded their knowledge. Centuries later, Brona and his followers returned, seemingly immortal, as the Warlock Lord and the Skull Bearers. The Second War of the Races began with the destruction of the Druid Order. The only survivors were Bremen and his followers, having been cast out for practicing the now-outlawed magic. Bremen, realizing now that only magic could combat magic forged a magical talisman, a blade given into the hands of the Elven King, Jerle Shannara. The Warlock Lord led the Trolls against the other Races, bringing creatures from the spirit world with him, but he was finally defeated by the Sword of Shannara. Yet peace came at an awful price. Tension was mounting between the races, having been turned on one another yet again, and the Druid Order had seemingly vanished from the world.


Centuries later, the Ohmsford family of Shady Vale is surprised by a half-elven baby left on their doorstep. The baby is taken in and named Shea. He is raised like a brother to the Ohmsford's son, Flick. The brothers become inseparable, helping run the family inn, until about twenty years later, when a tall, dark, mysterious figure arrives in the Vale. Allanon is his name, last of the Druids. His face is perpetually in shadow under the dark folds of his robe. Allanon comes with a warning: Shea's life is in danger. He claims the Warlock Lord, now thought to be a myth, has returned, and is after Shea, the last descendent of Jerle Shannara and the only one now living who can wield the Sword of Shannara against him. Giving Shea three blue stones for protection, Allanon departs, bidding Shea to leave the Vale immediately. Shea and Flick flee with the Skull Bearers on their heels. They seek refuge in the nearby city of Leah. Shea is friends with Menion, the lazy son of the city's lord. Menion guides them to the Eastland, where they are to meet Allanon at the Dwarf capital of Culhaven. The three Elfstones (as they are revealed to be) protect Shea and his companions through their adventures until they safely arrive at Culhaven. Once there, a council of the Races is summoned under Allanon to decide how to combat the Warlock Lord. It is decided to send a small party to Paranor, the final resting place of the Sword of Shannara. There they could take possession of the one weapon that could destroy the Warlock Lord, once and for all. Journeying through the Valley of Shale, where the spirit of Bremen resides, and under the Dragon's Teeth mountains, they finally arrive in Paranor, but Shea is lost along the way. The remaining group finds Paranor overrun with Gnome soldiers in the service of the Warlock Lord, and the Sword missing; it has already been taken north to the Skull kingdom. The group splits up, some to find Shea, others to prepare for the inevitable battle that will ensue. Flick sneaks into the enemy camp and rescues the captive Eventine Elessidil, King of the Elves, thus mobilizing the Elves to the aid of Callahorn, the Borderland country that would be struck first. Menion saves a beautiful redhead named Shirl Ravenlock, with whom he falls in love, and together they save the island city of Kern from certain destruction. Meawhile, Shea's life is saved by a one-handed thief named Panamon Creel and his mute Troll companion, Keltset. Journeying to the Northland, Shea and his rescuers reach the Skull kingdom itself, where an insane Gnome deserter has carried the Sword of Shannara in his madness. Just as the battle to the Borderlands is about to be lost to the northern army, Shea takes the sword, his birthright. Its enigmatic power is finally revealed to him, as he is confronted with the truth of his life the moment he touches the handle. Just then, the Warlock Lord materializes to destroy Shea. In a rage of determination to never let Brona hurt anyone else, Shea attacks. The Warlock Lord, immune to physical weapons, is struck down by the truth of himself. Brona, the man, died in the First War of the Races. The rest of his life was a lie. Forced to confront the truth of his death, the Warlock Lord, and all that he had ever done, vanishes. The destruction of the Skull kingdom takes Keltset's life as he sacrifices himself to save his friends. In the south, the Troll army is easily dispatched once the Skull Bearers follow Brona to his fate. Allanon saves Shea's life, reveals that he is the centuries-old son of Bremen, and soon disappeares, saying he needs to sleep... Peace returns, and the heroes go home. Shea and Flick are reunited, having found their confidence, and Menion has become a responsible young man, with a Borderland girl to return to.

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Shirl and Menion



The plot of the 'Sword of Shannara' has a history of controversy over it, mainly stemming around the seemingly undeniable fact that its plot is a copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J. R. R. Tolkien. The series, written some thirty years earlier, involves a story much like the Sword of Shannara, in which a virtually unknown, sheltered hero travels with a troupe of various races, led by a magic-bearing man, to destroy a Dark Lord. Many other similarities occur, but Terry Brooks denies any plagiarism.


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