For decades the Fantasy genre has gained popularity. Writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, RA Salvatore, CS Lewis, Robert Jordan, and Ed Greenwood have created bold heroes and heroines who battle against terrible foes. Many of these books are based in a world created by the writer. Despite the fact these stories share similar fantasy tropes, such as chivalry, demons, and magic, they are all distinct and different from one another.
Terry Brooks had been writing since high school. While studying law, he was given a copy of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien, arguably the creator of modern fantasy, borrowed legendary creatures from European mythology and incorporated them into his novels. Dragons, elves, trolls—these creatures can be found in Norse legends. What Tolkien did was take these myths and give them new life, and in doing so, inspired new generations of fantasy authors. Brooks was one of that generation. Over the next several years he wrote his first novel, The Sword of Shannara, which was published in 1977.
The Sword of Shannara introduces us to a fantasy world that rebuilt itself after two great wars, known as the First and Second War of the Races. In The Sword of Shannara, a great and terrible evil has returned to conquer the Four Lands. Fortunately, the druid Alannon has found the last heir of Shannara. Now the hope of the entire world rests in the hands of a bastard half-elf, for only the heir of the House of Shannara can wield the legendary sword and defeat the Warlock Lord.
The Four Lands
Known as the Skull Kingdom, the Northern region is a desolate place where life is scarce. It is within this unforgiving land that the trolls, who are fearsome warriors, make their home.
In the West, the elves have isolated themselves from the rest of the world. The elves are an ancient civilization which has survived legendary confrontations against the demon hordes. They consider themselves superior and are content living apart from the other races.
The Eastern part of the Four Lands is home to another great power, the dwarves. Hard working and fierce warriors, the dwarves have been engaged in constant border wars against their hated foes, the shamanistic gnomes.
Finally, there is the civilization of man.
Mankind has become a divided people. Some reside in cities such as Kern, Varfleet, or Tyrsis — home to the famed Border Legion. Further south lies the small community of Shady Vale, a sleepy hamlet that seems to exists outside of politics. Even as the Warlock Lord seeks to establish his control over the Four Lands the people of Shady Vale continue their day to day life, oblivious of the impending doom.
Only Alannon knows of the Warlock Lord’s plans to conquer the Four Lands. With time running out, the druid travels to Shady Vale where he convinces Shea Ohmsford, the adopted son of an inn keeper, to embark upon a perilous quest to retrieve the Sword of Shannara and save the world from the Warlock Lord.
Legends and myths that did not exist in yesterday’s world will exist in tomorrow’s. Things of evil, ruthless and cunning, after lying dormant for centuries, will now awaken. The shadow of the Warlock Lord begins to fall across the Four Lands.
Brooks and Tolkien
Having been captivated by Lord of the Rings, Brooks uses many of the same fantastic races and places them in the Four Lands, a world of his own creation. Like Middle Earth, this world has its own history and legends.
It is interesting to note that Brooks has been criticized for borrowing from Tolkien, when he in fact acknowledges that he was heavily influenced by Lord of the Rings. As you read The Sword of Shannara, it is impossible to ignore the similarities between Sauron and the Warlock Lord. However, when you consider that, at the time, Brooks was a young writer, still developing his own style, it’s understandable that he would draw ideas from Tolkien’s work. After all, art inspires art.
If one writer influences another, it’s acceptable for them to incorporate ideas – even styles – into their own work. What’s important is to acknowledge your influences and, critically, eventually develop your own style. Once you have accomplished that, you’ve found your own voice.
This is exactly what Brooks accomplished.
Since publishing The Sword of Shannara, Brooks has written over twenty best selling novels, many of them based in The Four Lands. The original trilogy (which consists of The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara) as well as the subsequent trilogies (e.g. The Heritage of Shannara) expand the Four Lands. These novels continue to build upon the world and its rich history.
For more visit http://terrybrooks.net/
– D.P. Bohémier