Literature: The Sword of Shannara Trilogy aka: The Sword Of Shannara
Often referred to as the "classic trilogy" or simply the "Shannara trilogy", these three loosely-linked DoorstopperHigh Fantasy novels launched Terry Brooks' writing career. Set in Brooks' now famous Shannara universe, the three novels deal with three different generations of the Ohmsford family, their ties to the Elven House of Shannara and its magic, and their relationship with the enigmatic Druid, Allanon.In Sword Of Shannara, Allanon arrives in the sleepy hamlet of Shady Vale with the news that The Warlock Lord, Brona, an evil former Druid, has returned to life. Only the fabled (and titular) Sword of Shannara can rid the world of his threat for good, and only a member of the House of Shannara can wield the sword. As it turns out, Shea Ohmsford is the last living heir of the house. Along with his brother Flick, their friend Menion Leah, and diverse others, Shea and Allanon set out to look for the Sword.On their way to Paranor, home of the Druids, disaster strikes. Shea is separated from the group. Forced to team with thieves Panamon Creel and Keltset, Shea sets off to recover the sword on his own, while his friends attempt to avert Brona's conquest of the Four Lands. Many adventures, and one Hell of a twist ending, later, Shea recovers the Sword and puts Brona in his grave permanently.Flashforward fifty years to Elfstones of Shannara. The Ellcrys, the tree that keeps the Demons of legend sealed up within the Forbidding, is dying, and her Chosen are massacred by the escaping Demons. The sole Chosen remaining, Elven Princess Amberle, must travel to the mythical Bloodfire and resurrect the Ellcrys. Realising that he will be needed to help the Elves defend their home from the Demons, Allanon visits the Gnome town of Storlock, intent on strong-arming Shea's grandson Wil into serving as Amberle's bodyguard, since he inherited his grandfather's magic-destroying Elfstones.Wil soon agrees. He and Amberle set off, with the Nightmare Fuel-inspiring Reaper in hot pursuit. In the meantime, Allanon, Elf King Eventine, and Eventine's son Ander gather what few allies they have and prepare to fight a delaying action against the armies of the Demon Lord known as The Dagda Mor. In the end, a new Ellcrys is created, the Demons are banished, and all is well.Twenty years after that, in The Wishsong of Shannara, the Mord Wraiths appear. In possession of the Ildatch, the same Tome of Eldritch Lore that corrupted Brona, they seem poised to destroy the Four Lands. Even Allanon cannot penetrate the defences they have raised around the book, and all seems hopeless. Falling back into his old habits, Allanon calls upon Brin Ohmsford, who, thanks to her father's use of the Elfstones, possesses the Reality Warping Wishsong. Unlike Allanon, Brin will be able to use the Wishsong to enter the Maelmord and destroy the Ildatch; she and her Love Interest Rone Leah set off with Allanon in order to do so.Meanwhile, her brother Jair, who possesses a lesser version of the Wishsong, is told by The King of The Silver River that Brin will fail if he does not go to her aid. Alongside reluctant Gnome Tracker Slanter, and uber-Bad Ass Garet Jax, as well as numerous others, Jair goes after Brin. In the end, Brin is saved, and the Ildatch destroyed, albeit at tremendous cost. The Magic Goes Away...at least until the next series.While the first book has been criticised for being too similar to The Lord of the Rings, the later books are generally regarded as better, and the trilogy as a whole was very successful. It's best described as good quality pop-fantasy. There are now a number of stories set within, just before, or just after the books in the trilogy. They include the short stories Allanon's Quest, The Weapon Master's Choice, and The Black Irix (collectively known as Paladins of Shannara), the novella Indomitable, and the graphic novel Dark Wraith of Shannara.For those interested in the history of the fantasy genre, it should be noted that The Sword of Shannara was the first high fantasy novel not written for children to be a commercial success in its own time (that's right; The Lord of the Rings was not a commercial success until many years after it was published), and Elfstones and Wishsong were numbers two and three, respectively; all three spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. This was largely what convinced publishers that fantasy could be a commercially viable genre separate from sci-fi, causing an explosion in the publication of fantasy.See here for the character sheet.Tropes associated with the original trilogy (separated due to the loose nature of the series) include:
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The Sword of Shannara
After the End: The book's universe is implied to be our world after a World War III that had destroyed human civilization and caused the creation of new races. The heroes even stumble upon metal ruins of an old city and fight an insectoid cyborg.
The Alliance: The Border Legion, and the Elven and Dwarven armies form the bulk of the alliance against Brona.
As You Know: To truly epic levels at the start, where the entire history of the world is monologued to the main character.
Though not entirely played straight, while everyone knew the general gist of what was told, this is the first time anyone but Allanon had heard the whole story, unaltered by propaganda and bias.
Don't Go in the Woods: The Black Oaks are avoided by anyone with half a brain. Unfortunately, avoiding them sends Shea, Menion, and Flick into the Mist Marsh.
Dressing as the Enemy: Allanon disguises Flick as a Gnome and sends him to infiltrate Brona's army and free the captured Elven king, Eventine. The results are both hysterically funny, and very awesome.
Happy Ending: The only unambiguously happy ending in the whole blasted franchise.
Honour Among Thieves: Panamon Creel's belief that he owes Shea for saving his life is the reason he agrees to assist him in finding the Sword. And given Creel's peculiar sense of honour that means he'll take him to the ends of the earth to do it.
Informed Ability: Stenmin, the Evil Chancellor, is said to be a mystic. He never shows any sign of magical powers, though it's possible he was some sort of astrologer/fortuneteller/alchemist, and consequently didn't have any (or at least, not that would have helped him against the heroes). To be fair, however, it is very possible to infer that Stenmin's influence over Palance might have some partly mystical cause. Also, the word "mystic" technically does not mean the same thing as "magician."
Keystone Army: The Skull Bearers exist only through Brona's magic. When it goes, so do they.
Killed Off for Real: Palance Buckhannah, Hendel, Stenmin (good riddance), Orl Fane, Brona, Keltset.
McGuffin: The titular Sword, which obsesses most of the characters for the duration of the book.
Mordor: The Skull Kingdom is a wreck, with a skull-faced mountain at its core, and is surrounded by poisonous rivers, lethal deserts, and a mountain range filled with poisonous spiders.
Never Accepted in His Hometown: The tiny village of Shady Vale apparently managed to miss the fact that a Third War of the Races was fought that summer. When Shea and Flick make it back home, their father shows absolutely no knowledge of the fact that his biological son saved the life of the Elven King or that his adoptive son killed the most evil wizard in recorded history. All he has to say is "You boys have been acting strange since you got back from that hunting trip in Leah."
Our Dragons Are Different: Valg, the giant, fire and poison breathing serpent that haunts the Hall of the Kings is essentially a wingless, water-dwelling Dragon, despite never being identified as such.
Single Line of Descent: Shea is the sole living descendant of Jerle Shannara, a king who had three daughters and two adoptive sons who lived 500 years previously. Justified in that Brona had apparently spent quite some time removing all the others before the start of the book.
The Alliance: The army arrayed against the Demons ultimately includes the Elven Army, Allanon, the Wing Riders (Sky Elves), the Border Legion (Men), numerous Dwarven engineers and sappers, and 1500 Kershalt Trolls.
Bad Ass: Allanon again, Stee Jans (Commander of the Border Legion Free Corps), and Eventine. Ander doesn't do too badly either.
Badass Army: The Legion Free Corps is made up entirely of men who would rather that their pasts not be questioned too closely. In exchange they serve as a sort of expendable unit of desperate fighters. Then there's the Trolls, the Elves, and yes, the Demons. Not a lot of un-Badass armies in this book actually.
Badass Grandpa: Eventine Elessedil. The man's in his eighties and he manages to lead his army into combat, and kill the freakin' Changeling.
Badass Normal: Stee Jans, the leader of the Border Legion Free Corps.
Bittersweet Ending: Sure, the Demons get sealed up again. But Eventine is dead and Amberle is transformed into the Ellcrys, with Wil being left devastated by her loss and damaged from his use of the Elfstones.
Bodyguard Crush: Wil may have had one on Amberle. It's never made entirely clear just what his feelings are about her.
Cain and Abel: Morag and Mallenroh, the twin witches of the Wilderun.
Carry a Big Stick: Those Demons that don't go unarmed, either loot the bodies of the Elven dead, or arm themselves with clubs. There are mentions of everything from Goblins to Ogres carrying them, rating the placement of this trope here.
Also, Cats Are Mean: Or at least batshit insane. The Furies are psycho-killers, with Berserker tendencies and no regard for their own safety. The Dagda Mor uses them as his personal killers when The Reaper is absent.
Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Wil's initial difficulties with the Stones cause him to form a psychological block that prevents him from using them; he effectively convinces himself that he can't use them, and so they stop responding.
Co-Dragons: The Reaper and the Changeling to the Dagda Mor.
Delaying Action: The entire War of the Forbidding is a delaying action, meant to give Wil and Amberle enough time to save the Ellcrys.
Deus ex Machina: Wil, Amberle, Hebel, and Eretria escape Safehold, only to find the sun is already setting—on the last day Perk said he would fly over the Wilderun. Wil, worn out from overuse of the Elfstones, tells Eretria to blow the whistle. Nothing seems to happen...then, at last, just when the sun has vanished and it seems they can never make it back to Arborlon, Genewen appears: Perk just couldn't leave them, especially after he saw the smoke from Mallenroh's tower, so he waited an extra day, and even past sunset. This rescue, in turn, allows them to be the Deus ex Machina for the defenders of Arborlon, winging in just as they're about to succumb to the Demon horde.
Dwindling Party: The Reaper does this to Wil and Amberle's party, ending with Crispin.
Elite Mooks: The Furies, who are The Dagda Mor's best killers after The Reaper. A large group of them almost manage to kill Allanon.
Femme Fatale: Eretria. At first it isn't clear whether she is a villain (her anger at being spurned almost costs them the Elfstones when she doesn't warn Wil of Cephelo's plan to steal them), a Spanner in the Works, or just an annoyance during the Rover sideplot. By the end it's clear that she is the heroic version of this trope.
Final Battle: The Demon assault on Arborlon is shaping up to be this. The Ellcrys is reborn just in time.
Giant Flyer: The Wing Riders and their Rocs make their first appearance in this book.
Giant Mook: The Ogres, and a huge, lizard-headed Demon all serve this roll on occasion, breaking through the Elven lines and inflicting serious damage until they encounter one of the main characters. The Dragon may actually be the closest example, relying solely on brute force and utterly destroying the Elves until Allanon confronts it.
Hellhounds: The Demon Wolves. The Dagda Mor uses them as scouts for his army.
Heroic Resolve: After killing the Dagda Mor Allanon appears to calmly mount up and ride back to the Elven lines. The fight had taken every last bit of energy he had and it was only through sheer force of will that he stayed upright, because he knew the only thing keeping the Demons from swarming over the outnumbered Elves at that point was their fear of him.
The Mole: The Changeling serves as the Dagda Mor's, replacing Eventine's dog, Manx and listening on every conversation the Elven High Command has.
Nothing Is Scarier: Part of what makes The Reaper so frightening, as it is utterly silent (and most likely cannot even speak), has a hood which may very well be completely empty, and it will always inexorably pursue until it catches you—but you will never know where or when it is coming. Crossing this with the silent, empty darkness of the Pykon may explain why that chapter is so subtly terrifying to some.
Not Now, Kiddo: Although Wil Ohmsford doesn't say the trope name, he does pretty much ignore poor little Wisp, who keeps trying to tell him somethingóbut he's so set on getting the Elfstones back from Mallenroh so he can prove himself Amberle's protector that he doesn't even pay attention to the hysterical shrieking. Cue Eretria finally grabbing his arm and jerking him back, revealing that the box the Elfstones were in was trapped with a deadly viper inside:
Eretria: He was trying to warn you! [She] pointed to Wisp. The little fellow had collapsed in tears.
One-Man Army: With the Ellcrys staff neutralising the Demons' powers, Allanon is able to become one, as only The Dagda Mor (who has Druidic powers in addition to his own innate magic) is able to challenge him magically.
Our Demons Are Different: Evil beings of Faerie exiled before the modern world began, they've been corrupted by hatred into various types of monster:
Our Goblins Are Different: A species of Demon, described as lean, black, and armed with razor-sharp talons. Fairly numerous, their physical description is pretty close to that usually associated with Orcs.
Our Monsters Are Different: In addition to Ogres, Goblins, and the Dragon, many other mythical and fairy tale beings, including Imps, Gremlins, Ghouls, Harpies, and of course, the Furies, are mentioned as being a part of the Demon army, although only a few are described in detail.
Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Another Demon species, used as the brute force of the Dagda Mor's army on several occasions. All we're really told is that they're big, scaly, and that it took the presence of the Trolls to successfully repel them.
Power Nullifier/ Brought Down to Normal: The Ellcrys equips the Elves with a staff that both renders the Demons mortal, and turns off their innate powers. Only The Dagda Mor is left with any workable magic. Sadly it doesn't do anything about their physical advantages (eg, armoured hides, superstrength, sheer size and bulk).
The Power of Hate: The Demon army is made of this trope. Years trapped within the Forbidding have completely warped the minds and bodies of the dark Fae, with their numbers, powers, and mutations only increasing as their loathing of all life (and the Elves and the Ellcrys in particular) grow. The Dagda Mor and Allanon both reference the trope on occasion, stating flat out that it is the power of their hatred/rage and not their superior numbers that truly makes the Demons dangerous.
Redshirt Army: Basically the point of the Free Corps in the eyes of the Border Legions, and they suffer the usual fate of one as well. Over the course of a two-week war, they suffer 98% casualties.
Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Many demons are scaled. One of them, a huge monster with the head of a lizard, nearly breaks into Arborlon before Stee Jans stops it.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Elessedils are very active. Between Amberle being sent on the quest for the Bloodfire, Eventine, Arion, and Ander acting as war leaders, and in Ander's case, more or less holding the alliance together, they're more involved in the events of the story than anyone else.
Sealed Evil in a Can: The Demons were sealed up by the good Fairies long before the series ever began. As long as the Ellcrys tree lives, they remain sealed.
Second Love: Possibly Wil and Eretria. We're not sure what he thought of Amberle.
Scarily Competent Tracker: The Reaper follows Wil and Amberle across the entire Westland, never losing them for more than a few days at a time.
Slasher Movie: The Reaper's pursuit of Wil, Amberle and Crispin's men through the Pykon is so very much this. The horrific discovery and chase at Drey Wood also counts.
Sleep Cute: Amberle and Wil get a moment like this in the Matted Brakes.
Super Strength: Many Demons have this in one form or another, even with their powers turned off. The examples aren't ludcriously unbelievable, but even average Demons are able to inflict a great deal of punishment on armoured men using only clubs or their bare hands. The Ogres, the Dragon, and various other monsters can of course do even more. And then there's The Reaper.
Swamps Are Evil: The Matted Brakes, a godforsaken tangle of swampland, deadwood forest, scrub, and stagnant water, populated by some of the most unpleasant creatures imaginable, including The Things, which kills two members of Amberle's bodyguard.
Wizard Duel: Between Allanon and The Dagda Mor. It's epic.
You Shall Not Pass: Elven guardsman Crispin pulls what he knows will be a futile one against The Reaper. He manages to buy enough time for Wil and Amberle to destroy the bridge it's standing on though. Easily his Dying Moment of Awesome.
Bittersweet Ending: The heroes win. They really, really do. But pretty much everyone dies to make it happen.
Bodyguard Crush: Inverted. Rone Leah volunteers to be Brin's bodyguard because of his crush on her.
Cassandra Truth: None of the Dwarven Council of Culhaven believes Jair's story thanks to a bit of Arbitrary Skepticism (yes, Allanon hasn't been seen in twenty years but they know as a Druid and practitioner of magic he is long-lived, and legends of the King of the Silver River have been around for a very long time) and Allanon taking Rone and Brin a different route. It takes a demonstration of Jair's magic, revealing that he has seen Allanon's image, to prove he is telling the truth.
The Wishsong has the potential to be this as well, if the user becomes too dependent on it or uses it for malicious ends. The "savior vs. destroyer" dichotomy is a huge part of the plot, and is only mirrored with Par in Heritage.
Darkest Hour: Things look pretty bleak about mid-book. On the one hand, Allanon has been killed, the Sword of Leah has been lost, and Brin is left alone trying to nurse the poisoned and dying Rone back to health. On the other hand, Capaal falls to the Gnomes thanks to the Mord Wraiths calling a Kraken (which seems to kill Garet Jax); Foraker, Edain, and Helt all seem to die; Jair gets separated from Slanter, who seems to abandon him; and he's captured by Stythys and taken to the prisons at Dun Fee Aran. The latter is subverted, however, when all the party members turn up alive and rescue Jair, and even Brin is able to heal Rone, then get her quest back on track by finding Cogline and Kimber Boh.
Death Seeker: Garet Jax accompanies Jair because a prophecy promises him that if he does so he will meet his ultimate opponent; namely someone who can kill him.
Dwindling Party: Jair's party is reduced to him and Slanter by the end. Played with at first, however—Brooks makes it look like each of the party members have died fighting the Kraken or the Gnomes at Capaal, thus leaving Jair alone as he ends up captured by Stythys and taken to Dun Fee Aran. Then all of them show up alive to break him out of prison. It isn't until the final assault on Graymark that the trope is Double Subverted.
Kill 'em All: Not quite, but the last half of the book makes a valiant effort. Stythyss, Helt, Edain Elessedil, Elb Foraker, Garet Jax, Allanon, and pretty much every other named character bite the dust.
Lamarck Was Right: Using magic created by another race, when you've only got maybe one-quarter blood of the creator race in the first place, can cause some problems. Wil Ohmsford was actually damaged by use of the Elfstones, along with passing on some of the magic to his children in the form of the Wishsong. Justified, since this is magic we're dealing with.
Obfuscating Insanity: Seemingly the only explanation for Cogline's behavior in this book versus the Heritage trilogy (and actually stated in-universe by Kimber). Also makes for a huge number of Crowning Moments Of Funny, a rarity in this sort of High Fantasy. According to Word of God, however, he really was insane, courtesy of a screw-up with the Druid Sleep. By the time Heritage rolls around, he's back to normal and considers that time period his Old Shame/Never Live It Down moment. Makes it even funnier in a way.
Taking You with Me: It is believed that this was the end result of said duel. It can't be proven because the Jachyra, dead or alive, disappeared when the Ildatch was destroyed, but Jair and Slanter refuse to believe that Garet Jax could be killed without mortally wounding his enemy first.
Panthera Awesome: Whisper, Cogline and Kimber Boh's moor cat, who attacks the Mord Wraiths and their monsters with only his teeth and claws. He may be more Bad Ass than any of the human characters.
Plot Parallel: Jair's growing friendship with Edain Elessedil is mirrored by Brin's with Kimber Boh. Edain eventually gives his life to save Jair so he can get to Heaven's Well; Kimber would have done the same, and even tried to, only to be tricked by Brin into being separated and left behind in a hopeless fight with her grandfather and Rone against the Mord Wraiths. The choices the Ohmsford siblings make, and the different results, are telling.
Reality Warper: Brin's Wishsong allows her to force the world around her to comply with how she wants it to be. See the main page for more details.
Refuge in Audacity: During the Culhaven company's encounter with the Gnome army at Capaal, Slanter and Helt accidentally tumble off a cliffside and land right in the middle of the enemy troops. What do they do? Dress Helt up in dark robes like a Mord Wraith, with Slanter as his Gnome attendant, then walk right through the camp until they can get to the fortress walls and reveal their identities to be let inside. And it works.
Take Up My Sword: Allanon does this to Brin after he dies, charging one of her descendents with becoming the next Druid and rebuilding the order.
Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Ildatch is an ancient book, surviving from the time of Faerie, and containing the secrets of many of their darker magics. Reading it subverted Brona, the Skull Bearers, and the Mord Wraiths; as such, Allanon has decided it must be destroyed.
Two Lines, No Waiting: Unlike Sword, which had one party that got split up by circumstances in a parallel to Tolkien, or Elfstones where the action switched between the adventuring heroes (Wil and Amberle) and the home front fighting Delaying Action, this book has two independent plotlines with Brin's quest to the Maelmord (diverted several times) and Jair's quest to Heaven's Well to save her (also diverted a few times).
Your Days Are Numbered: Allanon is informed in advance by Bremen that he will not live to see the outcome of the quest. Allanon's obviously not too thrilled with this news, but it doesn't deter him from continuing on the quest.