The Sword of Shannara ― “Sword of Shannara”

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The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks follows half-elf Shea, the last heir of Shannara, who must defeat the evil Warlock Lord. It is the first book in the “Sword of Shannara” series.

Plot Summary

Flick Ohmsford meets a stranger on the road home to his village, Shady Vale. The stranger is the legendary magical druid Allanon, and he goes with Flick to his father’s inn to meet Flick’s adopted brother, Shea Ohmsford, who is half-elf, half-human.

Allanon is a historian and talks to Shea about the history of the world. Two thousand years ago, the Great Wars produced a nuclear fallout that nearly ended the human race. But after 1,000 years, the race of man recovered its strength and found there were other races in the world ― trolls, gnomes, dwarfs and elves.

There was an opportunity for the races to all work together, and the Druid Council, a group of intelligent people from all races, opened the halls of Paranor, but the most ambitious druids left the Council. Later, the departed Druids’ leader, Brona, started the First War of the Races in an attempt to unite Man under one government. The war failed, but Brona returned later to start the Second War of the Races under a new name: the Warlock Lord.

In the Second War, the Elven King, Jerle Shannara received a magical sword from the good Druid Bremen. The sword was supposed to make the wielder invincible. The Warlock Lord vanished after the final battle, but Allanon tells Shea and Flick that he stills lives and rules over the Skull Kingdom. He says the Warlock Lord will try to kill Shea because he is the last descendant of Shannara. If Shea wields the Sword of Shannara, he can kill the Warlock Lord.

Allanon leaves Shea with three blue Elfstones and instructions to flee to the forest of Anar when he sees the sign of the Skull. Balinor, a mighty friend of Alannon’s, visits the inn and tells Shea the same thing, that he must flee soon.

One night, Shea and Flick see a scary cloaked creature called a Skull Bearer and escape from Shady Vale to the nearby highland kingdom of Leah. Shea’s friend Menion Leah lives there. Menion listens to their story and joins them on their quest to Anar.

When they get lost in the woods, Shea holds the Elfstones and wishes for them to help him. They emit a bright blue light, which shows the three friends the path they should take. Soon they enter the Mist Marshes. A creature with many tentacles attacks them. Shea uses the Elfstones again, and they burn the tentacle monster until it sinks back into the swamp.

While wandering in the forest after battling the monster, Shea and Flick become separated from Menion. They meet a mystical-looking old man who puts them to sleep. When they wake up, they are in Culhaven, the capital of the dwarves. Again, they meet Balinor.

Meanwhile the roots of magical trees attack Menion. Hendel the Dwarf shoots the tree with an arrow, killing it. After Menion is brought to Culhaven, Allanon also appears with bad news. The Warlock Lord’s evil gnomes have overthrown the Druid City of Paranor and stolen the Sword of Shannara.

Allanon said the Sword must be recovered or all the races will be wiped out by the Warlock Lord. Allanon, Balinor, Shea, Flick, Menion, Hendel the dwarf and two elf brothers named Durin and Dayel agree to go to Paranor to retrieve the sword.

The party reaches the Wolfsktaag, a no-man’s-land where they evade capture by enemy gnomes. Allanon goes ahead to mark safe trails with white rags and dangerous trails with red rags. Skull Bearer goes behind him and switches the rags to mislead the group.

The travelers wander into the ruins of a city where a giant cyborg-insect creature poisons Flick and Shea. Allanon returns with good gnomes called Stors who heal Flick and Shea. Next, Allanon goes to the Hadeshorn, a lake that holds the ghosts of deceased druids, and has a conversation with the ghost of Bremen, the powerful good druid. Bremen prophesies that a member of their party will not make it to Paranor.

The party enters a massive unground cavern called the Hall of Kings, home to evil spirits of the dead. Everyone but Allanon must wear blindfolds as they pass statues of Sphinxes. They must wear earplugs to block the sound of Banshees.

A serpent monster attacks them. As the party flees, Shea falls over the edge of a cliff into a giant river, where the current sweeps him away. Allanon reaches into the spirit realm and confirms that Shea is alive but is a prisoner of gnomes who steal his Elfstones and take him toward Paranor.

Allanon and the others travel on to Paranor. Allanon fights a Skull Bearer who drags him into a fiery pit, and then the others fight gnomes. The party battles their way through Paranor until they discover that the Sword of Shannara is already gone and an illusion has been left in its place.

A thief named Panamon Creel and his mute troll friend Keltset rescue Shea. Panamon steals the Elfstones from the gnomes and refuses to give them back to Shea. The three of them journey toward Paranor and get into a fight with a Skull Bearer. Panamon gives the Elfstones to Shea, who uses them to shock the Skull Bearer while Keltset kills it with a spear.

Then they capture a gnome named Orl Fane who promises to lead them to the Sword of Shannara. They find the sword, but Orl Fane escapes with it. As Panamon, Keltset and Shea track him, they are engulfed in a dark, magical barrier of mist that threatens their sanity. Once they emerge from it, they enter the Skull Kingdom, the home of the Warlock Lord.

Allanon and the remaining party learn that the Warlock Lord is about to attack the Southland, where men live. Allanon, Flick and Menion go to look for Shea while Balinor, Hendel, Durin and Dayel travel to help the Southland cities unite for battle against the Warlock Lord. Flick, disguised as a gnome, infiltrates the gnome ranks and discovers the captured Elven King Eventine Elessedil and frees him.

Balinor is the rightful heir of the kingdom of Callahorn, but he has left the kingdom in the hands of his unstable brother, Palance. Palance is under the influence of an evil mystic named Stenmin. When they reach Callahorn’s capital city, Tyrsis, Palance orders Balinor and his friends to be imprisoned.

With the help of Shirl, princess of the island city of Kern, Menion Leah helps citizens of Kern evacuate to Tyrsis before the Warlock Lord’s armies can destroy them. In Tyrsis, Menion realizes that Palance is insane.

When Menion learns that Balinor, Hendel, Durin and Dayel are imprisoned, he determines to free them. Stenmin attempts to kill Menion with a dagger as he sleeps, but Menion wakes up and forces Stenmin to lead him past the guards and release his friends. Palance arrives and Stenmin stabs him in the chest before running away. As Palance lies in a coma, Balinor becomes King of Callahorn.

Balinor takes his veteran soldiers, the Border Legion, to the Myrmidon River to fight the Warlock Lord’s oncoming forces. The enemy gnomes and trolls seem to have no freewill of their own and are fully controlled by the Warlock Lord. Balinor desperately needs military support from the Westland Elves. Meanwhile, an elf patrol looking for their lost king meets up with Flick, who offers to lead them to Eventine.

Rock trolls ambush Panamon, Keltset and Shea. Keltset surrenders immediately, surprising his friends. Via sign language, Keltset tells the other trolls that the Warlock Lord slaughtered his family and rendered him mute. He says that the trolls must help Shea defeat the Warlock Lord, and they agree to help. With the trolls’ aid, they locate Orl and take the sword from him.

In Tyrsis, Balinor’s Border Legion have to retreat behind the walls of their city. Stenmin opens up a secret passageway into the city, and Hendel dies fighting the enemies invading through the passage. Menion kills Stenmin. Shirl, who has fallen in love with Menion, finds and comforts him in his grief over Hendel’s death. Braced for a desperate last stand, the Border Legion is thrilled to see the elven army riding to help them.

Shea finally picks up the mystical Sword of Shannara at Skull Mountain, the Warlock Lord’s home. His life force mingles with it. He enters another level of reality where he comes face to face with his own self and sees his own past and present clearly, with no illusions.

The sword has the magical ability to reveal the full truth about individuals, which is a deeply uncomfortable experience for Shea. The Warlock Lord comes to Shea and commands him to lay down the sword. Shea feels compelled to obey him but fights the urge to drop the sword.

Shea realizes the Warlock Lord is afraid of learning the undisguised truth about his own self. When Shea touches the Warlock Lord with the sword, he vanishes because he realizes his very existence is a lie. His mortal body has been long dead, and his consciousness has only been preserved by sheer willpower.

The effect of the Warlock Lord’s destruction is felt everywhere. Windstorms and earthquakes spring up, the sky turns black, and in Tyrsis, the attacking Skull Bearers disintegrate. Then the world quickly returns to normal, but Shea, Panamon and Keltset are trapped inside Skull Mountain during an earthquake. Keltset is crushed to death while holding up a fallen wall so his friends can escape. Panamon also remains behind to fight a persistent enemy who wants to attack Shea. In the commotion the Elfstones are lost. Allanon finds Shea wandering aimlessly and rescues him, apologizing for not explaining the sword’s unique nature sooner.

Within a few days, the conflict is over. Allanon goes away on a mysterious errand. Balinor says goodbye to Durin and Dayel, who travel west to their homeland, and to Menion, Flick and Shea, who go back to Shady Vale. Shea leaves the Sword of Shannara in Callahorn for protection. Back home in the safety of their father’s inn, Flick and Shea hear that Panamon has come to see Shea and return the Elfstones to him.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

Brona’s druids reject the scientific studies favored by the rest of the druids and began studying sorcery until they mastered it. However, sorcery drives them insane because mortal minds aren’t designed to understand the spirit realm. Brona becomes obsessed with power and calls himself the Warlock Lord. He manages to extend his life by drawing on power from the spirit world. He can summon and control black wraiths.

The Elfstones are magical and emit a bright blue light to show the way when Shea holds them and wishes for help. Mystical creatures called sirens live in the forest, singing to entice travelers to come close so they can kill them.

The Sword of Shannara draws its power from the people it protects. The people of the Four Lands’ desire for freedom spiritually charges the sword, enabling it to defeat the Warlock Lord. Gnomes chant and pray to their gods for protection. The rock trolls also pray meditatively before a big decision.

Allanon goes to the Hadeshorn, a lake that holds the ghosts of deceased druids, and has a conversation with the ghost of Bremen, the powerful good druid. Allanon can reach into the spirit realm to see whether someone is alive or dead.

Authority Roles

Curzad Ohmsford is a kind innkeeper and raises his biological son, Flick, and adopted son, Shea, with compassion and responsibility.

Profanity & Violence

Menion shoots a gnome chieftain in the rear with an arrow. Many combat scenes result in characters bleeding from sword, knife and arrow wounds. Eventine cuts trolls’ throats in a fight and gets a severe cut on his shoulder.

Sexual Content

Menion kisses Shirl.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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