Many fantasy writers believe that Tolkien was an inspiration for their works. Writers such as David Eddings, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Dennis L. McKiernan noted the impact of Last but not last, Gary Gygax remembered Tolkien as having had a significant impact on the development of the Dungeons and Dragons franchise. Other notable fantasy genre writers have produced works that are so obviously derivative of Tolkien’s that no verbal or written acknowledgment is needed. Any of the more controversial books was Terry Brooks’ ‘The Sword of Shannara,’ which many say was a spinoff almost plagiarized copy of Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ The Sword of Shannara just like Lord of the Rings follows a group of friends that are coincidentally brought together to look for and retrieve the Sword of Shannara, which is the only tool that will be used to defeat Brona, a villain like Sauron who wants to use magic to wreck havoc over the lands. Shea is the only person that can wield it but he is also very sceptical and does not believe that Brona exists. He is chosen because he is the last of the descendants who can use the sword safely. The only thing that convinces him is when his family is threatened, but even still he does it very reluctantly. This, like for Bilbo, marks the beginning of the quest to find the mystical sword.
The world where the story is happening is a world where science has been used to destroy the natural environments through nuclear bombings leading to gross radiations that mutated all the people and creatures that were left behind. The mutations have affected people differently leading to names of creatures of the past being used to describe them. Now there are Elves, Dwarfs, Trolls, Gnomes and few remaining humans with few creatures that are born from interbreeding. Because of the damage was done by science, the world has resorted to being ruled by magic with the few remaining scientists called druids. One of these druids is the villain while the other is the one that seeks out the main hero to save the world.
The land is divided into four: the Westland where the Elves live; the forests of Eastland where the Dwarfs live; the Southland for the humans who choose to live in isolation; and the Northland were for the evil Trolls, Gnomes, and Skull Bearers and all creatures ho support the villain Brona. Shea is half-elven, and half-human who’s home is in Shady Vale in the Southlands with his Flick who is human and also an adopted sibling. Their lives change when a mysterious stranger visits and tells Shea he is the last descendant of the great Elven King, Jerle Shannara, which is part of the reason why he is the only one who will be able to wield the sword and destroy the evil Brona.(Walker 50)
The Druid who comes looking for Shea is called Allanon and is the last remaining Druid, who are also scientists besides Brona like Gandalf the Great was, and a great power in his right. Also like Gandalf, Allanon unexpectedly leaves the protagonist when he learns his home which is also the Sword’s home called Brona has captured Paranor. Shea and his brother Flick flee the Vale and start the epic journey when the Skull Bearers threaten to hurt their family. Looking for a place to hide they went go to Menion Leah’s who is the Prince of the highland city of Leah and also a close friend of Shea. Menion Leah decides to join them as he is bored and the journey is a thrilling new adventure and an escape from the responsibilities of having to rule his kingdom. Allanon on his end gathers a group of people from the different races in the new world to help the protagonist get the sword back and fight Brona. The final group consists of Durin and Dayel elves and brothers, Hendel a dwarf Hendel, Balinor, Prince of Callahorn and also the leader of the Border Legion and the main characters Shea, Flick, Menion Leah and Allanon the Druid.
Along the way they form a bond and grows close as they work together to save the four lands, tasks that come up while they look for the Sword. Even with a separation, they still worry about each of the members of the group. When Shea goes missing, Flick and Allanon search for him and end up saving the Elf King Eventine. Durin, Dayel, Balinor, Hendel, and Menion fight the Skull Brearers and Troll armies of the villain Brona with the help of the Border Legion who are also from Balinor’s home in Tyrsis. Gnomes capture Shea and he is rescued by a thief named Panamon Creel and a Rock Troll named Keltset who ultimately help Shea sneak into the Warlock Lord, Brona’s, home, and also the Skull Kingdom. There Shea draws the Sword of Shannara and defeats Brona.
Brooks has borrowed so heavily from Tolkien that one cannot ignore the blatant similarities. The theme of Fantasy and an epic journey full of mystical creatures and side adventures is just what Lord of the Rings is. But he is not the only writer to do this as Robert Jordan tried to do the same by coming with the story of the two towers. However, Brooks’ version and the entire structure of the novel is just a condensed version of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Not only are there similar characters with relationships and histories that are similar such as the siege of Minas Tirith which the writer replicates completely. However, the book is still worth a read. The copycat nature is very annoying but being a fan of the fantasy genre the trilogy is worth a read. The Sword of Shannara is Brooks’ first novel thus it shouldn’t blur the lines and discourage readers from reading the subsequent books as the writer ventures on his own in those.(James 21)
The book would be controversial to a Lord of the Rings fan, but they should not dismiss it on the basis of the first book only as the trilogyis quite exceptional. In the subsequent books, he veers away from the copycat mode and shows of his skills as a fantasy writer. This is a stepping stone that Brooks has used to go on and explore his own world in greater depth in later books and fantasy video games. He has used Tolkien as a stepping stone to get himself started with his own writing which he shows in all his other books. He used it to launch a career that led up to famous video games such as; The Elder Scrolls franchise and World of Warcraft. There are fundamental aspects in the books, though some may consider that they are very few in number (Sammons 19).
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was an excellent fantasy novel that even when plagiarized it still comes off a beautiful book with a compelling story. The plot can be changed up but with the inclusion of mythical creatures and a beautiful epic, it becomes fascinating. Terry Brooks was able to gain followers and fans with his book even though the first in his trilogy was considered to be the same version of Lord of the Rings and lacked originality. But he got away with it because he did it in an era where people were craving more or less the same story as that of Lord of the Rings. Thus it is safe to consider that The Sword of Shannara is a great fantasy adventure.
James, Edward. Tolkien, Lewis and the explosion of genre fantasy.na, 2012.
Sammons, Martha C. War of the fantasy worlds: CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien on art and imagination. ABC-CLIO, 2010.
Walker, Brooke. “Defenders of Shannara 2: The Darkling Child, The [Book Review].” Good Reading Dec 2015 (2015): 50.