Posted on Friday, December 6th, 2013 by Russ Fischer
The Sword of Shannara, from author Terry Brooks, is kind of a cold-war revision of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ideas. The book features all the fantasy trappings of Tolkien’s novels — so much so that critics dinged Brooks for rampant borrowing — but gives it all a nuclear origin, as the novels take place thousands of years after apocalyptic wars mutated mankind into elves and dwarves, and changed the geographic layout of Earth.
The book was also very successful, and it spawned two direct sequels and ultimately became the thing that dominates Brooks’ career — he’s got more Shannara books set for 2014 and 2015, almost 40 years after the publication of his first. With all the interest in YA and fantasy novel properties from studios since The Lord of the Rings was a success, it is possibly only the very Tolkien-lite characteristics of Shannara that have kept the books from being adapted. Not that people haven’t tried, as producers who started working with the rights in 2007 have now hit pay dirt.
MTV is now developing Shannara, a TV series, with Jon Favreau signed to direct the pilot.
Deadline reports that Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar are scripting, and that they and Favreau will executive produce with Terry Brooks and Dan Farah. If MTV likes the pilot script, the show will likely get a direct series order.
The first season will actually be based off the second book, The Elfstones of Shannara, which is focused around the grandson of the hero from the first novel, and tells the history of the Elves, or some of it. (Brooks would later go way back in his world’s fictional history to the tell of the wars that created the fantasy land, and to give it all a sort of “war between heaven and hell” spin.)
Here’s just the first paragraph of a wiki plot description of the novel. There’s a lot of fantasy jargon in here, but in a series like Lost there was an eventual accumulation of jargon, and that worked fine. (Mostly.) So…
The magical Ellcrys tree was beginning to die, thus weakening the spell that held the Forbidding. The Ellcrys spoke to the Chosen, telling them of a rebirth, a process which enables a new Ellcrys to be born—but this can only be done at the fountain of the Bloodfire. The Chosen then informs their Prince Ander Elessedil and King Eventine Elessedil of the matter. However, there is no one who knows of the location of the Bloodfire. A search in the ancient Elven library reveals one reference to the Bloodfire. It states that it lies in a place named “Safehold”. At the same time, a powerful Demon, the Dagda Mor, escapes from the waning Forbidding, bringing with it the Reaper and the Changeling. The Dagda Mor then sends the Reaper to kill all the Chosen, and the Changeling to act as a spy for the demons within the Elven city. Eventine finds himself at a loss, for only the Chosen can make the rebirth of the Ellcrys happen.
When I was a pre-teen I loved these books — the third original Shannara novel was published just as I turned 13. I haven’t touched them in decades, and have no idea if they’d hold up now. Even at the time I remember thinking they were approachable as easier going than Tolkien’s stuff, with a more colorful, comic book tone. They may be perfectly suited for a TV series, and seeing MTV take the plunge here wouldn’t be surprising at all.