The first season of the MTV series The Shannara Chronicles is based very heavily on the plot of the second novel in the series, The Elfstones of Shannara. Some of the characters and details have been modified for TV, but the basic story and background appears to be the same.

However, the show makes it very clear right from the outset that the series is set in a distant future Earth, after a major apocalypse (specifically, a nuclear war). While this is the setting for the Shannara novels as well, my recollection is that it's not made quite so obvious that it's Earth's future until very late in the series. Initially, all we know is that it's set on some planet that experiences a major disaster.

It's been a long time since I read Elfstones of Shannara but I don't remember anything in the novel that was nearly as blatant as the things in the show, including:

  • The obvious ruins of the Space Needle
  • Barrels of toxic waste emerging from the ground
  • Electricity, including electric party lights.

Were there any such obvious references to pre-apocalypse Earth in the novel?

  • 1
    in the first shannara book they have a flash light
    – Himarm
    Jan 30, 2016 at 23:35
  • I think there's some (negative) evidence, in that the absence of any hints that the pre-apocalyptic humanity possessed space travel strongly implies that the setting is indeed Earth. (Compare the Battleaxe or Stormwarden series, for example, which do provide such hints.) Jan 31, 2016 at 6:05

1 Answer 1


I just finished rereading this (having read it years ago). Your question is tricky when you ask for "obvious references to pre-apocalypse Earth" (emphasis added), as what may be obvious to one reader may not be to another. Still, I had read this question before my rereading, and have a few points to make that at least may qualify as obvious hints. All the references come only from The Elfstones of Shannara.

  1. Allanon's description of "humankind" development and expansion while giving a history of the Elves retreating after the original defeat of the Demons. Note the parallels to Earth history for humanity from both an evolutionary perspective, as well as the stages of that history socially, politically, and ecologically:

    • "'Before the development of Man as a civilized species'" (p.71).
    • "'Humankind had not yet begun to emerge from its early primitive existence ... at this stage in time humans were simply a higher form of animal life, possessing greater innate intelligence than other animals, but lesser instincts'" (p.88-89).
    • "'Within a thousand years time, that situation reversed itself dramatically. ... Humans were more adaptable [than Elves]; they lived everywhere. The forests, the rivers, the mountains, the plains—they claimed it all'" (p.89)
    • "'Humans continued to populate the earth with increasing rapidity, growing, expanding, now building cities and fortresses, now sailing the seas in search of new lands, now pushing back the wilderness about them. They began, for the first time, seriously to affect the character of the land, changing whole regions for habitation and consumption needs'" (p.90).
    • "'Human beings used no magic of any consequence'" (p.91).
    • "'[The Elves] were simply overwhelmed in the end ... driven out, in the final analysis, by sciences and technologies against which they had no real defense'" (p.91).
    • "'[The Elves] watched in horror the destruction that was being performed on their world. They watched it being stripped of its resources and its animal life. They watched as its ecological balance was utterly and irreversibly disrupted. They watched the humans war between themselves incessantly as the separate governments struggled to achieve dominion over one another. They watched and they waited and they prepared—for they saw how it all must end. ... The Great Wars'" (p.91-92)

    The Great Wars, of course, mark something that has not yet occurred in human history, at least to the apocalyptic level that Terry Brooks used to be the backdrop for the world of the Shannara series.

  2. Allanon's description and Brook's descriptions as well of human and Elf/faerie interaction parallels the myths of faerie creatures on Earth, both in some of its content as well as many names and abilities:

    • "'They [faerie creatures, good and evil] possessed to varying degrees powers of magic—at least, we would call it magic or sorcery or the mystic" (p.72).
    • "'All were creatures that became part of the old legends of faerie when men emerged from the darkness of barbarism and began to populate and build upon the world. They were creatures of magics ... diverse species ... Faeries, Sprites, Goblins, Wraiths, and the like'" (p.76).
    • "'Because the faerie creatures chose concealment as their way of life, they earned the distrust of humans. They were deemed creatures of ill-fortune, creatures who spied and connived against others, creatures who performed acts of mischief and whose favorite pastime was to discover new ways of making the lives of hardworking humans more difficult'" (p.90).
    • "'The new races [after the Great Wars], though human in ancestry, were named from four of the more numerous and best recorded of these creatures of supposed legend—Dwarves, Gnomes, Trolls, and Elves. Except, of course, that the Elves are different ... because they are not simply a legend reborn—they are the legend survived. The Elven people are the descendants of the faerie creatures that existed in the old world" (p.76).
    • Wil speaking, "'These creatures that were shut within the place beyond the Forbidding—what of them?'" ... Allanon's reply: "'Call them Demons, for that is what they have become'" (p.94).
    • "The Demons were of all shapes and sizes ... Every creature from the oldest tales of horror was there; were-creatures, half-human, half-animal ... Ogres ... Gremlins ... Imps and Goblins ... serpent forms ... Furies and Demon-wolves ... Ghouls and other things that ate of human flesh and drank of human blood; Harpies and bat-things" (p.307-308).
    • "It was a Dragon" (p.313).

    From these quotes taken from various points in the book, the picture is that faerie was real (in Brook's world), but became myth (as exists on Earth); that the creatures of that myth had various names and characteristics, nearly all (if not perhaps all) parallel those of Earth's myths about these faerie creatures.

  3. The description of the King of the Silver River parallels and even names elements from Earth's Bible, in the account of Genesis specifically, and to some extent broadly the Bible as a whole (bolded below):

    • "Before time became time recorded, he [the King of the Silver River, see p.117] was there. Before men and women, before nations and governments, before all the history of humankind, he was there. ... He was there in that time when the world was a sacred Eden and all living things existed together in peace and harmony" (p.115).
    • "He lived within gardens that had been given over into his keeping" (p.115).
    • "He was to become the last remnant of that fabled time that was the world in its inception, the last remnant of peace and harmony, of beauty and light that was the Eden of life" (p.116).
    • "He was to become for a world fallen from grace a small reminder of what had been lost. He was to become as well the promise that all that had once been might one day come again. In the beginning, he had not comprehended this. There was only shock and dismay at discovering that the world was changing, its beauty fading, its light dying—that all that had been so filled with peace and harmony was to be lost. Soon his gardens were all that remained." (p.116).

    I believe the more obvious parallels have been noted. Those that relate the Genesis account of the beginnings of the world, the state of that beginning, the fall from that state and its effects on the world, the hope for a future still.


Three elements speak strong connection to "pre-apocalypse Earth" from The Elfstones of Shannara:

  1. Human history
  2. Faerie myths
  3. Biblical parallels

How "obvious" these are, I leave for each to decide.

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