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So, I recently saw the Shannara Chronicles trailer, and several points in it got me thinking.

1.) We see what looks to be the Space Needle from Seattle lying lopsided in ruins(15 seconds into the video).

2.) There's the ruin of what looks like an oil tanker(1:26 into the video).

That got me thinking: Is the Shannara world a post-apocalyptic version of today's world?

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    Spoilers, but... yes.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 14:55
  • @Omegacron: Is this ever explained in the books? I admit, the last series I'd read was the Voyage series.
    – PiousVenom
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 14:58
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    Yes, MichaelEdenfield's answer is correct. The Genesis of Shannara trilogy shows how the post-apocalypse world started turning into the Four Lands.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 16:35
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    I've only read the original trilogy, and I thought it was pretty clear coming out of even Sword that this was the case.
    – Paul
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 11:09

3 Answers 3

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This is a massive spoiler for at least 4 different series of novels, so you might want to stop reading after this, but: yes. (And you see the entire thing unfold, sort-of.)


When originally published, the Sword of Shannara and it's sequels appeared to take place in a completely fictional world. However, with the most recent publication of the Genesis of Shannara series, it becomes clear that Shannara is our world, after a terrible apocalypse.

Chronologically, the story begins with the series Word and Void novels, which take place in the midwestern United States in more-or-less present day. Those novels were published in the late 1990s, much later than the original Shannara books, and don't seem to have anything in common with the Shannara world.

However, in 2006, the Genesis of Shannara series was published, picks up about a hundred years after the final book in the Word and Void series (putting it right around 2100 on our calendar). In that series, several characters from the Word and Void novels either appeared or were mentioned. At this point, the Demons of the Void are trying to bring about a world-wide apocalypse. This causes the creatures of Faerie to emerge from hiding, including the Elves and their Elfstones. What's left of the human and Faerie population eventually find refuge to wait out the ongoing destruction.

The most recent series, the Legends of Shannara, picks up ~500 years later, with the refugees emerging into the world. It's still a transitional period -- I don't think the Druids have emerged yet, for example, but it's clearly the beginnings of what would eventually become that world.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara series takes place about 450 years after The Sword of Shannara; in the novel Antrax, one of the few remaining Druids rediscovers a bunker containing a bunch of "old world" technology left over from the war, including what is obvious an AI.

The majority of the novels take place in the Pacific Northwest (this is made clear in the Genesis series -- they're in the Columbia River basin) which will eventually become known as the Four Lands. It's not clear just how badly the geography is messed up, but there are some hints about familiar places:

  • There is a volcanic region, Morrowindl, found the west of the Four Lands, which Terry Brooks has basically admitted is Hawaii (which must have moved quite a ways North during the cataclysm)
  • There is a vast ocean (called the Blue Divide), also to the west, that is almost certainly the Pacific Ocean.
  • Across the Blue Divide is the land of Parkasia -- modern day Asia.
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    I've never read any but the original trilogy and the Heritage series, but it was absolutely clear at least from Heritage that this was a post-apocalyptic future: if not from our world, then from a very similar one. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 15:22
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    That is true, it was pretty obvious that some apocalypse had happened in that world, and Antrax very strongly implied that it was our world, but the Genesis trilogy made it official.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 15:28
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    Yeah, even in the original series, you got the feeling it was post-apoc on some world. I never read Antrax. :(
    – PiousVenom
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 16:37
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    I can't agree with your first paragraph. Sword was clearly post-apocalyptic, and while there was no canonical evidence that it was our own world, it was the most reasonable assumption. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 3:54
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    That's never a reasonable assumption in fantasy literature
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 20:39
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The show is now well into its first season with the 4th episode just released. So this shouldnt be considered as spoilers. The show very clearly show that this is indeed our world sometime in the future. The opening sequence shows skyscrapers being burned by a nuclear blast, and there are scattered pointers within the show, such as car wrecks etc, such definitely confirm this.

I read the first series of books as teenager in the 90s, and the hints that the Shannara world is indeed our world progressed from nothing to obvious. At first, there was no mention, then there were some hints that it may be a world similar to ours with tubes underground (subways), and then progressing to more or less explicitly stating that is indeed our world.

So to answer the question. Yes, definitely.

Read the books and enjoy the show. I enjoy it because of the nostalgia. Consider that it is targeted towards teenagers, and I am sure I myself would have enjoyed it more if I would have still been a teenager. Anyway, stay young at heart and enjoy the show.

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  • I believe that spoilers on here are considered valid for life. As many people get into things late. i.e. I didn't even know that this program existed for example would be interested in watching it. (not worried about the spoilers though as got the feeling it was set after our time from the few books in the series i read) Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 12:38
  • That is true. The question is whether the spoilers should be considered for The Shannara Chronicle TV show, or the Shannara world in general. Watching the opening credits sequence of the TV show leaves little doubt, while for the series of books I agree it may be a spoiler. I was only considering the point of spoilers with regards to the TV show. In this day and age, I think with all the information available on the Internet, you will be spoiled no matter what, unless you explicitly decide not to be. I think the question as formulated referred to the TV show.
    – Andy
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 12:46
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In Antrax, book two of the voyage of Jerle Shanarra, there is a super computer that was built by a race of ancient humans. The main premise of all of these books is to explain these things (from what I remember). Kinda when I fell of the shanarra bandwagon, so I didn't read many of them.

Source (and my memory): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antrax

Most distinctly remember the robot being in a huge torn up city, overgrown with vines and weeds and such.

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    This doesn't seem to answer the question. Is it Earth's future or just a generic post-apocalyptic future?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 0:38

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