Elfstones of Shannara to be made into a television show. Good news or Bad?

(Frequent commenter, legendary HeroMachine creator, and Forum moderator Kaldath was kind enough to write up the following article today. Be sure to thank him in the comments! — Jeff)

Kaldath - Today I saw within my newsfeed on facebook and update from the Terry Brooks Facebook fan page that really surprised me. Apparently Hollywood is interesting in turning the Shannara novels into a TV series, especially the “Elfstones of Shannara” title. Oh how I remember picking up my first every fantasy novel, which was “The Sword of Shannara” which was the first book I ever read by choice and not because I was being made to by one of my English teachers to write a book report on!

“The Sword of Shannara” hooked me on reading. The rich fantasy world of Shea Ohmsford, his brother Flick, their friend Menion Leah, the Towering Druid Allanon, and so many other facets of the story brought me hours of pleasure. I lost myself in the struggles of these characters, in their fight against the dark forces out to destroy them, and I absolutely loved that book. That love carried over to nearly all the other books in the Shannara series including the one being groomed for the little screen “The Elfstones of Shannara”. In this book the Son of Shea Ohmsford, Will Ohmsford, is tasked by Allanon to protect the elven princess Amberle Elessedil on her quest to restore the dying Ellcrys which is the Elven tree of life. The Ellcrys guards not only the Elves but all life from a horde of evil demons which the tree locks safely away from the world, and has done so for thousands of years before it began to fail.

When I saw they were making a book out of one of my most beloved fantasy novel series, my first response was one of joy. I would dearly love to see these characters in action on my television, but then I remembered another book series I loved which was turned into a TV series. “The Legend of the Seeker” based on the Sword of Truth Series written by Terry Goodkind was some of the most god-awful television I have ever had the misfortune to lay eyes on. The thought that the the Shannara series could be ruined the same way as the Sword of Truth was sickens me. We all know how hard it is to translate the written medium to live action, especially that of a fantasy world full of magic and dark beings, and while I am certain there is potential for some great TV to come out of this I somehow have my doubts.

What about you? What are your thoughts on “The Elfstones of Shannara” appearing on TV? Do you think it a good thing or does the thought fill you with dread of another ruined memory?

20 Responses to Elfstones of Shannara to be made into a television show. Good news or Bad?

  1. This is my first effort at public writing at this, so please forgive some of the glaring errors I made and missed when writing and re-reading it!!

  2. Anything to do with that third-string wannabe Tolkien is suitable only for Saturday Morning Television. I tried to read the first of his totally unoriginal tomes and I swear I could hear the eight-sided dice rattling whenever one of his stolen characters had a decision to make. That such trash became popular just showed how DESPERATE people were for the long-neglected High Fantasy that D&D made popular again. You may have fond memories of your first book, but remember what an impressionable age you were at the time, and how everything changed after you hit puberty… Besides, remember what television has done to Robin Hood, Conan and Hercules! Brrrr, I need a drink after that thought…

  3. Nothing personal, Kaldath, your writing is excellent. I just hold Terry Brooks in contempt as deep as Jeff feels about Liefeld. Read C. J. Cherryh or Andre Norton, not a rehash of somebody else’s much better work, even if it is comfortingly familiar. Thanks for the oppurtunity to vent.

  4. Skybandit:
    Nothing personal, Kaldath, your writing is excellent.I just hold Terry Brooks in contempt as deep as Jeff feels about Liefeld.Read C. J. Cherryh or Andre Norton, not a rehash of somebody else’s much better work, even if it is comfortingly familiar.Thanks for the oppurtunity to vent.

    Have read Cherryh, and loved those books I have read thus far, Andre Norton is very hit and miss for me, like some hated others. Currently my Favorite Author is a tie between Mercedes Lackey for her Valdamer series, and L.E. Modesitt Jr. for the Saga of Recluse and the Spellsong Cycle. …… Interesting enough I have to Honestly say that I can’t read Tolkien. His stories are apparently great as proven by the movie which many people say was very true to the books however when I say down to read his work I just couldn’t force myself to make it through. The writting seemed as if it was written for a childerns book! Barely made it through the Hobbit and only 3 or 4 chapters into the first book of Lord of the Rings.

  5. I enjoyed Brooks’ early efforts, especially the original Shannara trilogy. Anything in the last 20 years or so… not so much. If they actually do go forward and attempt a TV show (which doesn’t sound as unlikely as it once did, thanks to Game of Thrones), I’ll watch it.

    And yes, Legend of the Seeker was putrid. But then so was its source material, The Sword of Misogyny series.

  6. I enjoyed Legend of the Seeker. Maybe it was because I didn’t read the books.

  7. It will probably be bad, yes, although it doesn’t need to be (I was pleasantly surprised by the Game of Thrones TV show)

    Kaldath: Interesting enough I have to Honestly say that I can’t read Tolkien. His stories are apparently great as proven by the movie which many people say was very true to the books however when I say down to read his work I just couldn’t force myself to make it through. The writting seemed as if it was written for a childerns book! Barely made it through the Hobbit and only 3 or 4 chapters into the first book of Lord of the Rings.

    That’s because it was! At first, at least, The Hobbit, IIRC, began as tales told to his son.
    As for LotR, the beginning was impalatable to me too, the first time, it is only thereafter that nostalgia made me appreciate it.

    But the movies? Aaargh!!! How to put it?
    The movies are good heroic fantasy movies. But, with the exception of the first one, they are crappy adaptations of the books.
    Not because of what he dropped because he hadn’t the time. I can understand that. Not because of the minor changes he had to make to retain a coherent story because of the dropped parts.
    But because of everything Peter Jackson added to make a low-fantasy novel a full CGI flick with hints of Carribean Pirates.

    And it could have been worse. The guy wanted a final fight between Aragorn and Sauron.
    I can forgive a guy not following the letter, so long as he follows the spirit. Jackson did neither.

    That’s not to say you can’t make good adaptations. Sin City was, IMO. Batman Begins too (although it didn’t follow the letter, with Batman being trained by the league of assassins, it certainly followed the spirit). Watchmen, in a way. But not LotR, despite being enjoyable in its own right.

    The Imp: And yes, Legend of the Seeker was putrid.But then so was its source material, The Sword of Misogyny series.

    Oh yes, thanks!!

    I had heard of the book as great, and rushed on it.
    I had a hard time finishing it, it was impalatable, and infuriating at times due to that. The bit with the… Well, the SM women working for Darken Ra’al (or however his name is written), and when our hero is tortured by one but conquers her… It reminded me of Gor.
    Couldn’t go through the next ones.

    Curiously, I find the TV show easier to watch, probably because its cheesy look allows me to take it as a parody or something not serious

  8. Translating a series of books for telvision can go either way. There are just so many factors that have to be covered. The qualitiy of the original source material, its adaptibility into another medium, the budget of the tv show, the qualitiy of the screen writing and of the directing, the talent of the actors etc. I guess that one can only wait and hope. Remember, HBO has done a good job so far of adapting George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” with the show “Game of Thrones.”

  9. I would probably feel less trepidation about this adaptation if I knew who going to be involved, or maybe even which network was interested in producing/airing it. Right now, there’s too little information.
    Having said, I have read Elfstones as well as others in the Shannara series, so I’d at least be interested in giving the first episode a look if and when it airs.

    And Kaldath, don’t worry, I thought you did a pretty decent job on your article.

  10. Kaldath: I have to Honestly say that I can’t read Tolkien. His stories are apparently great as proven by the movie which many people say was very true to the books however when I say down to read his work I just couldn’t force myself to make it through.

    That was EXACTLY my experience! I figured “The Hobbit” was just for practice, but the actual series was even worse! I managed to wade through C. S. Lewis, but just couldn’t do Tolkein. Besides, I’m NOT a fantasy sort of guy, I’m an SF person, and SF people wonder why they didn’t just get on the giant eagles, fly to Mount Doom and toss the ring in during the first book of the first book instead of all this walking about.

  11. Heyla!

    I won’t sugar coat this. The Shannara series was one of the most tedious and boring series I had ever read. I can’t even remember which ones I read…I tried to Purge the thought that I had even read the series…but they are still there…just buried deep. LOL!

    The TV version, might be a better “See” than read…it just all depends on how they write up the screenplay and who will be acting in it. The Actors have to carry the whole story and if they are not believable, then the series could very well be a very bad move.

    Mercedes Lackey is one of my fav authors. Her Heralds of Valdemar is just the tip of the iceburg of what she wrote. HoV started different series that are just as good. After reading the HoV series, the Last Herald Mage was and still is my favorite of the series. Oh, there is also Lackeys’ other books, the Diana Trigarde (Tregarde) series. That is most excellent.

    I did also read Cherryh, but I am thinking it may have been too “high” thinking for me…since I really didn’t understand the plots or storylines and it made it boring for me to read. Was Andre Norton the author of the Dragon of Pern series? I forget, since it has been a long while since I read them. Shadowrun series was also really good. I like the techy mixed in with the magickal. Interesting read. I’ve talked enough.

  12. Thundersong is right when Thunder says:
    The TV version, might be a better “See” than read…it just all depends on how they write up the screenplay and who will be acting in it.
    Take as Example Wonder Woman there have been for attempts at a series first a brief parody -esk version with Dianna Prince and her mother sitting in a house her mother mentions how quite it is tonight, while a jet is passing overhead. It was almost SO BAD IT WAS GOOD.

    The second was the pilot with Lindsey Wagner (?) in her wonder track suit- It was watchable but forgettable.

    The third is the Show with Linda Carter (Nuff Said!)

    And the forth was scrapped after the costume was released online, (Shiny and Cheep looking with BLUE BOOTS!) I read the plot summery that it was just plain bad, but we won’t know because it will NEVER see the light of day!

  13. Thundersong: Shadowrun series was also really good.I like the techy mixed in with the magickal.Interesting read.I’ve talked enough.

    You might be interested to know (if you don’t already!) that’s it’s based on the roleplaying game of the same name.

  14. Oh, btw… Although, due to my… character, the first thing I did was criticise… Thanks Kaldath for this post. It is interesting to know, and helps the site to live and to touch upon various things.

    Don’t let my (and others!) badmouthing of series you have liked stop you from doing this again in the future.

  15. KEric:
    Thundersong is right when Thunder says:
    The TV version, might be a better “See” than read…it just all depends on how they write up the screenplay and who will be acting in it.
    Take as Example Wonder Woman ……

    And the forth was scrapped after the costume was released online, (Shiny and Cheep looking with BLUE BOOTS!)I read the plot summery that it was just plain bad, but we won’t know because it will NEVER see the light of day!

    Actually if you search for it, you can download the pilot of that fourth attempt at a Wonder Woman series. I did, and I can tell you that the costume was the LEAST of it’s problems. Not respecting the character or its origins was the problem.

  16. Been a loooong time reader of the Shannara series too *Fist bump to Kaldath*

    I’m of mixed feelings regarding the prospect of a tv series. The Elfstones is a huge story, with massive battle scenes of elves vs. demons. Throw in Dragons, the giant eagles, Magic, and Trolls, I’d be afraid that a small screen budget couldn’t handle it. And it would be a crime if a lot of those big battles happened off screen. I think I’d rather see a movie made myself. But I’ll keep my hopes up, it sounds like Terry is maintaining some creative control over the process, so hopefully it’ll work out.

    Stee Jans and the Legion playing rabbit with the demon horde, the last stand at the Ellcrys. Need to be on screen, and done well.

    Anyone have a chance to pick up Wards of Faerie? Pretty good :)

  17. Readability is a highly personal thing. My Sister can’t get through Tolkien, but loves A Song Of Ice And Fire. I enjoy Tolkien, and barely made it through A Game Of Thrones, and left with no desire whatsoever to pick up the rest.

    As for the topic at hand… We really need to know which network were dealing with here.

  18. Worf: Actually if you search for it, you can download the pilot of that fourth attempt at a Wonder Woman series.I did, and I can tell you that the costume was the LEAST of it’s problems.Not respecting the character or its origins was the problem.

    Thank you for shaming me into watching it. It was from David E Kelley of Ally McBeal, Boston Legal and Harry’s Law fame. So it wound up being a pitifull cross over between Law Drama, a bad reality show and Wonder Woman. It proves what I said when I mentioned that I read a plot synopsis It is unwatchable to any WW fans.

  19. The elfstones is my favourite of the original Shannara trilogy, but unless they can get studio buy-in to put together a pretty incredible series, i give this television adaptation a thumbs-down.

    I re-read these books every few years, and recently re-read the Sword of Shannara. Yes… it’s very LOTR-esque. But that doesn’t make it bad. Like many on here have pointed out, some of the writing in the LOTR books is so impenetrable and boring; Brooks’ is more straightforward. And in fairness, while “The Sword” shares a lot of parallels with LOTR, I feel like “Elfstones” was a fairly original departure with a great story and a lot of promise as a movie. caveat – I’m not a fantasy connoisseur – I’ve only read LOTR trilogy and the first 8 Shannara books, so excuse my ignorance if the Elfstones is a blatant ripoff of something I don’t know about / haven’t read.

  20. Ok to everyone who likes Tolkien. It is ok to like other fantasy authors.
    And to those who actually study literature. There are no original stories. The are only a few different plot lines a story can follow. In the end what separates a good writer from a bad writer is the visuals that writer creates in your head. Brooks is a great writer who has developed immensely over the years. He creates characters that you care about and worlds you can visualize. He is not a deep and complicated craftsman because to be honest most people do not like that type of writing. Tolkien was hard to read but a great author. Brooks himself admits that The sword of Shannara was his homage to Tolkien so defending Tolkien is pointless.

    Elfstones highlights the differences between brooks and Tolkien. Plus the world you are seeing is not a fantastical world. It is our world 1000 years after we destroyed it. Which makes it ultra cool and different.
    This TV show could be awesome especially with Brooks producing.