Adventure, friendship, war, love, and creatures come together in MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles.
The mind behind this extraordinary world is none other than Terry Brooks. Since 1977, he has published dozens of novels and short stories dedicated to the Four Lands. And with a growing trend of books being turned into shows/movies, this world was ripe for the picking.
Fangirlish had a chance to sit down and talk with Terry Brooks about his experiences navigating this new territory, capturing his vision, and what we can look forward to when The Shannara Chronicles returns for Season 2.
To start off, no one was more surprised than Terry at MTV approaching him about adapting his novels.
For those who don’t know, the channel is notorious for its reality TV shows. But in the last couple years they’ve been reinventing themselves and going for dramas like Teen Wolf and Scream. The Shannara Chronicles was the next step in solidifying their place as a provider of quality content.
When talking about his decision he said, “It seemed out of character. But they made a strong commitment right from the beginning and they backed it up.”
Seeing your characters live and breathe on screen is a surreal experience that changes your appreciation for your work. For Terry, he came in with no preconceptions on what this adaptation would look like. This allowed him to fall in love all over again with his characters and eventually come to see this version of Wil, Amberle, and Eretria as his own.
“They captured the sense of what my world was like,” he said.
Even stepping on set blew Terry away and reaffirmed his decision that MTV was the right network.
“The sets were just astonishing,” he said. “I had this vision of a camera and thirty people. Maybe wandering around a field. And that we might have an indoor set with a drawing of a castle in the background. That was my vision for this.”
He continued by saying, “But then they built this tree, which in size and scope was the equivalent of Ellcrys tree, and they had built the Elven castle. Not just a little bit of it but they built the whole thing. And they had a tremendous amount of money spent on this and thought given to the design and so forth, so it felt like it was supposed to be. Seeing all that for the first time, and then going out and seeing how big this set was (they were shooting outdoors) and how many people were out there. I was completely blown away.”
Terry’s come to love the work that MTV has done so much that it was hard for him to pick a favorite scene when asked. It turned out to be a tie between the opening race (which wasn’t in the book but started the story off strong by showing Amberle’s determination to prove herself), Allanon and Wil finding the Codex, and Eretria pulling a fast one on Wil when they first met.
Adapting a book into a new medium often leads to unexpected changes, meant to reflect the shifting culture of a time or place. One of those notable differences from the books, was Eretria’s admittance that she was bisexual.
Being on MTV, a network known for not having a problem with LGBT representation, viewers weren’t really shocked by it. But surprisingly enough, mainly readers weren’t prepared for Eretria’s reveal. They felt like they had never experienced this in his writing. His immediate response was, “This is not new.”
Terry has written about LGBT couples in the Shannara books before but without the use of pronouns. So while a good portion of readers got it, many didn’t. They assumed it was a heterosexual relationship even though it wasn’t. Furthermore, Terry explained that it was okay that people thought that. It’s what makes writing interesting. Two people could be reading the same thing but interpret it in two completely different manners.
“I’ve always been about pushing barriers and seeing what I could do that would make people sit up and take notice.”
In the books, the romantic relationship in the Shannara books was strictly between (SPOILER ALERT) Wil and Eretria. Amberle wasn’t part of that at all. But when the producers came to Terry with an idea to shake things up and turn it into a love triangle, Terry was all for it.
“I think they did a good job with a lot of back and forth between the two women and Wil,” he said.
Wil, Eretria, and Amberle surpassed what we initially thought was going to be both women fighting over the half-elf as he looked on with those innocent eyes of his. No, they became a family. It didn’t matter at the end of the day that Wil’s affections lay with Amberle (for the season.) They all cared for one another and would brave the prophecy at each others side.
Since we’re on the trio, let’s talk Amberle.
She’s a tree, ladies and gentlemen. No if, ands, or buts. And her return, if it ever happens, has to make sense.
“You don’t want it to be the shower scene from Dallas,” Brooks said. “You want it to be believable. You want it to work in the context of the story. And you don’t want people shaking their heads and saying, ‘Well, that’s lame.’”
Poppy Drayton, the actress who played Amberle, can’t just come back because we miss her dearly. “That takes some effort,” Brooks said. “You can’t sacrifice yourself, as Amberle did, and then have her suddenly reappear alive just as if nothing had happened.”
If Amberle reappears, it will be in a manner that does not throw away her sacrifice, journey, or the real danger that she faced in season 1.
Then there’s Bandon. This original character never appeared in the books. And last we left off, the young and tragic man had made his way to Dagda Mor, his mind broken by what had been done to him.
According to Terry, it’s to be expected that he will return as a major antagonist in the upcoming season.
“He’s kind of a tragic figure,” he said. “I’m expecting that he’ll go through some further difficult periods where he is on one hand capable of great power and a short temper. But on the other hand he recognizes his weaknesses.”
But there’s still hope for the elf.
“Because he’s been caged and mistreated, and gone through all sorts of hell with the demon character, I expect to see him have regrets,” Brooks said. “And struggles with himself.”
If there’s anything I’ve learned from The Shannara Chronicles, it’s that there is hidden potential in even the smallest, most mistreated creatures. If Wil can rise up and learn about his heritage, if Eretria can set aside her Rover ways and become a hero, and if Amberle can sacrifice it all for the greater good, then Bandon can come back from this. He’s just a little lost at the moment. A little twisted.
With the support of Allanon, Wil, Eretria, and his love interest Catania, he can overcome this and come back to the side of light.
If Terry’s got faith in him, then so do we.
The season 1 DVD/Blu-Ray of The Shannara Chronicles is available now.
Allanon is by far my favorite. I love all the characters but Allanon’s character and all the druid lore that surrounds it is what drew me to both the books and the series. Hope to see more druid conflict to come. Pyria was a bonus, too. Unrequited Elf/Druid love anyone? YES!
I haven’t read the SHANNARA books, but the TV series hooked me from the very first episode. My favorite character is a tie between Allanon and Uncle Ander. I love how competent Allanon is… he knows everything! And it was great to see Ander (kindhearted and fun, but a bit of a joker without real responsibility) step up and pick up the mantle of leadership.