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Shea_Ohmsford

Shea Ohmsford

Shea Ohmsford is a fictional character and the protagonist of Terry Brooks' epic fantasy novel The Sword of Shannara. In the novel, he is the last known person with the blood of Jerle Shannara, and therefore the only person who can wield the Sword of Shannara.

Background

Shea is half-Elven and the adopted son of the Ohmsfords of Shady Vale. He was born in a small Westland community. His father was an Elf and his mother was human. His father died before he left any lasting impressions on Shea. He remained in the Westland village with his mother, playing with Elves and living deep in the forest, until he was five years old. His mother took ill and she decided to journey to the Shady Vale where her remaining family were. Her illness took her shortly after they arrived, and her only relatives were distant cousins, the Ohmsfords. Curzad took in Shea and raised him. Shea took the name Ohmsford, not knowing or asking about his real last name. He lives in the Shady Vale inn with his adoptive father Curzad Ohmsford, who manages the inn, and Curzad's son, Flick Ohmsford.

Characteristics and Appearance

Being half-Elf, Shea possesses Elven features such as a slight build, pointed ears, eyebrows which go up his forehead at an angle, and a slim nose and jaw. He has tousled blond hair which somewhat hides the tips of his ears. He is a young man during the events of The Sword of Shannara although his exact age is not given.

The Sword of Shannara

Shady Vale

Allanon is led by Flick to the Shady Vale, where he reveals he came in search of Shea. Allanon begins to explain the history of the Four Lands to Shea when Flick appears. Allanon warns him that if he involves himself he will share Shea's fate, and Flick loyally agrees to stick by his brother. Allanon continues the history of the land and of Jerle Shannara wielding the Sword of Shannara to battle the evil druid Brona. He also tells Shea that he is the last of the bloodline from Jerle Shannara, the only person who can wield the Sword of Shannara. He warns Shea that Brona, now known as the Warlock Lord, is not dead, and will eventually search for Shea to eliminate the bloodline of Shannara. Allanon leaves the Vale in a hurry, leaving only a note and three magical blues stones called Elfstones. Allanon's note explains the use of the Elfstones, tells Shea to trust Balinor, and warns him to flee at the sign of the Skull to the Eastland city of Culhaven.

Flight to Culhaven

Another stranger appears in Shady Vale more than three weeks after Allanon left. It is Balinor, who urges Shea to flee Shady Vale. He explains that the Skull Bearers suspect he is in the valley and will be there within a day or two. They do not leave right away though, still doubting the tale of Balinor and Allanon. When a Skull Bearer shows up in the Vale, Flick and Shea realize they must flee. The Skull Bearer is close on their heels, but a lucky sunrise forces the creature to retreat. They manage to make it to Leah, where they reunite with their old friend, Prince Menion Leah. He agrees to guide them to Culhaven to find Allanon. Along the way, Shea uses the power of the Blue Elfstones to find their way out of the lowland of Clete into the Black Oaks. As they travel through the Black Oaks, they come dangerously close to the bordering Mist Marsh and are attacked by a large tentacled creature called a Mist Wraith, which lives under the swampy water. Shea again uses the Elfstones, this time to attack the creature. It was not likely to have been killed due to its enormous size, but they manage to retreat back into the Black Oaks. While walking through the misty haze of the Black Oaks, however, Shea and Flick became separated from Menion. Shea awakes in the open grasslands outside the Black Oaks with Flick sleeping nearby, but Menion is nowhere to be found. They follow the Silver River, which would lead them to Culhaven, until one night they both wake up to a Skull Bearer nearby. A mysterious light appears with no apparent source, luring the Skull Bearer away from them until it could no longer be seen. The source of the light was revealed to be the King of the Silver River. He assures them that they are safe and transports them all the way to the Anar mountains as they sleep. They are woken by Balinor and discover they have arrived at Culhaven

The Journey to Paranor

When they arrive at Culhaven, they find Allanon waiting. He calls together a council to discuss the possibility of hunting down the Sword of Shannara for use against the Warlock Lord. The decision is made to send a small party to Paranor, the last known location of the Sword, and track it down. The Warlock Lord and his force of Gnomes has taken the Druid keep and the Elves are in place around it to prevent the Gnomes from moving the Sword of Shannara from the keep. This party is comprised of Allanon, Shea, Flick, Menion, Prince Balinor Buckhannah of Callahorn, the Dwarf Hendel, and the Elven brothers Dayel and Durin Elessedil from the Westland. Along the way, while Allanon scouts ahead leaving cloth markers to lead them in the right direction, they are misled by a creature that removes the warning markers. By following the wrong route, they encounter the creature, a large monster made of flesh and metal. A fierce battle ensues, but finally the party is able to drive the creature off. Shea and Flick are both poisoned by the creature, and both fall unconscious before the end of the battle. The party has to act at once to save them, if Shea was lost then the entire journey was for nothing. The party manage to evade enemy Gnomes along the way and Allanon returns to the party along with benevolent Gnomes from Storlock. These Gnomes heal the wounded members of the party, including Shea and Flick who had been carried on stretchers the entire way following the battle. They continue on and visit the Hadeshorn where Allanon speaks with the Shade of Bremen. It predicts that a member of the company would be lost along the way to Paranor, yet that person would be the first to hold the Sword of Shannara. Shea feels a chill when the Shade points towards the group while making the prediction, indicating that he is likely to be that member. The company passes through the Hall of Kings, a dangerous underground passage that only Allanon is capable of leading them through. They make it to the other side and just start on a treacherous mountain path when a sudden tremor breaks away the section that Shea is standing on. He attempts to hang on to the side of the mountain but a second tremor throws him off completely. He flies into the river below and is swept away.

New Traveling Companions

Separated from the rest of his companions, he manages to make it out of the river only to be captured by Gnomes. Shortly thereafter, Panamon Creel and the Troll Keltset rescue him, with Panamon first taking the Elfstones from the Gnome leader, and then killing the entire party of Gnomes. Shea pleads with Panamon to give him back the Elfstones, but Panamon refuses, saying they will fetch a good price. Shea is free to leave, but he pursues Panamon, unwilling to part with the Elfstones, and convinces him to lead Shea to Paranor. Along the way they encounter the remains of a terrible battle between Elves and Gnomes. Panamon identifies the banner of Eventine Elessedil on the battle standard. Shea realizes that the battle must be related to their proximity to Paranor and his knowledge that the Elves were in place to prevent the Gnomes from removing the Sword of Shannara from Paranor. He accidentally reveals his knowledge of this to Panamon, but just as Panamon starts to interrogate Shea about it, a Skull Bearer attacks them. It insists it can detect the Sword of Shannara nearby, but suddenly it recognizes Keltset and says his name. Keltset quickly and fiercely attacks the creature, with Panamon assisting him. Both are still no match for it and Panamon is knocked unconscious by it. While Keltset struggles in vain to hold the creature back, Shea pleads with Panamon to give him the Elfstones. Panamon does so, unable to do much else. Shea immediately uses the Elfstones to kill the creature, much to the astonishment of Keltset and Panamon. For saving their lives, Panamon says the Elfstones are Shea's to keep, and vows to protect Shea with his skills as a swordsman if he is ever needed.

Shea finds the Sword

After the fight with the Skull Bearer, they discover a single Gnome hiding and Keltset quickly captures him. The Gnome, Orl Fane, is discovered to be a deserter to his people and was only in the area scavenging any valuables from the dead on the battlefield. He claims to be able to lead them to the Sword of Shannara, so they take him with them. He refuses to go without the valuables he has accumulated, some swords and knives but mostly what appeared to be junk. They take his bag of valuables with them and continue on their journey north. When they stop to camp for the night, Fane is tied to a tree well away from any weapons and gagged. He still manages to escape by chewing through his bindings. Shea notices that he left the bag of valuables, wondering why he left them after he refused to leave them before. He then notices that one of the swords is missing, one that they realize must have been the Sword of Shannara. The prediction of the Shade of Bremen had come true, as Shea had laid his hands on the Sword while first going through Fane's valuables.

Pursuit of Orl Fane

Furious at having been tricked and eluded by the wily Gnome, Panamon Creel insists they pursue him. Fane fled north, believing that possessing the Sword of Shannara would be the key to his return to his people. He made no attempt at hiding his trail so he was easily tracked by Shea, Panamon, and Keltset. They followed Fane into a black haze which soon surrounded them. They could do nothing but walk on, feeling more and more drowsy by the haze's effects. Shea realized he felt a burning sensation on his chest, caused by the Elfstones he kept in his tunic. He realized he was no longer walking but laying down next to Keltset and Panamon. The haze had almost killed the three of them, lulling them into a deadly sleep. They continued on, eventually breaking through the deadly haze and searched the ground to see if Orl Fane also made it out. They found his trail exiting the haze and continued after him. Shortly after regaining the Gnomes trail, a dangerous storm came towards them. Shea managed to spot the Gnome climbing up a far hill, almost to the summit. He tried to convince Panamon to keep going but Panamon insisted they find shelter from the storm. Shea ran after Fane anyway but Keltset caught him and carried him back to shelter. The three eventually make it to where Shea spotted Fane during the storm, but do not have a solid trail to follow. Eventually they do find his trail from only hours before, and the Gnome is clearly wandering aimlessly. With Orl Fane's recapture seeming to be close at hand, they continue the pursuit. Unfortunately, they stumble right on to a large band of giant Trolls. Keltset does not allow them to resist capture, however, so he appears to have betrayed Panamon and Shea.

Recovery of the Sword of Shannara

Shea and Panamon are to be brought to the Warlock Lord, as is the rule for all outsiders the Trolls find in the Northland. Keltset, having traveled with non-Trolls, is tried as a traitor by his own people. He reveals himself to be in possession of a sacred Troll award called the Black Irix. Just being in possession of this award means he cannot possibly be a traitor, and he reveals how the Warlock Lord murdered his entire family in his home city. Keltset convinces them to let him lead a group of Trolls to the Warlock Lord, where Shea can finally face him. The Trolls had found Orl Fane as well, still carrying the Sword of Shannara, and sent him to the Warlock Lord just before the capture of Shea and Panamon. Keltset leads the group of Trolls with Shea and Panamon, who appear to be tied up as prisoners. They come to the prison cell where Orl Fane is kept, still holding the Sword of Shannara. Even now he refuses to let go of the Sword, and Panamon is forced to knock the Gnome unconscious, unwilling to kill him even after vowing to do so before. Shea, with a little hesitation, finally grabs the handle of the Sword of Shannara and pulls it from its sheath.

Confrontation with the Warlock Lord

Now in possession of the Sword of Shannara, Shea must face the Sword's magic. It shows him truth, the truth about himself, about every mistake he has made and every time he has hurt someone. He realizes he must accept the truth, no matter how painful it might be. He then realizes that this magic is no match for that of the Warlock Lord, and feels frightened and vulnerable.

In the confrontation, the Warlock Lord attempted to overwhelm Shea's mind with fear, rationalizing that Shea would surrender and put the Sword down. He almost succeeded, but Allanon, who had been monitoring the confrontation from afar—he had not been able to get there in time—used telepathy to communicate to Shea, giving him strength. The Warlock Lord then sent Orl Fane after the Sword, but Fane could not lay his hands on the Sword. Finally Fane threw himself onto the blade and died. Shea realized that the Warlock Lord was not trying to take the Sword from Shea, he was trying to trick Shea into letting go of it. Shea realized that the Warlock Lord could not touch the Sword, and so he brought it to bear fully. The Warlock Lord could not stand the truth the Sword revealed, that his entire existence was a lie, that he should not exist. And so the Warlock Lord was finally destroyed.

Escape and Safety

With the Warlock Lord's destruction bringing on the destruction of his entire kingdom, Panamon Creel and Keltset the troll helped Shea to escape, at the cost of Keltset's life. Panamon then seemed to have injured his leg and insisted he stay behind to fight a Muten which had been following them. He promised Shea that they would meet again and walked towards the Muten to fight it. Shea kept running from the crumbling kingdom until he eventually stumbled upon Allanon, still clutching the Sword of Shannara in both hands.

When Shea had recovered some, he and Allanon had a talk about what had happened, about how Allanon withheld information about the Sword. Allanon explained that when Jerle Shannara wielded the Sword against Brona, he panicked when he encountered the Sword's magic, even though he had been told what to expect. That was why he did not tell Shea. Shea also realized that he no longer had the Blue Elfstones, that they had been lost when he fled the Warlock Lord's kingdom. Allanon dismisses his despair, saying they served their purpose. Allanon says goodbye to Shea, although Shea has already fallen back asleep.

The Journey Home

Shea insisted on leaving the Sword of Shannara at Callahorn, where it was set in a block of red marble. He returned to the Shady Vale with Flick and their lives seemed to have returned to normal. Some weeks later though, Shea still had not fully recovered from the experience. Curzad confronted Shea and reminded him of how he disappeared shortly after a stranger appeared last time and how he never demanded of Shea to know what happened. Still, he was worried that Shea would run off again now that another stranger had appeared. Shea and Flick were immediately worried for their safety and contemplated escaping. Curzad dismissed the notion and insisted that they talk to the stranger, that the three of them could surely outmatch a one-handed man. Shea immediately recognized the description of Panamon Creel, who had brought back the leather pouch containing the Blue Elfstones to Shea.

Shea's Later Years

Shea did become a father, although details of the mother are not known and she is not mentioned in The Elfstones of Shannara. She is known to be human as Shea was the only source of Elven blood in later Ohmsfords for some time after. It is not clear how many children Shea had, however. The parents of Wil Ohmsford, Shea's grandson, both died while Wil was still young. Shea lived to see Wil move to Storlock to train to be a healer, although in the events of the Elfstones, he had taken ill and was unable to visit him. Details of Shea's death are not known, but he was not alive during The Wishsong of Shannara where it was noted that he and Flick had both passed away and the Ohmsfords no longer managed the inn at Shady Vale.

Reception and author's notes

A major theme of The Sword of Shannara revolves around Shea. Part of his quest, in addition to killing the Warlock Lord, includes finding a belief in himself, so that he will have confidence to go on. This is a search that every subsequent Brooks protagonist must undergo.

Tom Shippey believed in his books that Shea is too familiar to those who had read The Lord of the Rings: he found that Shea and Flick were "analogues" for all the hobbits of Tolkien's stories. Terry Brooks, the author, disagreed slightly, saying in his autobiography only that "[his] protagonists [Shea and Flick] are cut from the same bolt of cloth as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins."

Sources

  • Brooks, Terry Sometimes The Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life. New York: Ballantine.
  • MacRae, Cathi Dunn Presenting Young Adult Fantasy Fiction. New York: Twayne Publishers.

References

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