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Skull Bearer
Skull Bearers were fictional minor characters from two books of the Shannara series, First King of Shannara and The Sword of Shannara, epic fantasy[1] novels written by Terry Brooks. According to the fictional history the series, the Skull Bearers were Druids once upon a time, but they were subverted by the Ildatch along with Brona, who would later become the Warlock Lord. They "sacrificed their humanity"[2] to become "winged black destroyers";[2] but in doing this, they tied themselves to their master, the Warlock Lord, and became his "dread minion[s]". As a result, when he died as a result of Shea Ohmsford using the Sword of Shannara, the Skull Bearers were slain with him.

Role in the series Edit

Prior to and during First King of Shannara Edit

In lives long before First King of Shannara, Brona and his followers were Druids. They decided to experiment with magic, which was frowned upon by the Druids. Rather than stop, Brona and his followers left, taking a magical tome named the Ildatch with them. However, the Ildatch subverted them, causing Brona to morph into the Warlock Lord, a being with great psychic powers, including the power of telepathy. His most loyal followers were mutated into black monsters with wings, claws and great magical powers, including the ability to fire red bolts from their eyes and green fire from their hands. They acquired their name, "Skull Bearers", from the silver Skull-shaped pendants that they wore in their role as generals during the First War of the Races.

In First King of Shannara, the Skull Bearers served as scouts and emissaries for the Warlock Lord, and they a constant hazard to the Druid Bremen and his companions. One appeared at the beginning of First King, but it just missed Bremen and Kinson Ravenlock. A few were present during the sacking of Paranor and two took part in the massacre of almost every member of the royal family of the Elves, the Ballindarochs. Another two appear in the attempt to stop the acquisition of the Black Elfstone, but they were slain by Tay Trefenwyd when Tay used the Elfstones' magic.

No more Skull Bearers came until one appeared to Mareth, claiming that he was her father. However, Kinson was able to prove to her that it was a wolf in sheep's clothing; Mareth's magic then utterly obliterated it. When Jerle Shannara used the Sword of Shannara upon the Warlock Lord, all of the Skull Bearers were banished along with him.

The Sword of Shannara Edit

500 years later, the Skull Bearers returned along with the Warlock Lord. One almost found Flick, but Allanon saved him:

...the sky was suddenly blotted out by something huge and black that floated overhead and then passed from sight. A moment later it passed again, circling slowly without seeming to move, its shadow flanging ominously above the two hidden travelers as if preparing to fall upon them. A sudden feeling of terror raced through Flick's mind, trapping it in an iron web as it strained to flee the fearful madness penetrating inward. Something seemed to be reaching downward into his chest, slowly squeezing the air from his lungs, and he found himself gasping for breath. A vision passed sharply before him of a black image laced with red, of clawed hands and giant wings, of a thing so evil that its very existence threatened his frail life. For an instant the young man thought he would scream, but the hand of the stranger gripped his shoulder tightly, pulling him back from the precipice. Just as suddenly as it had appeared, the giant shadow was gone and the peaceful sky of the patched night was all that remained.[3]

Several of them were sent to hunt Shea Ohmsford and Allanon, but they were unable to kill the heroes, despite one finding Shea and Flick alone (dawn came, and it had to leave) and another took Allanon by surprise in the furnace of Paranor. Yet another attacked Keltset, Panamon Creel and Shea in the fields of Streleheim. A third flew over Tyrsis on the final day of the battle, but it was killed, along with the rest of the Skull Bearers, when Brona fell to the Shea and the Sword of Shannara.[4]

Critical Reception Edit

Reviewers and critics had mixed opinions on the Skull Bearers. Praise for them came from Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, who also liked all of the "monsters" in The Sword of Shannara. He said that "[Terry] Brooks creates distillations of horror that hark back to childhood's shadows, when the most important thing about a fearful creature was that you didn't know its exact shape and intent. You only knew that it wanted you. The black-winged skull bearer, for instance, is more than a euphemism for death."[5] Tom Shippey wasn't so positive, as he thought that the Skull Bearers were very familiar to those who had read The Lord of the Rings: he found that the Skull Bearers were "analogues" for the Nazgûl.[6]

Sources Edit

References Edit

  1. {Speakman, Shawn (2008). "Terry Brooks' official website". Retrieved on 2008-09-18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 MacRae, Cathi Dunn (1998). Presenting Young Adult Fantasy Fiction. New York: Twayne Publishers. p. 74. ISBN 0-8057-8220-6.
  3. Terry Brooks (1977). The Sword of Shannara, Chapter One.
  4. Gong, Minnie (2007). "The Sword of Shannara Timeline". The Shannara Files. Retrieved on 2008-05-15.
  5. Herbert, Frank (1977). "Some Author, Some Tolkien". The New York Times Book Review (April 10, 1977): 15.
  6. Shippey, Tom (2001). J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. London: HarperCollins. pp. 319–320.


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