Gnomes are one of the five main Races depicted in Terry Brooks' Shannara series. Like the Dwarves, the Trolls, and the Race of Man, Gnomes are descended from humans who survived the Great Wars. Their natural home is in parts of the Northland and Eastland, particularly in the northern parts of the Eastland where mountainous areas and the dense forests of the Upper Anar can be found. They are often in direct competition with Dwarves, who also claim the Eastland as their home but tend to be situated south of where Gnomes live.
Gnomes are distinguished by their short, twisted physiques, elongated limbs, and yellow skin.
Unlike Dwarves, whose human ancestors took shelter from the cataclysm of the Great Wars below ground, or Trolls, whose human ancestors survived the apocalypse above ground and were therefore directly exposed to the dangerous radiation unleashed at the time, Gnomes are the descendants of humans who found shelter in the dense forests.
The radiation caused these humans to adapt to a forest lifestyle. The mutant humans were initially known as the Spiders due to their elongated limbs and the way they moved. Generations later, the descendants of the Spiders became known as Gnomes. They were called Gnomes after the creatures of the same name from the Age of Faerie, due their resemblance to them.
Gnomes are clannish, tribal, and reclusive, and they do not organize themselves into conventional, settled communities, with the village of Storlock being an exception. They are united only under a Sedt, or chieftain, and they can be very warlike.
Gnomes are very superstitious, believing in omens and signs and harboring a healthy reverence and fear of the creatures within the Wolfsktaag Mountains, which are remnants of the old magic from the Age of Faerie.
Due to their size and build, Gnome warriors are typically light skirmishers and scouts. They also rode ponies in the Wars of the Races as light cavalry. With the invention of the airship, Gnome raiders took to using light, single-occupancy airships called flits to harry and bring down larger vessels.
The Spider Gnomes are a small group of Gnomes who live in Darklin Reach. They are more primitive than most Gnomes and bear an uncanny resemblance to spiders in the way they move. Superstitious in nature, they present sacrifices to the Werebeasts who live in certain areas around their village, especially Olden Moor. During the time of Par Ohmsford, Spider Gnomes were observed worshipping and serving individual Shadowen.
The Stors are a group of Gnome Healers based in the village of Storlock, whose legendary abilities make them the best Healers in the Four Lands. Unlike most Gnomes who are warlike and territorial, they are traditionally committed to a path of benevolent neutrality, though they often seem to maintain quiet alliances with certain powerful individuals such as the Druids Cogline and Allanon.
Stors wear white robes and are usually silent around outsiders to their order. Wil Ohmsford is thought to be the first person who was not a Gnome to study the healing arts under the Stors.
Storlock almost fell to the Northland army during the Second War of the Races when a roving Rock Troll platoon appeared at its gates. The Trolls were driven away by the magic of Mareth, an apprentice of the Druid Bremen.
Throughout history, the Stors have played an important role in aiding those who shaped the destiny of the Four Lands. For instance, they saved Shea Ohmsford from poison and healed the Druid Allanon after he had a near-fatal run-in with Demons.
Urdas are a people who are part Gnome, part Troll. According to the Tracker Horner Dees, "No one has ever been sure of the exact mix." They live deep in the Northland and are not found south of the Charnal Mountains. They are a highly insular people whom even Rock Trolls regard as primitive savages.
Urdas are small, squat people with yellow eyes, bony features, and hairy, gnarled limbs. They have thickly muscled bodies with short, powerful legs and long arms. Their appearance allows them to blend in easily into wooded areas and brushland, with only their short pants and weapons seeming to distinguish them from the brush. They are very tribal and superstitious, and although they are small, in large numbers they can be very dangerous.
Urda tribes consider Old World ruins such as Eldwist and Stridegate to be sacred ground and respond aggressively to incursions by outsiders into such territory. Their ancestral home is the valley known as the Inkrim, and they typically live in small fortified villages.
First Druid Council
After millennia, the Earth had more or less recovered from the cataclysm of the Great Wars. The population had been decimated, and except for the ruins of humankind's greatest cities and monuments, the world as everyone had known it had disappeared. Genetic mutation caused by radiation from the Great Wars brought about the appearance of new Races alongside the Race of Man. These mutant human races were named after the creatures from Man's ancient fairytales which they most closely resembled: Dwarves, Gnomes, and Trolls.
The surviving Elves also reemerged in the forests of the Westland, coming out from their magical concealment now that there was no longer a threat of being overrun by humanity or harmed by the Great Wars' aftereffects. However, they were greatly changed: No longer creatures of Faerie, they had evolved in the struggle to survive to become nearly identical to the other Races, with a shortened lifespan but an increased ability to give birth. As such, many believed that the Elves were merely another Race descended from humans.
Chaos ensued as the five Races each tried to declare their power over the other. Fearing that the mayhem would lead to the end for all living creatures, the Elf Galaphile brought together a group of learned and like-minded men and women from all the Races to form the first Council of Druids, a body of peacekeepers, historians, and scholars.
Under the order of the Druids, the known lands were divided up into the Four Lands, with roughly one territory for each race: Westland for the Elves, the Northland for the Trolls, the Eastland for the Dwarves, and the Southland for the Race of Man, with Gnome tribes scattered across the Northland and Eastland.
Wars of the Races
For a time the Druids' efforts to bring lasting peace and order to the land worked well. However, several powerful members of the Druid Order became convinced that magic, not science, should be the guiding force of the new world, and that it was their destiny as Elves and magic-wielders to shape the future of the Four Lands. These Elves left the Druids to form their own group, consisting of all Races and led by a Druid named Brona, who took with him the Ildatch, a book of unparalleled evil power that originated in the Age of Faerie.
Brona, who had become known as the Warlock Lord, orchestrated a rebellion against the Druids by recruiting people from the Race of Man to wage war against the Order. Attacking out of the Southland, the Warlock Lord and his forces began a conflict that soon widened into what became known as the First War of the Races, with the Race of Man pitted against all the races that were supported by the Druids—mainly the Elves and the Dwarves, but also the Gnomes. Eventually, the combined power of the Druids and their allies crushed the Southland force and the Warlock Lord escaped to rebuild his legion, leaving the Race of Man to rebuild their shattered lives. The fallout of this war was the beginning of a deep distrust between Men and the other Races, and indirectly, this war led to the isolationist policy of the Federation, the primary governing body of the Southland.
When the Warlock Lord returned in the Second War of the Races, the tribal nature of the Rock Trolls, combined with their deep distrust of magic, made them easy victims for Skull Bearers. The ease with which Brona and his Skull Bearers subjugated the larger, fiercer and better organized Rock Trolls motivated the Gnomes to ally themselves with the Warlock Lord.
Unfortunately for the Gnomes, the Warlock Lord was beaten back and the war cost them countless lives. Later, the Gnomes of the Ravenshorn Mountains were subjugated and enslaved by the Mwellrets. They were forced to construct a mighty fortress called Graymark, an endeavor which cost many thousands of Gnome lives. The Caves of Night were used as a disposal bins for slaves the Mwellrets no longer needed.
The Mwellrets provided the Warlock Lord with a Mountain Gnome army in the Third War of the Races in exchange for being left alone as sovereign rulers of the Ravenshorn. About a century later, this pact was broken when the Mord Wraiths failed to honor the agreement between the Mwellrets and Brona. The Black Walkers seized Graymark for themselves, becoming new and even crueler rulers of the Gnomes, whom they used as soldiers in their quest to take over the Eastland and the Four Lands.
Gnome Border Wars
The Gnomes were constantly enmeshed in border skirmishes and feuds. The Gnome Border Wars of the Eastland raged for many centuries between Gnomes and Dwarves, who had to share the Eastland between them. The conflict eventually led to the Gnomes being driven into the Upper Anar and east of the Cillidelan during the time of the Second War of the Races.
Seventy years after the Third War of the Races, the added might of the Mord Wraiths gave the Gnomes the power to push farther into Dwarven territory than ever before. This advance was stopped once the Mord Wraiths were obliterated after Brin Ohmsford destroyed the Ildatch.
Gnome tribes also regularly led raids into the farmlands of the Southland.
When the Federation began to expand their reach and influence during the time of the Shadowen, the Gnomes fell in line, although a few tribes rebelled against this expansion.
Mutiny at Paranor
When a mutinous faction of Druids within the Third Druid Order overthrew their Ard Rhys Grianne Ohmsford, Gnomes troops supported their efforts. These troops were provided by Pyson Wence, a Gnome Druid who was part of the rebel faction. Later, when Grianne returned from the Forbidding to reclaim her rightful place, the Gnome troops were dispatched by a Rock Troll army marshaled under Kermadec, leader of the Druid Guard which had been banished from Paranor in the wake of the coup.
Changes Made for the TV Adaptation
- Both verbal descriptions and illustrations of Gnomes in the Shannara novels have always shown them to be fairly similar in appearance to the Race of Man aside from some minor differences in height, skin tone, and body shape. In The Shannara Chronicles, Gnomes are shown as looking quite different to other humans, with thick, roughened skin and deformed, exaggerated facial features.
- Although the Elven capital of Arborlon is in the Westland and Gnomes are mainly found in the Eastland and Northland, Gnomes in the TV series are shown to be conducting regular raids into Elven territory, culminating in an infiltration of the palace and the murder of Prince Aine Elessedil.
- In the TV series, Storlock is located only about a day away from Shady Vale, whereas in the novels it is many days away from the Duln Forests and the Vale.
Alphabetical List of Gnomes