Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Chapter 1; The end of school days

  • I am John Ridd, a farmer of the village of Oare in Somerset, and I have a story to tell you.

  • It is about some things that happened to me in my younger days.

  • On the 29th November 1673, when I was twelve years old, John Fry, a worker from our family’s farm,

  • came to collect me from my school at Tiverton.

  • He rode his horse up to the gate, leading my own little horse behind him.

  • He was two weeks early, so I knew something was wrong.

  • What are you doing here, John?’ I asked him.

  • It’s not the holidays yet.’

  • He would not look at me.

  • Oh, I know that, young Master Ridd.

  • But your mother has saved the best apples, and cooked some wonderful cakesall for you.’

  • And Father? How is Father?’ I said.

  • It was usually Father who came to collect me, and it was strange that John Fry hadn’t said anything about him.

  • Oh, he’s very busy on the farm just now,’ he said.

  • But John wasn’t his usual self, and I knew this was a lie.

  • When I had packed my bags and said goodbye to my friends, I got on my horse and we started the journey home.

  • It was a long journey from Tiverton to Oare, and in places the road was very bad.

  • John Fry still would not tell me why he had come to collect me, or answer my questions about Father.

  • He looked unhappy about something, but I tried to hope for the best, as boys always do.

  • On the hill at the end of Dulverton town, we saw a big coach with six horses.

  • In the front seat of the coach sat a foreign-looking woman, and next to her was a little dark-haired girl.

  • I could see from the girl’s soft skin that she was from a rich family, and I felt too shy to look at her more than once.

  • She didn’t look at me at all.

  • Opposite them sat a very beautiful lady, in fashionable clothes, and next to her was a little boy,

  • who was about two or three years old.

  • The woman in the front, I thought, must be the servant of the family.

  • I always remembered the family afterwards, because I had never seen people who were so grand, and so rich.

  • After Dulverton, the road got worse and worse, and soon we came into a very dangerous part of the country.

  • This was Exmoor, a place of high, wild hills and deep valleys,

  • and on Exmoor lived a family of robbers called the Doones.

  • Everyone was afraid of them.

  • They had robbed and murdered on Exmoor for many years, and had grown very strong.

  • Now it was getting dark, and a fog was coming down.

  • It was just the kind of night when the Doones would be outand we were coming near to the path that they always used.

  • I wanted to ride fast, and cross the Doone path as quickly as possible, but John Fry knew better.

  • Go slowly and quietly,’ he said, ‘if you want to see your home again.’

  • But when we came to the valley where the Doone path was, we heard the sound of horses.

  • Hide!’ said John, and we rode our horses off the path, and hid.

  • But I wanted to look at the Doones, and went up onto a hill above the path.

  • From there I saw a frightening sight.

  • Below me, moving quietly, were thirty horsemen.

  • They were heavy, strong men, like all the Doones, and they were dressed for battle, carrying guns.

  • Tied to their horses were all the things they had stolen.

  • Some had sheep or other animals.

  • But one man had a child across his horse – a little girl.

  • She had on a very expensive dress, and I thought it was probably for this that the Doones had stolen her.

  • I could not see whether she was alive or dead, but the sight of that child made me sad, and angry.

  • When we got home to the farm, my father did not come out to meet us, not even when the dogs ran up and made a lot of noise.

  • Perhaps he has visitors,’ I thought, ‘and is too busy to come out.’

  • But really I knew this was not true. I went away and hid.

  • I didn’t want anyone to tell me anything.

  • I heard my mother and sister crying when they came out to find me, but I could not look at them.

  • Later they told me everything; my father had been killed.

  • He had been murdered by the Doones.

  • It happened on his way back from the market at Porlock, on a Saturday evening.

  • He was riding with six other farmers, and the Doones stopped them and asked them for their money.

  • The other farmers passed their money over at once, but my father was brave.

  • He rode at them, waving his long stick above his head.

  • He managed to hit quite a few heads, but one Doone was waiting at the side of the road with a gun, and shot him.

  • Although we knew it was the Doones who had killed my father,

  • it was useless even to ask the local judges or law officers to do anything about it.

  • They were afraid of the robbers, tooor were even helping them.

  • The Doones did almost anything they wanted on Exmoor.

  • They were not local people.

  • They came from the north of England, where their leader, Sir Ensor Doone, had been a rich man, with a lot of land.

  • But he argued with his cousin, the Earl of Lorne, who had even more land,

  • and because of the trouble he caused, the King took away nearly everything that Sir Ensor owned.

  • A proud, angry man, Sir Ensor refused to make peace with his cousin, and without his land and farms he became very poor.

  • Then he found that people who had once been happy to know him now turned away from him.

  • After this, Sir Ensor lived his life outside the law.

  • With his wife and family and a few servants, he looked all over the country for a place to live,

  • where no one would know him, and he could start again.

  • He chose Exmoor, where few people live, and found the perfect place to build a new home.

  • This was the place we now call Doone valley.

  • It is a green valley far from any town, surrounded by steep, rocky mountains.

  • At first Sir Ensor lived peacefully, and the local people were friendly, even bringing him presents of food.

  • But as his sons grew older, they did not want to work as farmers,

  • and they began to take whatever they needed from the local farms and villages.

  • They carried off farmersdaughters to be their wives and give them sons,

  • and so over the years the Doone family became bigger and bigger.

  • They began as robbers, but robbery had quickly led to violence and murder.

  • The people of Exmoor were too afraid to fight back because the Doones were big, strong men and excellent fighters,

  • and now only soldiers could hope to break into their valley and defeat them.

  • So there was no punishment for my father’s murderer.

  • We buried him quietly, and my mother was left without a husband, to manage our farm and take care of her three children.

  • We were too young to be of much help to her yet.

  • I was the oldest, then there was Annie, two years younger than me, then little Lizzie.

  • For a while, I wanted revenge. I was strong, and growing stronger every day.

  • But my mother always calmed me down when I talked of revenge.

  • She did not want to lose me too, and I used to worry about what would happen to her and my sisters if I were killed.

  • We tried to get on with our lives, but we missed my father terribly.

  • Sometimes my mother and Annie would remember him and cry,

  • and sometimes John Fry saw me with tears in my eyeswhich I said was because of the cold wind.

  • Lizzie, though she was the cleverest of us all, was too young to really understand what had happened.

  • So the months passed. I learnt how to shoot with my father’s gun, and I worked hard on the farm to help my mother.

  • Chapter 2; A boy and a girl

  • Saint Valentine’s Day, 1675, was the day that changed my life for ever, though I did not know it then.

  • I was fourteen. My mother had been ill and was not eating very well,

  • so I went out to find something that she likedgood, fresh fish, caught from clear water.

  • I went first along the Lynn river that runs through our valley, then I turned into Bagworthy Water.

  • Though I knew that this river led to Doone valley, I did not think about it.

  • I went on catching fish and moving up the river,

  • then suddenly found myself standing at the bottom of the cliffs outside Doone valley.

  • In front of me was a waterfall, a steep hill of smooth, fast-moving water.

  • It was a wild, lonely place, surrounded by tall trees, and it was already getting late.

  • I knew I should turn for homebut I also wanted very much to see what was at the top of that waterfall.

  • It looked a dangerous climb, but if I did not climb it, I would always remember that I was too frightened to do it.

  • So I climbed. The water beat against my legs, once knocking me down so that I nearly drowned,

  • but I pulled myself up and went on.

  • When I reached the top at last, my arms and legs were aching and my feet were cut by the rocks.

  • I fell in the grass, exhausted.

  • When I opened my eyes, for a few seconds I didn’t know where I was.

  • But, kneeling beside me, touching my face with a leaf, was a very young girl.

  • Oh, I’m so glad,’ she whispered softly, as I sat up and looked at her.

  • Now youll try to be better, won’t you?’

  • I had never heard as sweet a sound as this girl’s voice,

  • nor seen anything as beautiful as the large dark eyes that watched me, full of care and wonder.

  • I stared at her without speaking, noticing her long, shining black hair.

  • What is your name?’ she said, ‘and how did you get here, and what have you got in your bag?’

  • Theyre fish for my mother,’ I said.

  • Very special fish. But I’ll give you some, if you like.’

  • Dear meyoure so proud of them, when theyre only fish!

  • But look at your feettheyre bleeding.

  • Let me tie something round them for you.’

  • Oh, I’m not worried about them,’ I said bravely.

  • My name’s John Ridd. What’s your name?’

  • Lorna Doone,’ she answered, in a soft voice, and looked down at the grass.

  • She seemed afraid of her own name.

  • Lorna Doone. Didn’t you know?’

  • I stood up and touched her hand, and tried to make her look at me, but she turned away.

  • I felt sorry for herand even more sorry when she started to cry.

  • Don’t cry,’ I said. ‘I’m sure youve never done any harm.

  • I’ll give you all my fish, Lorna, and catch some more for my mother.’

  • But she looked so sad, with the tears running down her face, that my heart ached for her and I gave her a kiss.

  • At once my face turned redhere was I, just a simple farmer’s boy,

  • but she, though young, was clearly a lady and far above me.

  • She turned her head away, and I felt I should go.

  • But I couldn’t. She turned back to look at me.

  • You must go,’ she said. ‘They will kill us if they find us together.

  • You have found a way up into the valley, which they could never believe.

  • You must go now, but when your feet are better, you can come and tell me how they are.’

  • She smiled at me, and I could see that she liked me.

  • We talked for a while longer, but then a shout came down the valley.

  • Lorna’s face changed from playfulness to fear.

  • We whispered our goodbyes, then Lorna ran away from me and lay in the grass, pretending to be asleep.

  • I hid behind some rocks, and saw twelve cruel-looking men come walking down the valley, looking for Lorna.

  • One of themthe biggest of them all, a man with a long black beardfound her.

  • Here she is,’ he said. ‘Here’s our little Queen.’

  • He picked her up and kissed her so hard that I heard him.

  • Then he put her on his shoulders, and carried her away.

  • But as she went up the valley on the back of this frightening man, Lorna turned and secretly held up her hand to me.

  • Now I had to find a way out of the valley and get home.

  • I almost broke my neck several times, climbing down the mountain, and I did not get home until long after dark.

  • My mother was angry with me, but I would not say where I had been.

  • After my adventure, I thought a lot about the strange little girl I had met in Doone valley.

  • But I never really imagined I would go back to the valley again.

  • So after a while I thought less about her, and got on with my work on the farm.

  • Chapter 3; Back to Doone valley

  • The months and the years went by, and I grew very tall and strong, as my father had been.

  • By the time I had finished growing, I was bigger than any man on Exmoor,

  • and could pick up John Fry with one hand and hold him in the airuntil he begged me to put him down.

  • My sister Annie grew more and more beautiful every year, with her wide blue eyes and soft brown hair.

  • She was so kind and so gentle that everyone loved to be with her,

  • and it is easy to understand why my mother’s cousin, Tom Faggus, fell in love with her.

  • Tom Faggus was someone that our family was both proud and ashamed of.

  • For a time he was one of the most famous robbers in England,

  • and people still tell the stories of his adventures all over the country.

  • He had been an honest farmer once, but a rich man had used the law to steal his farm,

  • and after that Tom took his revenge on all rich men he met on the roads.

  • Perhaps that was why he was so popular with the people, as he stole only from the rich,

  • gave generously to the poor and the sick, and never hurt anyone in his life.

  • While I was still a boy, he came to our farm one day, asking my mother for food and a bed for the night.

  • At first my mother told him to go away, fearing that we children would learn bad ways from him, but in the end she agreed.

  • You may be a bad man in some ways,’ she said to him,

  • but there are far worse than you. So come and sit by the fire, and eat whatever we can give you.’

  • Tom always had a smile and a good word for everybody, and was great fun to be with.

  • All the time he was with us, I saw Annie looking at him very kindly, and over the years we had many more visits from him.

  • As for Lizzie, I never thought anyone would fall in love with her!

  • She was small and thin, and perhaps a little too cleveryou never knew what she was going to say next.

  • But I should not talk in this way about my own sister.

  • My mother didn’t seem to grow any older, and was still pretty, and as good-hearted as ever.

  • She had never forgotten my father, and as the years went by, she still sometimes cried for him.

  • In all this time, if I thought of Lorna Doone at all, it was only as a kind of dream.

  • And the Doone men went on robbing and killing, just as they pleased.

  • Then one Christmas, when I was twenty-one, my Uncle Ben was robbed by the Doones on his way across Exmoor.

  • He had been coming to visit us, and when he didn’t arrive, my mother sent me out to look for him.

  • I found him on a high, lonely path, tied on to his horse with his nose to its tail.

  • He was very angry, and wanted revenge on the Doones.

  • He asked me to show him where they lived, so that he could learn the best way to attack themwhen the time was right’.

  • So a day or two later I took him up into the mountains that looked down on the valley.

  • I had not been back this way since I was fourteen, and on the way,

  • I thought of the girl I had met in this valleyof her lovely dark eyes, her sweet smile, her sadnessand her loneliness.

  • At the top of a steep cliff, we looked down into the long, green Doone valley.

  • At either end was a narrow gap in the mountain walls.

  • At the further end was the waterfall which I had climbed seven years before,

  • and at the other was what we called the Doone-gate.

  • This was two rocky cliffs facing each other, with only a narrow path between them.

  • It was like the gate of a castle, and it seemed impossible to break into the valley.

  • But Uncle Ben saw a way.

  • Do you see how you could attack them?’ he said.

  • If you put big guns along the cliffs on both sides, and fired down into the valley,

  • you could defeat the Doones in half an hour.’

  • But I was not listening to him.

  • I was looking across to the waterfall end of the valley,

  • and a little figure in white walking there, someone who walked with a very light step.

  • My heart began to beat more quickly, and the blood came to my face.

  • In seven years I had half-forgotten her, and she would never remember me, I thought.

  • But at that moment, once and for all, I saw my future in front of me; Lorna Doone.

  • On the way home I was quiet, and Uncle Ben asked me many times what was wrong with me.

  • But I could not tell him.

  • The truth was, I had decided to go back into Doone valley.

  • I waited until Saint Valentine’s daythe exact day when I had first entered the valley.

  • Again, I followed the river, and again I climbed the waterfall.