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Literature / Lorna Doone

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Written by R. D. Blackmore in 1869, Lorna Doone is the tale of John Ridds, an English freeholder in The West Country who falls in love with Lorna Doone, a woman from the family who killed his father. John is torn between his love for Lorna and desire for revenge on her family. Regarded as a classic of British Victorian literature, it has been adapted into no less than seven films and television series, the most recent of which was released in 2000 and featured future Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen, a young James McAvoy, and an even younger Jesse Spencer.


The book provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A Minor Kidroduction: John begins his tale as a boy at school, before he is summoned home due to the murder of his father. His first meeting with Lorna also occurs a couple of years after this when the two are still children. Following this, the novel then skips ahead a few years to when both have reached maturity.
  • Bandit Clan: The Doones.
  • Charles II: The book is set during the later years of his reign (1672-1685), and the brief reign of his brother James II (1685-1688); the rebellion of Charles' illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth against James, in which Tom Faggus gets caught up, is an important plot point, and John is knighted by King James. The legendary bawdiness of the Restoration period is rather subverted in the book (which, being written in the Victorian era, would have soft-pedaled it anyway); the main setting is among the quiet, church-going farmers of the Exmoor area.
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  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • First Girl Wins
  • Foil:
    • John Ridd and Carver Doone. Both are large, powerfully-built men not unfamiliar with violence, but while John channels his violence into wrestling and outside of this maintains a modest and humble life, Carver is a ruthless and violent sociopath.
    • The Doones in general are contrasted with Tom Faggus. Both are outlaws with a reckless streak and a taste for action, but while the Doones are cruel, unnecessarily and indiscriminately violent and cause the locals to live in fear, Tom is respected and admired by almost all because he acts a Robin Hood figure towards the locals, keeps the violence to a minimum, and only targets those he feels have done something to justify it.
  • Gentle Giant: Played with; John is a very tall, powerfully-built man, and is established to enjoy wrestling as a sport. However, it's clearly established that it is just a sport for him, and for the most part he has a very calm, mild temper, allows insults and the patronising that he receives from others to roll off his back, and treats his beloved Lorna very gently.
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  • Gentleman Thief: Tom Faggus, a cousin of the Ridds' who eventually falls in love with and marries John's sister Annie.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Numerous jokes are made throughout the book about John's huge size, including several gently teasing remarks by Lorna herself.
  • Humble Hero: Several layers; John is generally rather modest and self-effacing, inclined to downplay his intelligence, abilities and accomplishments, and generally prefers the life of a simple farmer to the many grand plots, schemes and adventures he finds himself involved in. However, he is also keenly aware of the class gulf between himself and the high-born Lorna.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: Chapter titles fall into this, leading to the Spoiler Title below.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Not (usually) deliberate on John's part (though sometimes he may protest too much), but many people who interact with him take him to be a very simple and dull fellow, interested only in wrestling and farming. He is smart enough to be aware when those around him are being condescending towards him, however, and does not especially appreciate it (though his general humility generally leads him to refrain from commenting).
  • Only Sane Man: John comes off as this when he comments on the complicated political and legal maneuvering both in London and concerning the Doones.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The 'glass' necklace, which is in fact a very valuable diamond necklace which had originally belonged to Lorna's mother.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Doones have a certain amount of this, under Sir Ensor's leadership at least. They're wild and inclined to take whatever they want from the locals, but they do realise that there are some limits to what they can get away with, because ultimately for all their pretensions to their former aristocracy they're essentially just glorified bandits with no real legal standing. If they push things too fair their allies in the local aristocracy and administration will abandon them, the locals — who outnumber them — will rise up against them in outrage or summon the King's armies who would pose a real threat to them. Ergo, while they're justly feared by the locals they do try to keep the needless atrocities to a minimum and are willing to offer some recompense, or at least not push things too far. The Counsellor, Carver's father and Ensor's son, in particular tries to present the appearance of being a reasonable and just person. Unfortunately for them, once Sir Ensor dies the Doone inheritance passes to the more reckless and wild Carver, who gradually escalates matters until a raid on a farm where a toddler is killed needlessly and cruelly causes sufficient outrage among the locals to lead to a raid which destroys the Doone clan almost entirely.
  • Public Domain Character: The novel interweaves Blackmore's original story and characters with several local historical legends which may or may not be based on real history.
    • Though any ongoing fame he continues to enjoy in the wider world is largely through this book, Tom Faggus is actually heavily based on a legendary highwayman who is said to have operated in Exmoor around the time that the novel is set and is something of a local myth al la Robin Hood. He enjoys a happier ending than the mythic figure, who according to legend was betrayed and hung; here, he eventually settles down into married life with Annie.
    • The events of the latter chapters where Lorna is shot by Carver Doone at her wedding are based on a real incident. Blackmore gives Lorna a happier ending than the real woman, however, who died from her injuries.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The Doones. One of the chief reasons they're able to maintain their reign of terror over Exmoor for so long is their connections with (and influence over) the local aristocracy, judiciary and government officials.
  • Secondary Character Title
  • Shipper on Deck: John's mother, regarding him and Sally until he tells her the truth about his love for Lorna. His uncle regarding John and Ruth Huckaback. His sister, regarding John and Lorna.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Both John and Lorna, though John admits that, if he'd never known Lorna, he could have married Ruth Huckaback.
  • Spoiler Title: The chapter called "Blood on the Altar" gives a pretty good indication that something bad is going to happen at John and Lorna's wedding.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: For at least two thirds of the book.
  • Take That!: The book is absolutely crammed with cracks and slighting references about lawyers and the legal profession. Hilarious in Hindsight, and also qualifies as Self-Deprecation, because the author, R. D. Blackmore, was himself a lawyer (though unable to practice due to his epilepsy).
  • Technology Marches On: Invoked for the purposes of a meta-joke. At one point, elder Tom pauses in his reflections to marvel at the state of (then)-contemporary roads, which when combined with the new-fangled "stagge-waggons" are capable of transporting people in perfect safety and comfort for a distance of 40 miles per day! This would have provoked an amused chuckle from the reader in 1869, who by that point enjoyed the luxury of an extensive cross-country railway network capable of transporting people and goods that same distance per hour, if not quicker. To say nothing of the modern reader, who is equipped with a range of even faster transport options to the point where, in some places in Britain, 40mph is not even the maximum speed limit.
  • The Highwayman: Tom Faggus.
  • The West Country: Nearly the entire book, except for a segment in London about two-thirds of the way through, takes place in the counties of Somerset and Devon.
  • Uptown Girl: When we first meet her, Lorna is introduced as a relation of the aristocratic, if criminal, Doone clan. It turns out that she's the daughter of a young Scottish nobleman who was set upon and killed, along with his wife, by the Doones, who kidnapped the infant Lorna and raised her as one of their own. After she escapes the Doones with John's help, she's located by a rich relative, who brings her to London. John visits her there and foils an attempted robbery on said relative, which results in his knighting by King James II.
  • Wedding Smashers: John and Lorna's wedding is interrupted by Carver Doone shooting Lorna.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Averted!
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: If John had just shot Carver, Carver wouldn't have shot and very nearly killed Lorna at her wedding to John.
  • You Killed My Father: The incident that sets the whole plot of the book in motion. John's father is murdered while resisting a robbery led by Carver Doone, and while John is on his way back to the family homestead from public school after learning of the tragedy, he sees Lorna (as a child) for the first time.


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