Wessex Tales, Volume 1
STORIES FROM HISTORY, ADVENTURE and folklore transport readers into “eight thousand years in the life of an English village”. Many of these short stories are set in Dorset (Wessex), reflecting historical events in historical fiction. Time passes. From Stone Age hunters we move on to Viking raids, a twelfth century bard lost in dark woods, a medieval wedding, and the history of an ancient tree. Stone Age villagers get their first sight of a Bronze Age axe while their shaman tries to explain the nature of this very different ‘stone’. A work crew lifts the last stone on Stonehenge; a young smuggler leads pack-ponies cross country by night to evade army patrols; and a young soldier advances at the Battle of the Somme.
Historians of the Dark Ages call the year 871 “The Year of Nine Battles”. The main Viking army, the mikel here, attacked the southern counties’ defenders over and over that year. They were trying to break through the Britons’ lines to reach their supply-fleet waiting in Poole Harbour. Did they succeed?
Our story, ‘From the Wrath of the Norsemen’, finds Wessex levies conscripted into King Ethelred’s army. Ethelred, wounded at Wilton, dies at Wimborne, and his young brother, King Alfred, takes the throne. In historical fiction — as in historical fact — King Alfred and the Wessex levies hold back the Viking advance a few miles west of modern Salisbury.
~ Wessex Tales is a collection of stories, historical fiction in two volumes. ~
Buy Wessex Tales, Volume 1 …
Wessex Tales, Volume 2
VOLUME 2 CONTINUES the line in adventure, history and folklore stories set in Volume 1. Our stories’ key theme: ‘Eight thousand years in the life of an English village’. Discover dark woods in the Stone Age, ramparts of Iron Age hill forts cut around hilltops—the forts’ defenders slingers armed with fist-sized stones. And Dorset’s Blackmore Vale. Thomas Hardy called it the ‘vale of little dairies’. Dorset is magical, mystical, down-to-earth. In these Wessex Tales, our characters toil, poach game, reap crops, and venture as soldiers, carters and smugglers. Life perseveres in these tales, sometimes stranger than fiction, from the Stone Age to the aftermath of the First World War.
Buy Wessex Tales, Volume 2 …
- Amazon.co.uk — (Both vols. 5-stars on Amazon.co.uk)
- BookLocker (U.S/Can)
- Goodreads — (Vol. 1, 5-star; Vol.2, 4-star)
~ Wessex Tales is a collection of short stories , historical fiction in two volumes. ~
1. The new ‘Wessex Tales’ are described in
Readers write …
- ‘THESE NEW WESSEX TALES are all carefully researched, generally well-written and variably fascinating. [Thomas] Hardy would have approved of the sentiment of a number of them — particularly “A Short Walk in France” — a disturbingly frank account of the slaughter at the Somme, and British Army Commanders’ failure to learn the lessons of history.
’I would also particularly recommend “Called to Arms” about the Dorset Clubmen in the Civil War set in the summer of 1645, and “Lost and Found” set in Sturminster Magistrates’ Court in 1895.
‘These new Wessex Tales are Dorset stories, and generally ‘tales worth the telling’ — so I recommend them to the readers of the [Thomas Hardy Society Journal ].’
~ Anthony Fincham
Dr Fincham, a former President of the Thomas Hardy Society, is author of several books about Thomas Hardy, the writings and the man. The Thomas Hardy Society published the full review in its Journal (THSJ, Summer 2016, page 81-2).
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• David H. Keith reviews the ‘Wessex Tales’ story, ‘A Short Walk in France’:
‘A HARSH, SOBERING, AND COMPLETELY ACCURATE DESCRIPTION of combat that is reminiscent of ‘All’s Quiet on the Western Front’. Although set in 1916 France, it could very well have been anywhere from Stalingrad to Inchon, la Drang Valley, Baghdad, or anywhere in Afghanistan. … Five stars without hesitation and highly recommended reading for everyone.’
~ David H. Keith, former U.S. Army combat medic and paramedic.
(Posted on Smashwords.com)
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• “I LOVED ‘WESSEX TALES‘. These stories captured me immediately. [The author is] a painter with words.’ ~ Burke Brown, Toronto
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• “ … Thanks to Robert Fripp and the magical tales he’s woven around a little village known as Okeford, I now find myself walking through the ancient sites with my eyes wide open thinking about the people who settled here, well over eight thousand years ago.
I cannot pick out any story as being my favourite as each tale is as beautiful as the last, however, I think we owe a debt to Robert Fripp’s parents for buying him a canoe/kayak for his twelfth birthday. This canoe was his companion for the next “ten years and six months” as he explored the river Stour and became fascinated with the abundance of wildlife that lived in the area. This “messing about on the river” gave him these two volumes of stories that will hopefully inspire readers to put on their walking boots and take to the countryside in what was Wessex to create their very own Wessex Tales.”
“Treebeard, Poole, Dorset
Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of these books to review.”
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• THE WESSEX TALES BOOKS helped me make sense of the many streams of peoples migrating into England across the Dorset landscape on the ancient Ridgeway. These two volumes reflect the waves of belief and custom which not only helped propel the ones moving through this gateway shire to the lands beyond, but which buoyed the ones who stayed and managed to prosper, becoming so much a part of the inexorable nature of Dorset.
The way I learn about huge, overarching things is to take in the small details first. So I loved the how-to description of spider-web building in the tale Bonds of Silk, set some 2500 years ago. The story springs a trap, suddenly offering the main character’s own life of servitude in parallel to the ineffectually struggling fly in an exquisite and deliberately-structured web.
The Face in the Floor, about laying Christ’s face in a Roman mosaic, got me thinking about how we fill the gaps between one set of gods and the next. What tips the scales of political and economic necessity–and of spiritual necessity, too?
And the epic story of building Stonehenge—In the Land of the Great Stone Rings—helped put this extraordinary feat of skill, strength, determination and brilliant resourcing into a social context. It is a story so astonishing that no one could have invented anything more outlandish than the reality we can still visit and contemplate today.
I found the writing informative, detailed and tender; suited to the quietly heroic spans of time and worlds that pass through the eye of England’s ancient entry-way, Dorset. Also: there are maps! Hooray. Delightful and moving, both.
~ C.S. Jonas, Toronto, ON
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• ‘THE AMERICAN MAGAZINE IN EUROPE’ reviews ‘WESSEX TALES‘ …
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Read some of my Wessex Tales — free — in electronic formats
Find nine Wessex Tales stories online here. Download them free from Smashwords in your preferred format.
Wessex Tales: “A Short Walk in France” (Story 30) by Robert Fripp
Published: March 21, 2013
It was early September, 1916, when Jack Okeford and his regiment scraped off the mud of trenches near Arras and marched south, smiling in their hearts for the glorious summer afforded by French countryside. For one brief interlude this might have been a time of tranquil peace; they saw little of war on the open road. Read this story on Smashwords …
Wessex Tales: “The Dorset Ooser Dines” (Story 26) by Robert Fripp
Published: February 20, 2013
In the village of Child Okeford a ‘Bull’ or ‘Ooser’ used to show up uninvited at Christmas festivities, causing mayhem. One guest at his manor’s annual ball sees an opportunity to make a good match for his daughter. He pays the Ooser to carry her off. Rescued by her otherwise timid suitor, the girl’s future is assured. Read this story on Smashwords ...
Wessex Tales: “Crossing” (Story 31) by Robert Fripp
Published: January 28, 2013
Long ago, the ancient lady in the darkened bed had been the first white woman to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Or had she been the first to walk around it? Whatever the truth, that legend from her lifetime would soon die with her. Unconscious on her deathbed, scenes from her life run through her head while caregivers chatter around her.  Read this story…
Wessex Tales: “For Viviana’s Wedding” (Story 16) by Robert Fripp
Published: January 22, 2013
Viviana de Eskelling was the last of the Norman Schelins. Her family had held Okeford for 200 years. A single woman (a woman sole) was disadvantaged in law. So in 1287 Viviana married Bartholomew Turberville. (Thomas Hardy tweaked ‘Turberville’ into ‘D’Urberville’.) In Okeford, villagers prepare for their lady’s wedding. Read this story…
Wessex Tales: “Schelin’s Daughter” (Story 14) by Robert Fripp
Published: January 19, 2013
The Norman knight Schelin (from whom the village of Shilling Okeford or Shillingstone takes its name) was awarded the manor of Okeford for his service to King William at the Battle of Hastings. Schelin holds the richest agricultural land in Dorset, but he still has a problem. His daughter would rather get herself to a nunnery than marry well. A Saxon wise woman’s potions are called for. (c.1085) Read this story…
Wessex Tales: “Julia” (Story 11) by Robert Fripp
Published: January 18, 2013
This story in the “Wessex Tales” collection—”Julia” (Story 11)—is sequel to “The Face in the Floor” (Story 10). It was Julia’s parents who commissioned their villa’s magnificent mosaic floor in the previous tale; as a child, she watched the master-mosaicist lay it. As “Julia” begins, Julia is a young woman angry at life, angrier at expectations, and resisting marriage. (circa 335) Read this story…
Wessex Tales: “The Face in the Floor” (Story 10) by Robert Fripp
Published: January 17, 2013
The earliest known mosaic floor to depict Christ was laid in a remote Roman villa in Dorset around 325 CE. (Discovered under meadow grass in 1963 it was moved to the British Museum.) The larger end of this mosaic measures 17 feet by 15, the smaller end, 16½ feet by 8. Why lay this magnificent floor in rustic Dorset? “The Face in the Floor” gives the origins of this floor an imaginative history. Read this story…
Wessex Tales: “In the land of the great stone rings” (Story 5) by Robert Fripp
Published: January 17, 2013
Turig, a Bronze Age farmer, tells his grandson how he had been drafted for labor service decades before. The work was long and dangerous but his supervisor’s flirtatious daughter presented the larger threat. Two years later, Turig helped lift the last sarsen stone onto a structure we know as Stonehenge. Read this story…
Wessex Tales: “The Infant and the Hare” (Story 1) by Robert Fripp
Published: January 17, 2013
The Infant and the Hare” is the first, earliest story in Fripp’s new collection, “Wessex Tales: eight thousand years in the life of an English village.” Stone Age hunters make camp on Okeford Hill. As dawn breaks the men go hunting while a woman gives birth. And the end? In an age when human beliefs were much different than ours, the end is mystical. Read this story…
Just for fun, my ‘Wessex Tales’ beer mat …
… and, Images of Dorset,
a gallery of photos from the county, copyright © 1998–2006 by John Allen.
Keywords for this ‘Wessex Tales’ page: vikings history fiction short stories adventure oaks thread time travel folklore village life bard stone age dorset wessex tales bronze age dark woods king Alfred battle of the somme smuggler historical event medieval times history of England English village ancient tree