Duncton Wood and the subsequent novels in the series revolve around the moles that inhabit the United Kingdom. The mole communities (referred to as "Moledom") are anthropomorphically portrayed as intelligent societies with their own social organization, history and written form of communication. The extent of animal personification is not unlike that of Richard Adams' Watership Down, to which Horwood's series is often favourably compared, in that the moles are limited to the physical behaviours of their real-world burrow-dwelling counterparts, and neither wear clothing nor exhibit any special technological aptitude.
The central focus of the Duncton series is the Stone, a fictitious mole religion based on the standing stones and stone circles of Britain. As such, the novels are predominantly set in and around locales known for their megaliths, such as Avebury, Rollright and the titular Duncton.
In the course of the books, individual moles travel great distances quite quickly (Duncton Wood in Oxfordshire to Siabod in Wales and back again for example).
The Duncton Chronicles
The first volume, originally written as a standalone novel, tells the story of the romance between the Duncton moles Bracken and Rebecca as the long-held traditions surrounding the Duncton Stone recede under the rule of Rebecca's tyrannical father, Mandrake.
Almost a decade later, Horwood completed two directly related sequels that follow the events of the first, in which the central character is Bracken and Rebecca's son Tryfan. The second and third entries in the first trilogy (entitled "The Duncton Chronicles") depict a religious conflict between the Stone and an opposing crusading order known as the Word. In the midst of these events is the birth and martyrdom of the Stone Mole, a focal messianic Christ figure named Beechen.
The first trilogy consists of:
- Duncton Wood (1980)
- Duncton Quest (1988)
- Duncton Found (1989)
The Book of Silence
After the publication of Duncton Found, Horwood proceeded to write a single-volume sequel to the Duncton Chronicles trilogy set generations in the future, where the inhabitants of the now-flourishing Duncton system look upon the events of the past with reverence. By its completion, Duncton Tales evolved into the first volume of a second trilogy, entitled "The Book of Silence". The story tells of the archival librarian mole Privet and her adopted son Whillan as they face the rise of an inquisitorial cult that fashions itself the Newborns.
The second trilogy consists of:
- Duncton Tales (1991)
- Duncton Rising (1992)
- Duncton Stone (1993)
THE DUNCTON TRILOGIES
People often ask where Duncton Wood is and rather confusingly there is a real Duncton village in West Sussex, England. The fictional wood is based on two locations – Wittenham Clumps and Wytham Wood, both near Oxford where William was living when he wrote the first book. The Clumps are owned by Northmoor Trust which does excellent environmental work. Read about the Clumps and surrounding area here.
Wytham Woods is probably the most researched woodland in the UK being owned by the University of Oxford… but more details of that and how to visit it can be found here.
The protagonists of the series are moles about which you can read here bearing in mind that the particular species in the UK (and Duncton) are Talpa europaea. Occasionally readers write to ask how to get rid of moles – the answer is to ask one of the gentlemen or ladies you’ll find on this strange site