Una and the Lion by Jeanie Lang
Once upon a time, in a country not far from Fairyland, there lived a king
and queen and their daughter, whose name was Una.
Una was one of the most beautiful princesses that ever were seen, and she
was as good as she was beautiful.
She and her father and mother loved each other very dearly, and they were
very happy together, until a dreadful thing happened in their kingdom and
took all their happiness away.
A hideous dragon came from another country, and killed men and women and
little children. With its fiery breath it turned the trees and grass and
flowers into black ashes, and it slew everybody that it came across.
It would have killed Una’s father and mother too, but they and some of
their servants shut themselves up in a tower made of brass. The dragon
tried very hard to get in and eat them up, but it could not break into a
tower so strong.
For seven years the king and queen hid in their tower, while the dragon
Many brave knights came and fought with the horrible monster and tried to
save the king and queen. But the dragon was stronger than all the knights,
and killed every one of them.
At last Una made up her mind to ride to Fairyland and ask the Queen of the
Fairies to send one of her knights to kill the dragon.
Una took no soldiers nor servants with her, but a dwarf carried for her
the food and clothes she needed, and she rode on a little white ass.
Her dress was of white, but she covered it and her beautiful, shining,
golden hair up with a black cloak to show that she felt sad. Her lovely
face was very sorrowful, for she was so unhappy at the cruel things the
dragon had done, and the danger her dear father and mother were in.
Una safely got to the court of the Faerie Queen, and a young knight,
fearless and faithful and true, offered to come back with her to kill the
His name was George, but on the breast of his silver armour, and on his
silver shield, a red cross was painted. So people called him the Red Cross
The sun shone bright, and the birds sang sweetly, as Una and her knight
rode away through the woods that lay between her father’s kingdom and the
lands of the Faerie Queen.
The knight’s great war-horse pranced and champed at its bit, and Una’s
little donkey put down its dainty feet gently on the grass and wondered at
the great big horse and his jingling harness as they went along side by
Before they had gone very far a storm came on. The sky grew dark and rain
fell heavily, and they would have been drenched had they not found shelter
in a thick wood. There were wide paths in this wood, and tall trees whose
leafy branches grew so close that no rain could come through.
It was such a beautiful wood, and they were so happy talking together and
listening to the birds’ sweet song, that they rode along without noticing
where they went.
So when the rain stopped and they wished to get back to the open road,
they could not find the way. On and on they went, until they came to the
mouth of a great dark cave.
The knight sprang from his horse, and giving his spear to the dwarf to
hold, went forward to see what might be hidden in the darkness.
‘Do not be so rash!’ cried Una; ‘I know that this is a terribly dangerous
place, and that a dreadful monster stays in that black den!’
The frightened dwarf also begged him to come away, but the knight said, ‘I
should be ashamed to come back. If one is good, one need have no fear of
So into the darkness he went, and in the faint light that came from his
shining armour he saw a hideous monster. It had a great ugly head and a
long speckled tail like a serpent’s, and it rushed at the knight, roaring
furiously. He struck at it with his sword, but it wound its horrible tail
around him, until he was nearly crushed to death.
Una called to him not to fear, but to strike the monster bravely. And he,
smiting it with all his might, cut off its head.
Then Una and he rode joyfully onwards, and, as evening fell, they found a
way out of the wood. On the road they met an old man who looked kind and
good. He asked them to stay all night in his cottage in a little valley
near at hand, and they gladly went.
This old man was a wicked magician, and all he wanted was to do them harm.
When they had lain down to rest, he began to work his magic on them. So
well did he do it, that he made the Red Cross Knight believe that Una was
very false and wicked, and that the best thing he could do was to go away
from her. Very early in the morning the knight made the dwarf saddle his
horse, and they went off together and left Una asleep in the house of the
When she awoke and found them gone, Una could only weep bitterly at what
seemed to her their cruelty.
She rode after them as quickly as she could, but her little donkey could
only go slowly, and in his anger and sorrow the knight had made his horse
gallop so fast that she had no chance of overtaking them.
Day after day, up hill and down dale, in woods and on lonely moors, she
sought her knight. And her heart was very sad, because he whom she loved
had left her so ungently.
One day when she was very tired she lay down to rest under the trees in a
thick wood. She took off her black cloak, and her beautiful golden hair
fell loosely round her face. Her face was so fair and so full of goodness
that it seemed to make sunshine in the shady place.
Suddenly there rushed at her from out of the wood a furious lion. He was
hunting for something to kill and eat, and when he saw Una he ran at her
greedily, with hungry gaping jaws.
But when it had looked at her lovely face, instead of tearing her in
pieces it gently licked her little white hands and feet. And Una’s sad
heart was so grateful to the noble beast that her tears dropped on him as
he did it.
The lion would not leave her. He kept watch while she slept, and when she
was awake he followed her like a faithful dog.
Together they wandered on, but never met any one that Una could ask if he
had seen the Red Cross Knight.
At last, one evening, they saw a young woman walking up a steep mountain
path, and carrying a pot of water on her back. Una called to her, but when
the woman looked round and saw a lovely lady and a lion, she got such a
fright that she threw down the pot and ran for her life. Her old mother
was blind, and they lived in a hut on the mountain, and when she got there
she rushed in and shut the door.
Una and the lion followed her, and the lion, with one blow from his strong
paw, drove the door in.
The two women were hiding in a dark corner, half-dead from fear. Una tried
to comfort them, and asked them if she and her lion might shelter there
for the night. When darkness came she lay down, very tired, to sleep,
while her lion lay and watched at her feet.
In the middle of the night a knock came to the door. It was a wicked
robber, who used to bring the things he stole and give them to those two
bad women. The women were so afraid of the lion that they dared not come
out of their hiding-place. So the thief, in a rage, burst the door open,
and when he did this, the lion rushed at him and tore him in pieces.
Next morning Una rose early and went away with the lion.
When she had gone, the women came out, and when they saw the robber’s dead
body, they were filled with rage at Una and her lion. They ran after her,
calling her bad names, but they could not overtake her.
As they were going home they met the wicked magician. They told him about
Una, and he rode quickly after her. By his magic he made himself armour
the same as that of the Red Cross Knight, and when Una saw him she thought
it was her own true knight come back to her at last. He spoke to her as if
he was really her knight, and her heart was filled with gladness.
But she was not the only one who thought that the wicked magician was the
Red Cross Knight. Sansloy, a rough and wicked man, whose brother had been
killed in a fight with the Knight of the Red Cross, came riding along and
met them. When he saw the red cross on the magician’s breast he rode at
The old magician had to fight, whether he wanted to or not, and Sansloy
fought so fiercely that he wounded him and cast him bleeding on the
ground. Then Sansloy dragged off his helmet and was going to kill him,
when he found, instead of the Red Cross Knight’s handsome young face, the
wicked old face and grey hair of the magician.
Sansloy was afraid of the magician, so he drew back and did not hurt him
more. But when he saw how beautiful Una was, he roughly dragged her off
her ass, and made up his mind to take her away with him and make her his
When the lion saw the knight roughly take hold of Una, he made a fierce
rush at him, and would have torn him in pieces; but Sansloy beat the lion
back with his shield, and when the lion would have torn the shield from
him, he drove his sword deep into the lion’s faithful heart. With a great
roar the noble beast fell dead, and Sansloy threw Una before him on his
horse and galloped away with her. She wept and sobbed and begged him to
let her go, but Sansloy would not listen. And it seemed as if Una had no
friend left, or, at least, no friend that could help her. For the little
white donkey trotted after her, afraid of nothing except to be left alone
without his mistress.
The darkness fell, and the stars that came out looked down like weeping
eyes on Una’s sorrow and helplessness.
Sansloy stopped his horse at last and lifted Una down. When she shrank
from him in fear, he was so rough that she screamed for help until the
woods rang and echoed her screams.
Now in the woods there lived wild people, some of whom were more like
beasts than men and women. They were dancing merrily in the starlight when
they heard Una’s cries, and they stopped their dance and ran to see what
When Sansloy saw them, with their rough long hair and hairy legs and arms
and strange wild faces, he was so frightened that he jumped on his horse
and galloped away.
But the wild people of the woods were more gentle than the cowardly
knight. When they saw Una, so beautiful and so frightened and so sad, they
smiled at her to show her that they meant to be kind. Then they knelt
before her to show her that they would obey her, and gently kissed her
So Una was no longer afraid, and when the wild people saw that she trusted
them, they were so glad that they jumped and danced and sang for joy. They
broke off green branches and strewed them before her as she walked, and
they crowned her with leaves to show that she was their queen. And so they
led her home to their chief, and he and the beautiful nymphs of the wood
all welcomed her with gladness.
For a long time Una lived with them and was their queen, but at last a
brave knight came that way. His father had been a wild man of the woods,
but his mother was a gentle lady. He was brave and bold as his father had
been. When he was a little boy and lived with the wild people, he used to
steal the baby lions from their mothers just for fun, and drive panthers,
and antelopes, and wild boars, and tigers and wolves with bits and
bridles, as if they were playing at horses. But he was gentle like his
mother, although he was so fearless. And when Una told him the story of
the Red Cross Knight and the lion, and of all her adventures, his heart
was filled with pity. He vowed to help her to escape, and to try to find
the Red Cross Knight. So one day he and she ran away, and by night had got
far out of reach of the wild men of the woods.
When the wicked magician knew of Una’s escape, he dressed himself up like
a pilgrim and came to meet her and the brave knight of the forest.
‘Have you seen, or have you heard anything about my true knight, who bears
a red cross on his breast?’ asked Una of the old man.
‘Ah yes,’ said the magician, ‘I have seen him both living and dead. To-day
I saw a terrible fight between him and another knight, and the other
knight killed him.’
When Una heard this cruel lie she fell down in a faint. The brave young
knight lifted her up and gently tried to comfort her.
‘Where is this man who has slain the Red Cross Knight, and taken from us
all our joy?’ he asked of the false pilgrim.
‘He is near here now,’ said the magician. ‘I left him at a fountain,
washing his wounds.’
Off hurried the knight, so fast that Una could not keep up with him, and
sure enough, at a fountain they found a knight sitting. It was the wicked
Sansloy who had killed Una’s lion and carried her away.
The brave knight rushed up to him with his drawn sword.
‘You have slain the Red Cross Knight,’ he said; ‘come and fight and be
punished for your evil deed.’
‘I never slew the Red Cross Knight,’ said Sansloy, in a great rage. ‘Your
enemies have sent you to me to be killed.’
Then, like two wild beasts, they fought, only resting sometimes for a
moment that they might rush at each other again with the more strength and
Blood poured from their wounds, the earth was trampled by their feet, and
the sound of their fierce blows rang through the air.
Una was so terrified at the dreadful sight that she ran away and left them
Before she had gone far she saw a little figure running through the woods
towards her. It was her own dwarf, and his woful face told her that some
evil thing had happened to the Red Cross Knight.
The knight had had many adventures since he left her in the magician’s
hut, and at last a giant had caught him, and kept him a prisoner in a
dreary dungeon. The dwarf had run away, lest the giant should kill him.
Una loved the Red Cross Knight so much that her heart almost broke when
she heard the dwarf’s story. But she made up her mind to find her knight
and free him. So on she went, up hill and down dale, beaten by driving
rain and buffeted by bitter winds.
At last, by good chance, she met a knight and his squire. This knight was
the good Prince Arthur, of all the knights of the Faerie Queen the bravest
and the best. To him she told her sorrowful tale.
‘Be of good cheer and take comfort,’ said the good prince. ‘I will never
leave you until I have freed the Red Cross Knight.’
And the prince kept his promise.
The story of St. George and the Dragon will tell you how Una and her
knight met together again and were married, and forgot their past sorrows
in their great happiness.