THE ADVENTURE OF THE LION
By Lady Charlotte Guest
As Owain one day sat at meat, in the city of Caerleon upon Usk, a
damsel entered the hall upon a bay horse, with a curling mane, and
covered with foam; and the bridle, and as much as was seen of the
saddle, were of gold. The damsel was arrayed in a dress of yellow
satin. And she came up to Owain, and took the ring from off his
hand. "Thus," said she, "shall be treated the deceiver, the traitor,
the faithless, the disgraced, and the beardless." And she turned her
horse's head and departed.
Then his adventure came to Owain's remembrance, and he was sorrowful.
Having finished eating, he went to his own abode, and made
preparations that night. The next day he arose, but did not go to the
court, nor did he return to the Countess of the Fountain, but wandered
to the distant parts of the earth and to uncultivated mountains. And
he remained there until all his apparel was worn out, and his body was
wasted away, and his hair was grown long. And he went about with the
wild beasts, and fed with them, until they became familiar with him.
But at length he became so weak that he could no longer bear them
company. Then he descended from the mountains to the valley, and came
to a park, that was the fairest in the world, and belonged to a
One day the lady and her attendants went forth to walk by a lake that
was in the middle of the park. They saw the form of a man, lying as if
dead, and were terrified. Nevertheless they went near him, and touched
him, and saw that there was life in him. And the lady returned to the
castle, and took a flask full of precious ointment and gave it to one
of her maidens. "Go with this," said she, "and take with thee yonder
horse, and clothing, and place them near the man we saw just now; and
anoint him with this balsam near his heart; and if there is life in
him, he will revive, through the efficiency of this balsam. Then watch
what he will do."
The maiden departed from her, and went and poured of the balsam upon
Owain, and left the horse and garments hard by, and went a little way
off and hid herself to watch him. In a short time she saw him begin to
move. He rose up, looked at his person, and became ashamed of the
unseemliness of his appearance. Then he perceived the horse and the
garments that were near him. He clothed himself, and with difficulty
mounted the horse.
Then the damsel discovered herself to him, and saluted him. And he and
the maiden proceeded to the castle, and the maiden conducted him to a
pleasant chamber, and kindled a fire, and left him.
He stayed at the castle three months, till he was restored to his
former guise, and became even more comely than he had ever been
before. And Owain rendered signal service to the lady, in a
controversy with a powerful neighbor, so that he made ample requital
to her for her hospitality; and he took his departure.
As he journeyed he heard a loud yelling in a wood. It was repeated a
second and a third time. And Owain went towards the spot, and beheld
a huge craggy mound, in the middle of the wood, on the side of which
was a gray rock. There was a cleft in the rock, and a serpent was
within the cleft.
Near the rock stood a black lion, and every time the lion sought to go
thence the serpent darted towards him to attack him. And Owain
unsheathed his sword, and drew near to the rock; and as the serpent
sprung out he struck him with his sword and cut him in two; and he
dried his sword, and went on his way as before. Behold the lion
followed him, and played about him, as though it had been a greyhound
that he had reared.
They proceeded thus throughout the day, until the evening. When it was
time for Owain to take his rest he dismounted, and turned his horse
loose in a flat and wooded meadow. He struck fire, and when the fire
was kindled, the lion brought him fuel enough to last for three
nights. And the lion disappeared. Presently the lion returned, bearing
a fine large roebuck, and threw it down before Owain, who went towards
the fire with it.
Owain took the roebuck, skinned it, and placed slices of its flesh
upon skewers round the fire. The rest of the buck he gave to the lion
to devour. While he was so employed, he heard a deep groan near him,
and a second, and a third. The place whence the groans proceeded was a
cave in the rock; and Owain went near, and called out to know who it
was that groaned so piteously. And a voice answered, "I am Luned, the
hand-maiden of the Countess of the Fountain." "And what dost thou
here?" said he. "I am imprisoned," said she, "on account of the knight
who came from Arthur's court, and married the countess. And he staid a
short time with her, but he afterwards departed for the court of
Arthur, and has not returned since. And two of the countess's pages
traduced him, and called him a deceiver. And because I said I would
vouch for it he would come before long and maintain his cause against
both of them, they imprisoned me in this cave, and said that I should
be put to death, unless he came to deliver me, by a certain day; and
that is no further off than to-morrow, and I have no one to send to
seek him for me. His name is Owain, the son of Urien." "And art thou
certain that if that knight knew all this, he would come to thy
rescue?" "I am most certain of it," said she.
When the slices of meat were cooked, Owain divided them into two
parts, between himself and the maiden, and then Owain laid himself
down to sleep; and never did sentinel keep stricter watch over his
lord than the lion that night over Owain.
The next day there came two pages with a great troop of attendants to
take Luned from her cell, and put her to death. Owain asked them what
charge they had against her. They told him of the compact that was
between them; as the maiden had done the night before. "And," said
they, "Owain has failed her, therefore we are taking her to be burnt."
"Truly," said Owain, "he is a good knight, and if he knew that the
maiden was in such peril, I marvel that he came not to her rescue. But
if you will accept me in his stead, I will do battle with you." "We
will," said the youths.
And they attacked Owain, and he was hard beset by them. And with that,
the lion came to Owain's assistance, and they two got the better of
the young men. And they said to him, "Chieftain, it was not agreed
that we should fight save with thyself alone, and it is harder for us
to contend with yonder animal than with thee." And Owain put the lion
in the place where Luned had been imprisoned, and blocked up the door
with stones. And he went to fight with the young men as before.
But Owain had not his usual strength, and the two youths pressed hard
upon him. And the lion roared incessantly at seeing Owain in trouble.
And he burst through the wall, until he found a way out, and rushed
upon the young men and instantly slew them. So Luned was saved from
Then Owain returned with Luned to the castle of the Lady of the
Fountain. And when he went thence, he took the countess with him to
Arthur's court, and she was his wife as long as she lived.