Why the Unicorn Laughs...
by Auriel Sylvain
If you’ve ever wondered why the royal crest in Lancaster Priory shows a terrified lion and a laughing unicorn, we need to revisit the moment of its sculpting.
“I don’t know what you’re doing here, in church I mean. You don’t belong here,” said Lion, puffing out his chest and shaking his mane. “Everyone knows I belong. I’m respectable. The Bible is full of lions – exemplary creature that I am. But your kind … well you’re not quite proper, are you? Prancing around on the threshold of Faery, I mean. You’ll lead people astray.”
“I’m there, in the King James translation – nine times in fact,” replied Unicorn. “You’ll find me in the books of Numbers, Deuteronomy, Job, Psalms and Isaiah. They celebrate my strength, my horn, my autonomy and my beauty. So, you see, I’ve quietly been here all along, keeping a low profile, biding my time. I’ve roamed these isles long before your name was known, and I’ll still be here long after you are only a memory.”
“Well, so you show up in one old translation, but I’m in all of them!” retorted Lion.
“Your name isn’t always in the Bible, you know. Mikael Agricola didn’t think the Finnish people would believe in you, so he translated you as ‘noble deer’. Do you like it? I’m going to call you that from now on. Truly terrifying, don’t you think?”
Lion snarled, displaying his white teeth. “Oh, and another thing,” continued Unicorn, pointing with a hoof, “these ridiculous chains they have me pose in. They went with the lowest bid, and got what they paid for. Look here, where the surface has worn away. It might look like silver, but it’s just a thin plating. I won’t be held captive by these for long.”
Lion gasped with horror at the prospect of an unbound unicorn. Unicorn threw back her head, shook her mane and laughed. “That’s perfect! Now hold still for a second while I capture your faces,” instructed the sculptor.