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Land of Unicorns
(A British Tale)

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Long ago, when King Arthur was newly crowned, he
journeyed in search of adventure. He sailed from the coast of
Scotland, heading toward the many islands where, people said,
strange and magical creatures dwelled. Arthur was eager to
know all there was to know about the world.

One morning a thick fog rolled in, the wind died, and
the king's boat drifted, its sails flapping aimlessly. Eventually
the boat ran aground upon a rocky coast of a forested land,
and Arthur jumped out and pulled his little boat on shore.

He ventured into this quiet world, searching for a sign
of life. All was still, and it seemed as if there were no men or
animals of any kind here. But suddenly he came upon a tower
of stone rising into the fog. The king was startled by this sight,
and startled still more when he was greeted by a tiny man with
weathered skin and a long white beard that reached all the
way to the mossy earth.

"Welcome," the stranger said softly, "what is it that you
seek?" Arthur noticed the man's eyes gleamed with light.
"I am Arthur of Britain," he answered. "And I am at your
mercy, sir." "You have my mercy," said the man, "and
would you like some refreshment?" He handed the king a
tall pitcher of the coolest, clearest water in the world.

Arthur drank deeply, and then he looked into the
man's kind face and said, "Please, tell me how you came
to be in this desolate place all alone." "Oh, I'm not alone,"
the man said. "I have all I need." And he began to tell his
tale.

"Years ago the king of my country became angry
with me and banished me from the kingdom. He exiled
my wife and me to this faraway island. My beloved wife
gave birth to our child here in the wilderness, and since
we had no shelter, she grew ill and died soon after our
sweet boy was born." "I am so sorry," Arthur said.

"Sorrow comes to us all," the man said calmly,
"but I did what I had to do. I wrapped my child in my
wife's cloak, and together we set off to seek shelter. Deep
in these woods I came upon a great hollowed oak. When
I looked inside, I saw three delicate, fawnlike creatures
sleeping peacefully. I noticed that each of them had a
small star of light in the center of its forehead. Knowing
these must be blessed creatures, I lay my child down
among them to rest while I went out to find food and a
place for us to stay.

"When I turned, I was startled to see the creatures'
mother. She was as big as a large horse, but graceful
as a doe and white as a cloud, and a glittering spiral
horn grew from her forehead. She struck the ground
with her hoof, once, and fearing she would charge, I
ran into the woods.

"But I had not gone far when I heard my son
weeping, and I hurried back to the tree. When I arrived,
I heard not a sound, and when I looked inside, I saw
this creature, this unicorn, had wrapped herself around
my child and kissed away his tears. When she saw me,
I could see from her kind eyes that I too was welcome.

"For a long while she sheltered both of us, and my
son grew to be a giant, for she fed him her magical milk.
When he was grown, we built our tower, and here we live
contentedly, protected by the unicorns' magic. Ah, here
comes my son now," he said, and turned to greet his
enormous son.

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Arthur looked up at the giant walking out of
the mist. He looked as peaceful as any man Arthur had
ever seen, and behind him came the unicorn, circled
by a halo of light. She was exquisite and walked without
making a sound. Arthur felt complete peace and harmony
in their presence. He had heard many tales of the wonders
of the unicorn, of the healing powers of its horn, but he
knew he could take nothing away from this world. This
land was perfect, and so it must always remain.

Later that day, the fog drifted away.
The old man and his son led Arthur to shore and helped
him to launch his boat. They gave him precise directions
to the outer islands and wished him well. With peace in his
heart, Arthur turned to wave goodbye. He saw the two men
waving at him, haloed in the light of the unicorns.

Arthur learned on his adventure that no matter
how wondrous the unicorns' magic, they must never be
chased, never harmed. When he returned home, he brought
with him the tale of the unicorns' goodness, and forever
afterward he taught his people never to hunt or subdue
creatures who brought peace and joy, goodness and love,
to the world.

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Story adapted by Amy Friedman
Illustrated by Jillian Gilliland

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More Unicorns

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