Time for Una’s own personal little article. She has been mentioned on numerous occasions throughout this series, but as the heroine, I think she does deserve a little special mention. So here we go!
Poor Una tends to get a bad report from fans. And understandably so, of course, there’s no point in trying to defend her. She is sweet enough, but immature with a naïve perspective on love and a healthy dose of selfishness to boot. In fact, she is very like your average teenage girl thinking that romance and marriage will solve all her problems and forgetting to focus on big picture stuff . . . like character and growth and concern for other people.
Una is a very real person, for all she is a princess. She has a distinct personality, but she also acts as a fine universal representation, not only of girls in general, but also of humanity. You see, the thing with Una isn’t that she is overtly evil. She doesn’t, on the surface, look like the sort of person the Dragon would want for his brood of transformed children. She’s just a silly, somewhat emotional, slightly nervous-tempered girl.
But look around you. How many people in your life do you know whom you think of as evil. We’re all just people, struggling through our daily lives, tending to put more emphasis on ourselves than on others, but then everybody does it, so what’s the big deal? And if we want our fair piece of the pie, well, we only want what’s fair, right? Don’t we all deserve to have our own personal Dream Come True?
The answer is no. For even by insisting on our own way, our own will, we demonstrate the sordid nature that hides just beneath our everyday veneer. We really are selfish to the core. Even our most unselfish acts are motivated from selfish desires . . . the desire to feel good about ourselves because we’ve done our good deed for the day. And perhaps the hope of seeing someone reciprocate because we deserve it, right?
We human beings are all about our rights and our just desserts. And we fail to look at ourselves—to look truly at the reality of our nature—and see the dragon inside.
Una is just a simple girl with a simple wish. She’s a princess and she wants her prince. What’s the harm in that? But by her consistent insistence on her own will and her own way, rejecting the truth of real love when it is gently offered her, Una opens herself up to the Dragon’s work and poison. And after the Dragon arrives, it is a matter of mere days before Una gives in to him and takes his kiss!
For Una is a young woman without foundation. Her own strength of will can only carry her so far. Then it must crumble, and she must face the consequences.
I love this story. When I wrote it originally, it was a very personal endeavor. I really felt that I was going through many of Una’s struggles . . . an outwardly picture-perfect, church-going, Sunday-school teaching girl, but with inner sins and struggles that were tearing me apart. I have been the dragon. Many of you have been the dragon yourselves. And if you haven’t yet, be sure that you will someday.
But True Love is ever ready to step in and save the day. Not in the form of Prince Charming the way we think of him. Romance, no matter how sweet, will never solve the deepest problems of the heart. Nor will success or “good works” or any of the things this world looks to as most important. Only the grace offered through Christ’s sacrifice. And that grace is completely undeserved. There is no “good deed” we can do to earn ourselves a place in Christ’s love. That love is a free gift and must be accepted freely.
No more than Una was worthy of Prince Aethelbald’s love. Even after Una realizes that she loves Aethelbald, as we hear her saying on the shore when she speaks to the Ocean Sprite, she still thinks it is up to her to make things right. She thinks to be worthy of his love, she must face the Dragon and solve her problem of sin. Then she will have earned her place, she will deserve to be Prince Aethelbald’s bride.
But this is impossible. Una cannot kill the Dragon. She cannot work out her own salvation and transformation. No matter how sincere her intentions, her own strength and power are not enough. Instead, she must come to a place of absolute humiliation. Only there can she finally see Aethelbald’s offered love for what it is . . . an undeserved gift that can only be accepted as a gift, never earned. Only then can she face the death of her old self and the renewing of her spirit and body.
Poor Una. She really is the most humiliated of all my characters. Which is difficult in a storybook heroine. People want strong heroines who can solve their own problems . . . I do too! But this is no more than wish-fulfillment. It isn’t truth. We cannot solve all our own problems, we cannot fight all our own dragons, and we certainly cannot earn love.
Love must be a gift freely given. It can never be deserved.
On a side note: Una’s name comes from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem Faerie Queen. The Princess Una in that story represented the Church in a highly allegorical context. My Una plays the same role, representing the Church or the Bride of Christ. Unlike Spenser’s Una, who is serene and brave and lovely, my Una is a representation of the contemporary church, easily distracted from the truth of the gospel, looking for quick-fixes, running after the next new and exciting idea, and falling into traps of worldly thinking, forgetting the truth of grace and love.
That’s a tough role for one little heroine . . . not only serving as the main character in a story, but also bearing the weight of that much symbolism! So thanks to you, dear Una. I appreciate your efforts within this debut novel of mine. May you find a readership that understands your role and appreciates the purpose you serve in the story! And in the meanwhile, I love you dearly.