Una Persson

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An Eternal. A member of the Guild of Temporal Adventurers and an acquaintance of the Duke of Queens and Lord Jagged. Responsible for conveying to Moorcock the stories he relates of the Dancers at the End of Time.

In The Warlord of the Air she is Korzeniowski's daughter. Nationalist sympathiser and activist, also a physicist. A passenger on The Rover when it was taken over by General O T Shaw. Was on board the Shan-tien when it was sent to bomb Hiroshima.

In The Land Leviathan she encountered by Oswald Bastable when he travelled to England, where she was rescued by him from the King of East Grinstead, who planned to kill her. Telling Bastable that she was on mission to recover plans for a war machine, she helped him leave the southeast of England giving him a lift in her airship to Morecambe Bay. She later came to Cape Town with General Cicero Hood and was in his company for most of the subsequent events leading the mole-machine attacks on Washington. She listened politely to Bastable's tale of the Warlord of the Air, refusing to be drawn on his speculations on time, but left him with the definite impression that she could travel between the planes at her own pleasure.

In The Steel Tsar encountered Oswald Bastable again when he was taken to the village occupied by Djugashvili and his Free Cossack Host where she enlisted his help in an attempt to end the fighting as soon as possible. It was while in this village that Mrs Persson invited Bastable to join the League of Temporal Adventurers.

According to The White Wolf's Son Una had a successful career in the West End and Broadway in musical comedy. She has a cousin.

In The End of All Songs encountered Jherek Carnelian and Mrs Amelia Underwood in the Silurian (or possibly Lower Devonian) and took them to the Time Centre maintained in that period. Sent them both back to the End of Time and later visited, along with Captain Oswald Bastable, before Jagged closed the loop.

In the Introduction to The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century it is said that '[it] is why a good psychic and physical disguise is necessary...and the result is often a form of temporary amnesia where the travaller sinks so thoroughly into the spirit of the age that he or she forgets any other identity or having existed in any other period'. This is 'to resist anachronistic events [that may lead to] "spitting out" [of] any time-traveller who might seek radically to change the course of history.'

Who is Una Persson?

Una is Una of Scaith

In Gloriana or The Unfulfill’d Queen the character of Countess Una of Scaith is described in The Second Chapter with ‘her heart-shaped face…Una’s grey eyes, intelligent and warm’. Further on in the same chapter it can be inferred that she is shorter than Gloriana’s 6’6” but not by much.

Una is Oone

In The Fortress of the Pearl the character of Oone is described in Part One Chapter Five as 'a young woman...She was an inch or so shorter than Elric, with a heart-shaped face framed by thick brown hair. Slender and well-muscled.'

Una is Oona

In The White Wolf's Son in Chapter 23, where Oonagh writes: 'My grandmother, [Oona von Bek] of course, took the train to town at once. She was very sad but soldiered on and made all the funeral arrangements herself. It was amazing how many people came to old Count Ulric's memorial service. The funeral picture appeared in most of the papers, and they had it on TV. Grandma didn't come back to Yorkshire. She had some family business to sort out in Mirenburg. She said we weren't to worry if we didn't hear from her for a while.'

and

‘I know most of it's true, because I heard the parts I didn't experience myself from Una Persson, as she calls herself now, that mysterious adventuress who spends so much of her time in Eastern Europe and never seems to age.’

Mirenburg has already, by this point in the trilogy, as having been behind the Iron Curtain, which puts it in "Eastern Europe".

Oonagh also makes reference to Oona not ageing earlier in the novel (chapter 1):

‘My grandparents, Count and Countess von Bek, had come to love the place and now remained there almost permanently, only going down to London for the theater season or to visit doctors and dentists. They were a hearty old couple. My grandfather was at least ninety, and my grandmother, though she did not seem it, must have been close to seventy. Everyone remarked on how youthful she looked. I was not the only family member to notice how, beneath her makeup, her face was actually younger, softer. "Good skins run in the family, said my mother. She never seemed to notice the oddness of that remark. Even Grandma's slower movements and apparent absentmindedness seemed designed to deceive you into thinking she was older. Of course, she should have looked older, given that she had married my granddad in the 1940s, after the Second World War. But at that time in my life I didn't really think much about it. Perhaps she aged herself to save my grandfather's pride? No one else in the family mentioned it, so I didn't think a lot about it, either.’

In Chapter 22, Oona herself obliquely refers to the fact that she's a 'near-immortal': ‘"Not really," she [Oona] said. With the same grieving air, she reached towards Jack and embraced him. "You're my brother, Jack, as you know. A near-immortal like our own mother and father. In time it will be impossible to tell us apart by our ages."’

So, if Oona doesn't age and can navigate the moonbeam paths at will then it doesn't seem that huge a leap to hypothesize that she might very well be 'Una Persson', who pops up at various points in History and in different universes.

(It's also worth mentioning - at least in passing - that rather strange Interlude in TWWS where Una Persson pops up at Mike and Linda's ranch in Texas to fill in the gaps that Oonagh doesn't know about, which is presumably there so the reference to Una in Chapter 23 makes some sort of sense to new readers.)

The pivot of the Oona=Una theory could be Oonagh's comment "as she calls herself now"; as WHO calls herself now? If we could determine that it would answer a lot of questions. The inference is that whoever 'Una Persson' is, 'Una Persson' is not her "real" name; it's an assumed identity, persona even. For 'she' to make any sense in the context of Oonagh's journal/account - which forms the basis for the bulk of TWWS - it needs to refer to someone already previously mentioned in the narrative otherwise it's something of a queen-sized non-sequiter.

Of course, one of the problems with Oona=Una is that Oona is an albino and Una isn't, the latter being variously described as having "chestnut hair framing a heart-shaped face". Of course, Mike's description of Una as being "tall and usually seriously well armed" could equally apply to Oona the Dreamthief's Daughter (with her semi-permanently nocked bow and arrow) as well. Still, this isn't an insurmountable problem given the Countess Una's apparent skill with make-up (i.e. she dyes her hair and wears coloured contacts).

Interestingly in the revised edition (1979) of A Cure for Cancer, when Una Persson turns up at the end (she replaces Captain Brunner in the 1971 original at that stage in the novel) she's armed with --- a bow and arrow, just like Oona!

‘Coming across the ash, her head and body swathed in white furs, driving a sled pulled by a team of a dozen dogs, including two St Bernards, a borzoi and three salukis, was a tall woman armed with a steel bow and a quiver of alloy arrows. Close by she stopped the dogs and they flung themselves down panting. She fitted an arrow to her bow. “I wonder if you'd let Mr Cornelius rise?” said the woman in the white fur. They stepped back and Jerry got up, dusting ash off his suit. The new arrival motioned with her bow. “What I'd like to know, bishop—I take it you are a bishop—is what you think you're accomplishing, fucking about with the sun and so forth,” said the tall figure. “I'm trying to put things right,” Beesley said sullenly. “I'm a journalist by trade.” He studied the woman's weapons, obviously attempting to decide if the bow and arrow were as ineffective as his rifle. “A bow has more power, at short range, than an ordinary rifle,” said the tall figure. “How much more power?” asked Mitzi. “Quite a bit.”’

Appeared in

Mentioned in

Miscellaneous Notes

Real Life Inspiration

Moorcock has stated[1] that the character of Una Persson is based on a real-life model though he has usually refrained from identifying the actual person in question. However, the description of the narrator's first wife in Moorcock's 2010 semi-autobiographical story 'Stories' matches that normally used to describe Una Persson: "Helena, beautiful as ever with her pageboy chestnut hair framing a heart-shaped face", and allowing for the fact that 'Stories' is a fictionalized account of Moorcock's life and friendship with Tom Disch it does not seem unreasonable to assume that Una's real life inspiration was Moorcock's first wife, Hilary Bailey.

Mike Says

  • "Una is slim, small-breasted, shortish hair (some version of what used to be called a page boy), heart-shaped face, dark auburn hair. She's tall and usually seriously well armed..."[2]

Notes