`Why the Lion and the Unicorn, of course,' said the King.
`Fighting for the crown?'
`Yes, to be sure,' said the King: `and the best of the joke is, that it's my crown all the while! Let's run and see them.' And they trotted off, Alice repeating to herself, as she ran, the words of the old song:
`The Lion and the Unicorn
were fighting for the crown:
The Lion beat the Unicorn
all round the town.
Some gave them white bread,
some gave them brown:
Some gave them plum-cake
and drummed them out of town.'
`Does -- the one -- that wins -- get the crown?' she asked, as well as she could, for the run was putting her quite out of breath.
`Dear me, no!' said the King. `What an idea!'
~ Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 7. Lewis Carroll
This version of the Strength card depicts a battle that takes place daily 'for the crown' while the King and his court watches and then everyone enjoys an afternoon of dining together (at least until the drums start).
If they're not fighting with the crown as prize, they they must be fighting 'for the crown' as in 'on behalf of' - and while they battle fiercely (the King at one point chides the Unicorn for 'running the Lion through') once the battle is over, they are friends and it is clear that the battle itself is an act they are engaging in as partners.
So, what's this say to me about Strength as depicted in this card?
First, that this is not a one-time battle, but one that that is fought every day - and there is no clear winner...sometimes the natural self wins, and sometimes the fantastic 'pure' self wins, but underneath that struggle there is the reality that they are not enemies...only combatants. It's the striving that matters, more than which side comes out on top.
Secondly, they are 'fighting for the crown'.. for our own sense of autonomy - they each play a part in our becoming masters of ourself. One side or another doesn't 'win the crown' - here again, it is the struggle that benefits the king. It doesn't take away that authority.
And finally, the end of the fight is integration and a coming together for nourishment of all aspects.. the Lion and the Unicorn are both fed in the presence of the King and onlookers - the battle is appreciated and welcomed and the next round is something to be looked forward to.
This sort of Strength is sporting... there is joy in the challenge of striving together - of testing ourselves when we are faced with difficulties. It isn't morality - it's ethics. There is no inherent right or wrong, not a 'good guy' and a 'bad guy'... it is in the wrestling with ethical choices that we learn how we decide - if our instincts or our ideals take the day, and the result of the battle in turn strengthens our rulership over our own lives.
And it isn't something to be feared, this ongoing struggle... there is joy in it and a sense of fun and excitement - we can approach our daily challenges as a cheering audience, with curiousity and interest about how it will all come out, rather than grim fright that we might choose the wrong approach.
Our struggles make us strong.