Britannica The Unicorn

Though written accounts of Unicorns date only from only two-and-a-half millennia ago, depictions of the one-horned animal can be found as far back as the dawn of humankind's history. This lovely and elegant creature was known and worshipped by the ancient Babylonians in 3,500 B.C., when Babylon was the cradle of civilization. Two of the guiding powers in such times were the Sun and the Moon, represented by the Lion and the Unicorn respectively. The golden-yellow Lion ruled through strength and total domination, constantly chasing the silver-white Unicorn, who ruled through harmony of cooperation. Seldom did the Lion ever catch his prey yet, when he did, it was the Sun and not the Moon which became obscured.

Once widely-spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the beautiful creature called the Unicorn is known by different names in different countries, but customarily referred to by its Latin appellation derived from unus, meaning "one" and cornus, meaning "horn." The Unicornus sinoesis is a shy creature which roams the forests of China, Japan and Indonesia. The Unicornus carcadan is found throughout Arabia, India, North Africa and much of the Middle East. The Unicornus europa, with its almost-straight, tightly-twisted, sharp horn, large ears and big brown eyes, dwells in most of the European countries and stands approximately three-and-a-half feet tall at the shoulder. The males weigh up to 100 pounds or more. The slightly smaller females weigh around 80 pounds. The coat of the Unicornus europa, which grows thicker and longer during the Winter months, ranges in color from fawn to an ivory cream and their call resembles that of a sad wail. Closely related to the Unicornus europa and similar in many respects, the Unicornus alba is native to the British Isles and differs only slightly from its European cousin, sporting a shaggier coat (especially near the ankles). Somewhat larger in size, Unicornus alba has blue eyes and a longer, more flowing mane and tail. Like the Unicornus sinoesis, it is a shy creature and not given to appearing in the presence of humans.

Generally, the Unicorn is a withdrawn animal. Unlike other hooved creatures, it does not pasture in herds but travels alone and, after mating, the male will resume his solitary habit. A Unicorn foal, usually born at daybreak and with a dappled coat, enters the world without an alicorn. The babe will remain with its mother until the horn had grown to full length. By then, the young Unicorn is probably around 50 years old and the mare will be preparing to bring forth a new foal. Approximately one week prior to the birth, the Unicorn mother begins gently, but repeatedly, to nudge her now mature offspring until he or she gallops away to adopt the secluded life which is inherent in the creature's nature.

Throughout history, the different species of Unicorn have been credited with specific variations in appearance...the head and body of a horse, the legs of an antelope, the tail of a horse or a lion, the beard of a goat, or any number of other combinations. However, the dominant and distinguishing feature has always been the long, sharp, twisted horn growing from the middle of the forehead. This horn is a fearsome weapon, particularly since the Unicorn is an extremely powerful and often aggressive which can run faster than any other beast inhabiting the plains and forests. Adult Unicorns protect their territory with single-minded fury and even an Elephant will steer clear of a Unicorn. Lions, despite being carnivores, frequently live amicably in Unicorn habitat however, since the two do not threaten each other's food supplies and a Lion would never attack a Unicorn for fear of its great horn.

Unfortunately for the Unicorn, humankind discovered that the unique horn was absolute proof against poison. For example, if tainted wine were poured into a drinking cup fashioned from the horn of a Unicorn (also known as the unihorn or alicorn), then the poision becomes quite innocuous. Plates and serving instruments made from unihorn renders poisoned food quite harmless to the consumer. Rulers of the ancient world (and especially those of the Middle Ages who lived under constant threat of death by poisoning...either by their subjects or, sometimes, their ambitious relatives) were willing to pay immense sums of money for unihorns. Thus, hunters were more than willing to risk their lives in order to supply the demand...but it was the Unicorn which paid the ultimate price, pursued to near-extinction.

Since Unicorns move so quickly and are exceedingly intelligent beings, it is almost impossible to kill them with a bow or spear, or coax them into a trap. One day long ago, however, a Unicorn hunter happened to take his virgin daughter into the field. To the huntsman's astonishment, a Unicorn trotted out of the forest and approached the girl with such affection that she was able to hold its head in her lap. The creature lay there unresisting while the hunter sawed off its precious horn. After that, virgins were in great demand as Unicorn lures and the Unicorn seemed to feel that the loss of its horn was a small price to pay for virginal embraces. The inevitable result was that when the virgin released the animal, it had no weapon against predators and thus, the entire Unicorn race was eventually driven to the brink of non-existence. Indeed, it is the accepted belief that the Unicorn, as a species, eventually perished altogether and totally vanished from the face of this Earth.

The precise definition of what constitutes an acceptable virgin is subject to much interpretation. According to varying sources, she must be a nun...or at least of noble birth. She is required to be phsically attractive. She must be a total innocent without sin and pure of heart...or she must be a virgin in the basic sexual sense of the word. It was held that the Unicorn could tell if a maiden were a virgin or not. Some believed the animal could see the difference...others that it was a matter of scent. Most agree that the consequences are dire for any lass unfortunate enough to be found wanting.

In the ancient forest of Brocileande, France, the hunters were of a more intelligent and compassionate breed. There, the pursuit of Unicorns was a royal sport...more a game than any true attempt to capture or slay the creature. One canny nobleman hit upon the novel idea of instilling within the Unicorn a desire to be hunted. The event which resulted was a boistrous pageant of color and sound that would have made any conventional quarry run for cover. The Unicorn, however, entranced by this joyous spectacle, condescended to be chased. The chase itself was in ritual form only...a successful hunt being signified by the Unicorn allowing itself to come so close that a chosen lady might toss a wreath of flowers, traditionally violets, over its head.

Because of the magical qualities associated with the horn of the Unicorn, it became a popular ingredient for medicines. As previously mentioned, the mere presence of the horn was considered strong protection against poison and, when worn as jewelry, it protected the wearer from evil. Alicorn was frequently worth more than its weight in gold. Members of the monarchy from all corners of the world were among the few able to pay the high price demanded for such treasure. These nobles were eager to acquire the precious prize which guaranteed a long and healthy life. Given such a lucrative trade, false alicorn was rampant, made from bull horn, goat horn or, in some cases, the horns of exotic animals or even ordinary dog bones. Whole, unbroken alicorns were extremely rare. For example, a complete Unicorn horn owned by Elizabeth I of England was valued at the time to be worth the equivalent 3,000 ounces of gold...enough money to buy a large country estate complete with castle.

In order to distinguish true alicorn from a forgery, elaborate tests were devised. Among these were:

Place scorpions under a dish with a piece of the horn...if the scorpions die in a matter of hours, the horn is real.

Feed arsenic to pigeons, followed by a dose of Unicorn horn...if the pigeons live, the horn is genuine.

Draw a ring on the floor with the horn...if the horn is real, a spider will not be able to cross the ring.

Place the horn in cold water...if the water bubbles but remains cold, the horn came from a Unicorn.

Medieval pharmacists trusted the power of the alicorn as a strong medicine and adopted the image of the Unicorn as the apothecaries' symbol. According to Saint Hildegard, who passionately believed in the capability of the Unicorn to heal illness, the Unicorn's strength came from the fact that once a year, it returned to drink the waters and eat the vegetation of Paradise. Ground Unicorn horn was said to cure fever, plague, epilepsy, rabies, gout, and a plethera of other ailments. Unicorn liver was a sure cure for leprosy. Shoes made from Unicorn leather assured healthy feet and legs, and a belt of Unicorn leather worn around the body warded off plague and fever.

Perhaps the most mysterious of all animals, the Uncorn has been glorified in folk tales, songs, poems and stories for centuries. The Eastern representation is very different from the more familiar Western image of a white, horse-like being. The only consistent fact in both cultures is that the Unicorn possesses a single horn in the middle of its forehead. The Unicorn has existed in Chinese mythology for thousands of years. It appears in many varied forms, but the most popular is a beast with the body of a deer, the tail of an ox, the hooves of a horse and a single, short horn. The hair on its back is five-colored to symbolize the five sacred Chinese hues of red, yellow, blue, white and black. The hair on its belly is yellow. In some instances, it has been credited with green scales, something akin to those of a Dragon. The Chinese Unicorn is known as Kilin (pronounced "chee-lin"), which is a combination of Ki, the male Unicorn, and Lin, the female Unicorn. A shy creature, thought to dwell only in the most remote of forested areas, the Kilin is careful not to tread upon even the tiniest living thing and will eat only plant life that is no longer living. With a life span of 1,000 years, the Kilin is said to spring from the Earth and is revered as one of the four superior animals of good omen...the other three being the Phoenix, the Dragon and the Tortoise...that foretell future events and represent the basic elements of life. In Chinese lore, the Unicorn appears to humans only when it is on an important mission, its appearance being interpreted as a sign of good times. One of the first Unicorns is said to have appeared almost 5,000 years ago to instruct the Emperor Fu Hsi in the secrets of written language. Some 300 years later, in 2697 B.C., another Unicorn appeared in the garden of the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di. This auspicious omen was perceived by the potentate as a sign that his rule would be long and peaceful. Two Unicorns lived during the reign of Emperor Yao, the fourth of the Five Emperors who shaped the world. The Chinese also believe that the Unicorn is able to foretell the birth of great men, like the philospher Confucius, for example. In 551 B.C., Confucius' pregnant mother encountered a Unciorn in the woods. It gave her a small piece of jade and placed its head in her lap. Realizing the importance of this event, she knew it to be a good omen from the gods. An inscription on the piece of jade told of the great wisdom her unborn son would eventually acquire and Confucius did indeed become the most respected of all Chinese philosophers. In his old age, Confucius reportedly saw the Unicorn for himslef and knew that it meant his life would soon be over.

Many other Asian countries also foster Unicorn tradtions. In Japan, the creature is known as Kirin and sports a shaggy mane and the body of a bull. Again, it is a beast to be feared, especially by criminals. The Japanese believe that the Unicorn is able to detect guilt and judges were once known to call upon the creature in order to determine the errant party in legal disputes. After fixing its eerie stare upon the guilty person, the Unicorn would then pierce the offender through the heart with its horn. In Arabia, the Unicorn goes by the name of Karkadann and is said to be endowed with magical qualities. Its horn is considered to be a good-luck charm against the Scorpion and the eating of Unicorn meat was once believed to banish demons. Legend states that the Karkadann has been known to stand for hours beneath the nest of a Dove, frightening away the bird's predators so that it could enjoy the Dove's beauty. Based on the description given in ancient texts however, modern experts now believe that this mystical Karkadann might truly be the Oryx...a large antelope that appears to have a single horn when viewed from the side.

Perhaps the earliest mention of the Western Unicorn is by Herodotus who, in the Third Century B.C., wrote of a "horned ass" discovered in Africa. By the Fourth Century B.C., the Unicorn had become a very popular animal in the Western world. Another early surviving testament to its existence comes a century later, found in the writings of the Greek historian and physician Ctesias, who traveled from his native town of Cnidus to attend Darius II, King of Persia. There, Ctesias remained for eighteen years and brought back fantastic stories told to him by merchants who had passed through India, all of which he noted in a book of his experiences entitled Indica. Although Ctesias never actually saw the animal himself, he describes a beast which he calls the "wild ass of India" and is a creature equal in size to a horse, with a white body, red head, bluish eyes and a straight horn on the forehead, a "cubit" long. He goes on to relate that the lower part of the horn is white, the middle black, and the tip red. As a physician, Ctesias was especially interested in the horn which, he had been informed, was certain protection against deadly poisons. He was told of fabulous drinking cups that had been fashioned from the alicorn which were believed to possess the power of neutralzing poision, when such a deadly potion was poured into them. Ctesias describes the Unicorn as being extraordinarily fleet of foot, unable to be tamed and well-nigh impossible to capture.

Shortly after the stories written by Ctesias became known, the great Greek philospher Aristotle deduced that the Unicorn probably was an authentic animal, but refused to believe the tales of magical powers attributed to the horn. The well-respected historian, Pliny the Elder, born early in the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who described the Unicorn in his Cyclopaedia Historia Naturalis, also reached the conclusion that Unicorns existed in India. Pliny's Unicorn is depicted as a ferocious beast who cannot be taken alive, with the body of a horse, the head of a deer, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a wild boar and a solitary black horn two "cubits" long, standing out of its forehead. Both Aristotle and Pliny reasoned that the accounts written by Ctesias were plausible and the animal could easily exist, stating that there was no reason to doubt its credibility any more than that of an elephant or a giraffe. Just because neither had personally laid eyes upon a Unicorn did not mean that such a creature was a mere figment of the imagination.

The Roman scholar, Aelian, who lived some 500 years after Aristotle, wrote a book about animals that mentions the Unicorn with much frequency. Aelian's Unicorn, which he claims the inhabitants of India refer to as the Kartajan (Sanscrit for "Lord of the Desert"), has tawny hair and is exceedingly swift of foot. He also notes that it resides in the interior mountain region of India, inaccessible to men and full of wild beasts, stating that when other animals approach, it is gentle but fights furiously with those of its own kind and seeks out the most deserted places, where it wanders alone.

Other early tales involving the Unicorn center around two of the greatest leaders of ancient times. In the Third Century B.C., the Macedonian general, Alexander the Great, boasted that during one of his conquests, he rode a Unicorn (a gift from Queen Candace) into battle. In the century prior to the birth of Christ, the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, reported sighting a Unicorn deep in the Hercynian Forest of Southwestern Germany. A few years before Christ's birth, a well-respected Greek, Apollonius of Tyana, claimed to have seen a Unicorn in India. It was not until some centuries later, however, that the Unicorn truly became part of the Western culture...and that mainly due to its associations with the Bible and with Jesus Christ.

In 300 B.C. on the Isle of Pharos, seventy Jewish scholars known as the Septuagint, assembled to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek (a task they allegedly managed to complete in 72 days). Finding an obscure reference to a beast called the Re'em, the Seventy were unable to identify the animal. They did, however, have a description..."Fleet, fierce, indomitable and especially distinguished by the armor of its brow." It seemed to these learned men that no creature fit this description quite so well as the Unicorn. Thus, did the Unicorn find its way into the Bible.

There are seven clear references to the Unicorn (in the King James version only) of the Old Testament, although doubt has been raised that original interpretations may have erroneously named another animal as the Unicorn, particularly since, in other translations the Hebrew word is usually taken to mean "wild ox." The seven references are as follows:

God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows -- Numbers 24:8

His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh -- Deuteronomy 33:17

Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? -- Job 39:9 and 39.10

Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns -- Psalms 22:21

He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn -- Psalms 29:6

But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil -- Psalms 92:10

And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness -- Isaiah 34:7

According to the Book of Genesis, God gave Adam the task of naming everything he saw. In some translations of the Bible, the Unicorn was the first animal named, thereby elevating it above all other beasts in the Universe. When Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, the Unicorn went with them and came to symbolize purity and chastity. In this manner did the Unicorn's morality in Western legend stem from its biblical beginnings. The Bible also offers an explanation as to why the Unicorn may not have been seen for so long. During the flood that engulfed the world for 40 days and 40 nights, Noah took two of every animal to safety within the Ark, but Unicorns were not among them. Some legends suggest that this was because the Unicorns, for whatever reason, refused to board. The Jewish Talmud also makes reference to the existence of the Unicorn, describing it as the fiercest of all animals, able to kill an Elephant with a single thrust of its horn, and implies that although Unicorns were originally aboard Noah's Ark, they demanded so much space and attention that Noah banished them...they either drowned or managed to swim during the Flood and continue to survive somewhere in the world. There is also speculation that they may have evolved into the Narwhal, a toothed whale that lives in the Arctic seas and is often called the "sea unicorn" because the male has a long, spiral, twisted ivory tusk growing out of the left side of its head.

In medieval times, the Unicorn became the embodiment of Christ himself and its horn symbolic of the unity of Christ and God. Some paintings of that era show the Trinity with Christ represented by a Unicorn. The inability of the hunter alone to subjugate the Unicorn is a reminder that the Will of the Messiah is not subject to any earthly authority and the virgin who tames him is none other than the Virgin Mary. Conversely, the Unicorn also appears as the personification of evil in the Book of Isaiah. Nevertheless, overall, the Unicorn came to be regarded as a pure and virtuous creature.

During the Middle Ages, Asia was a place of great mysery and the stories told of Unicorns made it even more wondrous. Prester John, for example, ruled over a vast Asian Empire in the mid-1100s and was reported to have owned a number of domesticated Unicorns. To Europeans, this was a sign of his great wealth and power. A century later, the Unicorn featured once more in the tale of Genghis Khan, the Mongolion warrier who conquered much of Asia on his way to builing a great kingdom. However, it is said that the intervention of a Unicorn caused this warrior to abruptly turn back on the brink of adding India to his acquistions.

As Genghis Khan and his army prepared to invade for what would have probably been an easy victory, a Unicorn approached and knelt before him. Taken aback, Genghis Khan realized this must be a sign from heaven not to attack and ordered his warriors to retreat. Thus, one of the most ruthless and fearless invaders in the history of the world had been arrested by a simple Unicorn and India saved from assault. Historically speaking, this appearance before Genghis Khan was the last significant and reliable Unicorn sighting.

In the late 1200s, the Italian trader, Marco Polo, became famous for his accounts of travel in China and Southeast Asia. He even reported seeing a large Unicorn, almost as big as an Elephant. His detailed description, however, was almost certainly one of a Rhinoceros. Nonetheless, the retelling of Marco Polo's tales and the illustrations that accompanied them usually made the Unicorn fit with the traditional Western image of a horse-like creature.

From the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth Centuries, artists began to endow the Unicorn with a beauty to befit the animal's noble role as an allegory of so many virtuous attributes. The Unicorn began to figure quite prominently in church ornamentation and from there, entered the arena in which the creature was to become the most influential...heraldry. A striking device for shield and banner and tabard, the Unicorn was depicted in varying poses and soon came to be incorporated in family arms. Due to the paramount role of the horse in civilization, the Unicorn's equine aspects were emphasized. Still, the Unicorn retained the cloven hooves and beard and, for further distinguishment, was given a distinctly leonine tail.

Indeed, what animal could have better symbolized the classic chivalrous knight? A fierce and unparalleled fighter, the Unicorn was also gentle and chaste. Beautiful and proud in solitude, the Unicorn was everything a champion might aspire to become. In the Seventeenth Century, John Guillim wrote the following in his "A Display of Heraldry":

"Some have made doubt whether there be any such beast as this or no, but the great esteem of his horn (in many places to be seen) may take away that needless scruple.

The greatness of his mind is such that he rather chooseth to die than be taken alive; wherein the unicorn and the valiant-minded soldier are alike, which both contemn death, and rather than they will be compelled to undergo any base servitude or bondage they will lose their lives."

King Arthur too is rumored to have encountered a Unicorn. On his maiden adventure, he runs aground on an unknown shore and meets with a dwarf who tells him this story: he and his wife were marooned here many years ago. His wife died after giving birth to a son. The infant would have died, but the dwarf chanced upon a female Unicorn with young. She adopted the human babe, allowing him to nurse with her own offspring. Nourished by this magical drink, the child grew to be a veritable giant. Arthur soon witnesses the miracle for himself when the Unicorn and her adopted son return and the giant helps Arthur and his companions to drag their ship from the sands.

Since the reign of King Robert III of Scotland in the late 1300s, the Unicorn has been a part of that country's official emblem. Robert III turned to the purity and strength of the Unicorn for inspiration in rebuilding his nation, and two Unicorns were soon incorporated as shield supporters into the Royal Seal. When James VI of Scotland became James I of both England and Scotland in 1603 upon the death of Elizabeth I (who died childless and, therefore, with no direct heir), he drew up a new royal coat-of-arms which included both the traditional English Lion and the Scottish Unicorn. The English Arms had used a variety of supporters throughout its history, but had most frequently featured the Lion. In a tactful gesture, James I placed a Lion on the left of the new Arms and a Unicorn on the right. This was a potent show of symbolism, for the Lion and the Unicorn had long been regarded as deadly enemies, both being considered as King of the Beasts, the Unicorn ruling through harmony and the Lion through might. The newly instituted coat-of-arms came to represent a reconciliation between the Scottish Unicorn and the English Lion that the two should share the rule.

According to British folklore, however, the Lion and the Unicorn could never make peace with each other. On a variation of the ancient Babylonian legend mentioned above, the tale recounts a fight between the two animals which results from the Unicorn representing Spring and the lion representing Summer. Each year, the pair battle each other for supremacy and each year, the Lion eventually wins. In the case of England and Scotland, this fight continued and a popular nursery rhyme of the period sums up the animosity between the two nations. It also recalls old wars between the countries...wars which England invariaby won:

The lion and the unicorn were fighting for the crown;
The lion beat the unicorn all around the town.
Some gave them white bread and some gave them brown;
And some gave them plum cake and drummed them out of town.

The Lion and the Unicorn remain a part of the British coat-of-arms to this day, supporting the royal shield. The Canadian coat-of-arms is modeled after the British version and also features a Lion and a Unicorn supporting a central shield.

With the sighting of true Unicorns somewhat a thing of the past, the desire grew strong to "create" such a creature during the Twentieth Century. In the 1930s, Dr. W. Fanklin Dove of Maine manipulated a calf's horn buds to make a bull with a single horn growing out of the middle of its head. Although this experiment offered no explanation as to the existence (or otherwise) of real Unicorns, it did show that it was not beyond the realm of possibility for an animal to grow a solitary horn. Fifty years later, the same procedure was used on white goats of Angora stock to produce Lancelot, the "Living Unicorn." Closely resembling the small Unicorns often depicted in medieval paintings and tapestries who were small enough to sit in the laps of maidens, Lancelot and his ten-inch horn became a great attraction at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus during the 1980s.

Around the year 1500, a magnificent series of large tapestries were made in Belgium to trace the history of a hunt for the Unicorn. They were purchased by John D. Rockefeller in 1922 and are now on display at the Cloisters Museum in New York. The series of seven tapestries follows the hunt from beginning the end. The Unicorn is discovered and chased by a party of noblemen, but they are unable to capture the creature. In the fifth tapestry, a young maiden tames and entraps the Unicorn...relying on the age-old custom that a Unicorn may only be lured to its doom by a virgin. In the last tapestry, the Unicorn is chained to a tree within a round wooden fence. This final scene is the most famous Unicorn image and has become the universally accepted picture of a Western Unicorn.

Within the heavens, there is a constellation known as Monoceros the Unicorn. First mention of this faint, stellar pattern was by Jakob Bartsch around 1624. The stars of Monoceros were detailed in the catalog of Hevelius in 1690. The Milky Way runs through the center of this constellation, which consists of 146 stars visible to the naked eye and contains an open formation of blue-white luminaries known as the Christmas Tree Cluster, which really does closely resemble the festive deocration after which it is named.

Today, the Unicorn is known in many variations with cloven or solid hooves, and a body likened to that of a deer, a bull, a goat or a horse. Sometimes, the Unicorn has an equine tail and, at other times, the tail of a Lion. The Unicorn may have the legs of a deer, a horse or a goat. The creature may be white-coated (in which case, it is a purity of the color virtually unknown elswhere) or may equally well be black...or gold...or indigo...or a combination of many colors. The alicorn may be straight, or curved backward, spiraled as the tusk of a Narwhal, or a more complex goat-like curl.

Just as the appearance of the Unicorn varies, so does the animal's role in the world, sometimes depicted simply as a beautiful creature and, at other times, blessed with an intelligence at least on a par with that of humans. Famed for gentle wisdom, the Unicorn is often a creature of divinity, pure of heart and spirit, beyond the reach of any mortal and possessed of incredible powers of creation and healing. In China, the Unicorn is an animal of good omen, appearing to those destined for greatness. In ancient Japan, the Unicorn was a celestial judge, slaying the guilty and freeing the innocent. The Christian faith holds the Unicorn as a symbol of Jesus Christ.

Fantasy had added to the repertoire of the Unicorn's aspects, though the equine image predominates. Some might maintain that modern fiction has no right to shape the creatures of classical mythology but there is one quality that the Unicorn always embodies...freedom. Not only from physical confinement, but definition. It defies the restrictions of classification and categorism.

The Unicorn is unique among the creatures of legend, being at one and the same time both real and imaginary. It is an animal which belongs to both the past and the present...solid and intangible...beast and deity...possessed of an immortal power and yet also possessed of a child-like vulnerability.

Many have always been wary of stating that the Unicorn never existed. Just as many are equally as wary of declaring that such a creature does not exist today. Perhaps it is simply amatter of faith or perhaps those ancient noblemen of Brocileande were on the right track. Maybe the trick is to instill in the Unicorn a wish to seek out the human who wants to gaze upon it with his or her very own eyes. Unicorns are empathic and sensitive to the desire in an individual. Unicorns are able to judge if that person is true to their heart, if they are to be trusted...if they will prove to be a true friend. Nothing is certain, but maybe if a person believes the Unicorn is actually there...who knows?

It would, one might assume, be necessary to remain patient at the sighting of a Unicorn. The animal would be wary of approaching immediately. The creature must satisfy itself that the person who seeks it out is really what that person appears to be...that consideration will be shown to its home...that nothing will be harmed and nothing disturbed...that respect will be given to all forms of life in the area, from the tiniest ant to the mightiest oak.

Of course, there is one who is something of an authority on such things of wonder...perhaps it is to her that we should look for clarification on the possibility of meeting with a Unicorn:

The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice, and said, "Child."

Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: "Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters,too! I never saw one alive before!"

"Well, now that we have seen each other" said The Unicorn,"if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you...."

("Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll -- Chapter VII: The Lion and The Unicorn)

Now I Will Believe That There Are Unicorns

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