Title: The Last Unicorn
Author: Peter S. Beagle
Genre: Fiction: Fantasy, Young Adult, Classic
Publisher: Penguin Roc
Date published: 40th Anniversary Edition published 2008. First published 1968.
Page Count: 294
“She was magical, beautiful beyond belief — and completely alone…
The unicorn had lived since before memory in a forest where death could touch nothing. Maidens who caught a glimpse of her glory were blessed by enchantment they would never forget. But outside her wondrous realm, dark whispers and rumours carried a message she could not ignore: “Unicorns are gone from the world.”
Aided by a bumbling magician and an indomitable spinster, she set out to learn the truth. but she feared even her immortal wisdom meant nothing in a world where a mad king’s curse and terror incarnate lived only to stalk the last unicorn to her doom…” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29127.The_Last_Unicorn?ac=1&from_search=true
Two hunters who have failed to track down their prey are traveling through the unicorn’s forest. She overhears one hunter tell the other that this forest must be protected by the last unicorn. They decide to move on and the unicorn is left to wonder whether she truly is the last of her kind. She decides to leave her forest and find the other unicorns. On her journey she meets a talking butterfly who tells her about the Red Bull who chased all the other unicorns away.
“He was the color of blood, not the springing blood of the heart but the blood that stirs under an old wound that never really healed. A terrible light poured from him like sweat, and his roar started landslides flowing into one another. His horns were as pale as scars.” – Decribing the Red Bull
While sleeping the unicorn is captured by a witch named Mommy Fortuna who runs a traveling carnival of caged mythical creatures, including the evil Harpy, Celaeno. Mommy Fortuna tells the unicorn that the Red Bull belongs to King Haggard.
“…the Red Bull will know you when he sees you.” – Mommy Fortuna
Schmendrick, a magician who works for Mommy Fortuna, helps the unicorn escape. Molly Grue, a middle-aged woman, joins Schmendrick and the unicorn as they travel to the castle where King Haggard and his son Prince Lír live.
The Last Unicorn, a third person narrative, is a story about how we are often our own worst enemy, and when we find ourselves in the most dire situation surrounded by evil we must let love show us to believe in ourselves and each other.
“You must never run from anything immortal. It attracts their attention.” – The Unicorn
There is a ton of story with breath-taking language smashed into this small book. I cannot name one character as my favourite. Schmendrick, Molly, King Haggard, Prince Lir, the Red Bull, are all extremely well-written characters with distinct and authentic personalities. The unicorn and Lady Amalthea are the same being, and yet feel like two completely different characters.
“The hero has to make a prophecy come true, and the villain is the one who has to stop him – though in another kind of story, it’s more often the other way around. And a hero has to be in trouble from the moment of his birth, or he’s not a real hero. It’s a great relief to find out about Prince Lír. I’ve been waiting for this tale to turn up a leading man.” – Schmendrick the Magician
The Last Unicorn has been my favourite movie since I was a child. I cannot possibly count how many times I’ve watched it. For some reason, I’ve never read the book. I wonder that perhaps I was afraid the book would let me down, or I would realize my most treasured movie was a horrible adaptation. I’m happy to say the book took my breath away. I LOVE the movie, but the book is SO MUCH BETTER than the movie. I know I will be re-reading this book many, many times.
“‘Haggard, I would not be you for all the world,’ he declared. ‘You have let your doom in by the front door, though it will not depart that way.” – Mabruk (King Haggard’s magician)
READ THIS. Even if you don’t like fiction. Even if you don’t like fantasy. Even if you don’t like unicorns! 🙂
Peter S. Beagle