Unicorns

This essay Unicorns has a total of 1774 words and 7 pages.


Unicorns
In ancient Greek and Roman mythology, a mystical creature known as the unicorn
made many appearances. As described throughout much of literature, the unicorn
is reputed to look somewhat like a white horse, although it has a long, twisted
horn protruding from its forehead.1 The earliest description of the unicorn was
by Ctesias (400 BC) (The New Book of Knowledge, Vol. U-V 19: 391). Unicorns have
cloven hooves that are somewhat yellow in color; some are said to have a
lion-like tail. Male unicorns can be distinguished from their female
counterparts mainly in part of the goat-like beard beneath the chin. Also, the
females are more elegant and have a slimmer muscle frame. The typical European
unicorn has a coat of hair that is pure white, and has eyes that are either deep
sea blue or fiery pink. Long and silky strands of white hair hand down from its
mane and forelock. In his book, The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle describes this
mythological creature as looking nothing "like a horned horse...[as she
was] smaller and cloven-hoofed" (1). In his book, Beagle\'s unicorn was the
"color of sea foam" when it was young; as it aged, its color changed
to the "color of snow falling on a moonlit night" (1). A unicorn\'s
horn is white, silver, or golden in color, is about two to three feet in length,
and is said to have special healing powers. Throughout time, there have been
many varied descriptions of the unicorn. In Asia, for example, mention of the
animal dates back as far as 26 century BC.1 The animal described is far more
different than the European unicorn. Rather than looking like a horse, the Asian
unicorn, known as the k\'i-lin, appears more like a dragon, although it has
cloved hooves.1 The k\'i-lin\'s body was made predominately of shimmery fish
scales that shone in every color of the rainbow, and its horn was also thought
to contain magical healing powers.1 The k\'i-lin is reported to have wandered
through the palace of the emperor Huang-ti in 2697 BC, and was honored as the
king of all the land animals.1 Of the two, the European is the more widely known
unicorn, and thus, more information is readily available on that type of
unicorn. In Beagle\'s book, he states that "it is their nature to live alone
in one place: usually a forest..." (1). As they are vain creatures, they
prefer to live in solitary places where there is a shallow pool of water nearby
were they can see themselves clearly (Beagle, 1). They normally dwell only in
temperate woodlands, away from human activity. They are herbivorous creatures,
living mainly off of tender leaves of the forest and its grasses. Although
unicorns are immortal, they do have enemies and can be killed. Its enemies
include the harpy, dragon, and chimera (Beagle, 95). Not much is known about the
unicorn\'s reproductive habits, only that it rarely ever mates (Beagle, 1).

However, it is believed that when they do, it is for life. As the unicorn\'s horn
was reputed to have mystical healing powers, unicorn hunts were popular
throughout the Middle Ages. Since baby unicorns were almost non-existent, if one
could catch a baby, he was even more richly rewarded. The unicorn\'s horn was
thought to be a healing source. It was claimed to cure many diseases and ward
off many others, such as epilepsy and different stomach illnesses. It was also
believed to a neutralizer against poison.3 The horn was continuously sought
after to be given to apothecaries; they would grind up the horn to make a poison
neutralizing powder. Also, the horn was said to bleed if poison was brought near
it.3 For these reasons, over 40,000 gold pieces were offered for the horn of a
unicorn (which almost always turned out to be the horn of the narwhal, or
"unicorn of the sea"). Although it was a healer of wounds, the unicorn
was a ruthless, savage fighter when cornered. "She had killed dragons with
it [the horn], and healed a king whose poisoned wound would not close..."
(Beagle, 1). Beagle clearly shows that the unicorn\'s horn was its means of
protection, as well as its healing strength. He clearly emphasizes the extreme
change in the unicorn\'s temperate, going from killer to healer. In ancient Greek
and Roman myths, unicorns were an emblem of purity. As such, they were placed
among virgin saints whenever they were mentioned in a myth.2 In medieval society
as well, the unicorn was a symbol of purity and innocence. It was fabled that a
unicorn would only allow an "untouched"

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Topics Related to Unicorns

Fiction, Mythological horses, Mythology, Unicorn, Literature, Chinese mythology, Forelock, Legendary creature, Horse in Chinese mythology, Winged unicorn

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