Myth Analysis: The Unicorn
Unicorns are some of the most beloved mythical creatures in pop culture, perhaps because of how ‘beautiful’ the modern image of the unicorn is. It’s easy to love an animal that’s white, sparkly and poops rainbows. But the unicorn is also one of Europe’s weirdest and oldest mythological creatures, appearing in bestiaries as early as Ancient Greece. So strap on your magic horn, scream I believe in unicorns and sit your butt down because we’re about to look at where the unicorn came from, where they are and what they symbolize.
The ‘Original’ Unicorn
Unicorns have been popping up in art since Mesopotamia. The first written accounts of the unicorn are indeed from ancient Greece, in Bestiaries, where they were written as very real animals. Some scientists theorize that these first stories and accounts are actually based on a real animal and before you say narwhal, it’s not. It’s the Woolly Rhino. The Woolly Rhino is an extinct rhino that lived in Europe and Asia and while it was extinct a few thousand years before ancient Greece, our ancestors would have had regular contact with it as we hunted it to extinction. The sightings would grow rarer and rarer until eventually, it passed into myth. These stories would get passed and distorted until they reached people who wrote them down.
The Grecian Unicorn or monokerōs was the size of an Indian donkey, with a white body and a purple head. On the head was a cubit sized horn that was red at the tip, black in the middle and white on the base. It was a speedy boy and drinking from its horns prevented a myriad of health problems. This is also the beginnings of the unicorn being connected to maidens because CHUCKING a maiden in front of it was the only way to stop and catch it because she would suckle it and lead it off.
This is where the healing symbolism really began in earnest. Unicorn cups were all the rage, though they were usually just made from narwhal or Rhino horn. The maiden and the unicorn became more associated with Christ and Madonna. They became pure white, even though they still didn’t quite look like what we think of when we hear the word unicorn. They had goats’ feet, a mane of a lion and a weird-ass tail. They became the subjects of tapestries and hunts. Somewhere along the way, Scotland adopted it as its national symbol, the myth of unicorns and elephants being natural enemies was
The Modern Unicorn
The modern unicorn is the pure white horse that we all love dearly. It poops rainbows and shows up in TV, movies, and comic books. Deadpool also likes them, so that’s a bonus. They are beloved by children and adults alike. Popular culture presents us with the alicorn, the unicorn frappuccino and other unicorn variations and treats.
Note: Unicorn is also used to describe bisexual people who have relations with couples. Some people find the term offensive, others don’t. Tread with caution when using it to describe people.
Using unicorns as symbols bring a beautiful purity to stories. They symbolize the moon, maidens, the hunt and by proxy, Artemis. They also symbolize healing. The unicorn is ancient and powerful. It should be treated with respect in writing.
Anyways, I hope this was useful, and happy writing!