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The last unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The last unicorn (original 1968; edition 2008)

by Peter S. Beagle

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4,6311061,030 (4.26)2 / 315
Title:The last unicorn
Authors:Peter S. Beagle
Info:New York : Roc, 2008.
Collections:Owned, To read

Work details

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (1968)

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English (102)  German (2)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (106)
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
The Last Unicorn is beautifully crafted to read like an "old fashioned" fable or fairy tale. Beagle pulls this off very eloquently, but doesn't let his characters become flat or cardboard. He also doesn't let them be standard archetypes without injecting a little bit of personality. There's a good deal of tongue-in-cheek humor sprinkled into the very serious business of the story of the last unicorn in the world trying to save the rest of her kind.

On a more cerebral level: if you're at all familiar with Owen Barfield's work, or the Oxford Inklings' flavor of postmodernism, this novel has a whole other level to offer you in its reading.

Molly Grue will always be my favorite, and even at 16 years old, I well understood her when she said:

"And what good is it to me that you're here now? Where where you twenty years ago, ten years ago? How dare you, how dare you come to me now, when I am this?" ( )
  jennaelf | Jan 5, 2016 |
Moving, enjoyable and reads fast. Beagle asks questions about what fairy tales are and what they're supposed to do while telling the story of a unicorn in search of more of her kind. I enjoyed it as a light read with a slightly darker edge. ( )
1 vote bostonbibliophile | Nov 23, 2015 |
A more perfect, luminous book you could not hope to find or enjoy. A modern fairy tale that sprinkles its casual modernity with wit and restraint, yet which is so deeply and madly in love with fairy tales that it never thinks to undermine or mock them, but celebrates them with a language that combines beautiful, straightforward simplicity with heartfelt, lyrical imagery.

I first read this is my first year of secondary school, when the film came out, which I never saw, and the trailer was on the television, featuring a brief glimpse of a knight fighting a fire-breathing dragon. Now, I was well familiar with the idea of knights fighting fire-breathing dragons, but the fact was you rarely encountered them in books and films and stories, and so I was quite keen to see this film which had a knight fighting a fire-breathing dragon as what was surely a major and crucial part of the plot. As it happened, I never saw the film, but someone gave me a book. I read it, and it was great, but my enjoyment was tempered by the absence of a knight fighting fire-breathing dragons, which loomed large in my consciousness, but not on the page. Until near the end, when Prince Lir casually mentions his efforts to woo the transformed unicorn by killing up to five dragons. Just mentions it, and that's it.

It'd be wrong to say I felt cheated, but my enjoyment of the book was thwarted by my own erroneous expectations, as happens from time to time. I am delighted now to correct that experience, and discover that this books is simply incredible. You can tell people like Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, to name but two, almost certainly read and loved this book, and if you have any feeling for fantasy, or for fiction, or for good writing, you will too. ( )
1 vote Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
This is a classic fantasy book originally published in the 1960’s. There is also an animated movie adaptation, and a more recently-published graphic novel, but I had never seen or read this story in any form so it was brand new to me. If you’re trying to get a hold of this book, and you aren’t interested in the graphic novel, pay careful attention to what you’re getting. On the U.S. Amazon site, the product page for the paperback (not the graphic novel) has a link for a "Kindle" version but that version is the graphic novel. I came very close to buying the wrong thing. In fact, it doesn’t seem like an e-book version of the novel is available to purchase anywhere, at least not in the U.S. I ended up borrowing the paperback from the library instead.

At the beginning of the book, a unicorn overhears two hunters in the woods talking about unicorns. They say there aren’t any more unicorns left in the world, and the unicorn is dismayed by this idea. Unicorns lead isolated lives in their own woods which means they rarely encounter each other. The unicorn decides she must know whether or not she’s really the last unicorn, so she sets off down the closest road in search of answers. The first thing she discovers is that people can’t even see her for what she is. They don’t see a unicorn because they don’t expect to see one. They just see a pretty white horse, which she finds quite insulting! Along the way, at different points and under different circumstances during the journey, she gathers a couple of humans who do recognize her for what she is and journey with her to help her.

I think this book was really written more for children, but I also thought there were several aspects of the book that would be better appreciated by an adult. In particular, I’m not sure a child would really grasp the complexities of some of the characters in the books. The basic story is a simple one that children could understand, and the book was written with a simple tone and relatively simple words, but the main human characters were all adults and the unicorn herself had lived for a very long time. The main characters’ motivations and reactions were therefore more complex and more adult than the characters that populate your typical children’s book. I don’t think the characters’ reactions were really explained at a level a child could understand. I’ll put an example of what I mean in spoiler tags for those who have read the book. Although, if you’ve read it, you may already know exactly what I mean anyway!

When Molly first encounters the unicorn, her very first reaction is to cry out, “Where have you been? Damn you, where have you been?” And then, a little later, “And what good is it to me that you’re here now? Where were you twenty years ago, ten years ago? How dare you, how dare you come to me now, when I am this?” As an adult I understood this perfectly but would a child, who has yet to really understand the passage of time and the aging process, have any clue why this woman is randomly yelling at the beautiful unicorn?

I was actually bored with this book during the first half. The story was really straight-forward and I didn’t like the characters very much. The unicorn is aloof. Unicorns, at least as portrayed in this book, are not social creatures nor do they care much about the doings of mere mortals. She reacts to respect and admiration as if it’s her due and she shows no gratitude or affection for the people who are doing everything they can to help her. The humans who join her on her quest were more likeable, but I didn’t warm up to them right away either.

The story got significantly more interesting closer to the midpoint though, and I finally started to get more invested in the characters. I was also happy with how the book ended. It was a bittersweet ending, more so than I expected from a children’s book, but I thought it ended the only way it could realistically end. ( )
  YouKneeK | Sep 9, 2015 |
One of my favorite movies as a kid, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is now one of my favorite books as well. It's beautiful and lyrical and sad and powerful. Schmendrick has a fantastic backstory and everything is much more symbolic and interesting. I did rewatch the film for the first time in about 20 years too and it brought back so many memories.

http://webereading.com/2015/08/clearing-slate.html ( )
  klpm | Aug 31, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter S. Beagleprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bodt, RenéeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallardo, GervasioCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grant, MelvynCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oakes, TerryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sprangers, KickTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, Darrell K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the memory of Dr. Olfert Dapper, who saw a wild unicorn in the Maine woods in 1673, and for Robert Nathan, who has seen one or two in Los Angeles.

In memory of Louis Untermeyer and Edgar Pangborn.
First words
The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.
"Mare? The unicorn trumpeted the word so shrilly that the man stopped pursuing her and clapped his hands to his ears. "Mare?" she demanded. "I, a horse? Is that what you take me for? Is that what you see?"
We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The Deluxe Edition of "The Last Unicorn" includes the short story "Two Hearts" and a lengthy interview with the author. As such, it is a different work from regular editions of "The Last Unicorn," and should not be combined with them.

"The Last Unicorn: The Lost Version" should not be combined with "The Last Unicorn". While related, they are not the same story and are therefore different works.

"The Last Unicorn: Graphic Novel" should not be combined with "The Last Unicorn". It is a graphic novel adaptation of the novel, not an identical work.
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Book description
Haiku summary
This Red Bull does not
"give you wings." It captures all
the world's unicorns.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0451450523, Paperback)

The Last Unicorn is one of the true classics of fantasy, ranking with Tolkien's The Hobbit, Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy, and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Beagle writes a shimmering prose-poetry, the voice of fairy tales and childhood:

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.

The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician--whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended--when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna's Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.

This is a book no fantasy reader should miss; Beagle argues brilliantly the need for magic in our lives and the folly of forgetting to dream. --Nona Vero

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:10 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Recounts the quest of the last unicorn, who leaves the protection of the enchanted forest to search for her own kind, and who is joined by Schmedrick the Magician and Molly Grue in her search.

(summary from another edition)

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