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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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4,5921031,045 (4.26)2 / 306
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 (99)  German (2)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (103)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
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 |
The Unicorn hears that she is supposed to be the last in the world, the rest of the unicorns having been chased by the Red Bull. At first, she doesn’t believe those news and she decides to go looking for the others. But as she scours the lands, she doesn’t find them. Instead she hears more stories about King Haggard and his Red Bull. Joined by Schmendrick, a rather inept wizard, and Molly, a former robber, they make their way to Haggard’s castle to find out about the unicorns.

Despite having seen the film about a hundred times already, I never read the book before. Which can only be described as a damn shame, especially now that I know that it really is one of the most beautiful books I ever read.

Read more on my blog: http://kalafudra.com/2015/08/30/the-last-unicorn-peter-s-beagle/ ( )
  kalafudra | Aug 31, 2015 |
This was actually one that I saw the movie to before I read the book while the two are almost evenly matched. Both are beautiful in their own ways while not being away too much from each other.

Within the book the author has a magical way of putting his words together, of touching the various emotional strings each person holds and bringing magic into the picture where you cannot doubt its existence. The story has its own breath to it.

The characters are made with a simplistic touch to them and are easy to keep track of but even in this simplicity they are complex. Their complexities combine together to bring the story to its end and yet the end is just the beginning.

Love this book! ( )
  flamingrosedrakon | Aug 26, 2015 |
Obviously a classic fantasy with a unicorns, magicians, witches. Some of the writing is poetic and there are some modern touches such as the characters discuss being part of a fairy tale. Some parts are very moving and yet I had to push myself through some sections. I don't think I'm enough of a fantasy fan to appreciate this genre to its fullest. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 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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Wikipedia in English (4)

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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