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The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicorn (original 1968; edition 1991)

by Peter S. Beagle

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,947121927 (4.25)2 / 318
Title:The Last Unicorn
Authors:Peter S. Beagle
Info:Roc Trade (1991), Edition: 0040-Anniversary, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (1968)

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English (117)  German (2)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (121)
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
A wonderful and enchanting story that reads like a fairy tale that knows how to be a fairy tale. Always switching between deep comments on life in general, to absolutely ridiculous humour so you never know how you'll feel about the next page. And written with absolutely gorgeous descriptive writing with beautiful imagery, it was an easy 5/5 stars for me.

Full review on my blog:
http://bastardreading.blogspot.ie/2016/07/55-stars-to-last-unicorn-by-peter-s.ht... ( )
  bastardreading | Oct 12, 2016 |
Okay, here is the short review:

This book is beautiful. Read it.

And here is the longer, SPOILER-filled, review:

Our story begins with the unicorn overhearing a troubling rumour - that there are no unicorns left in the world. But perception versus reality is one of the recurring themes in The Last Unicorn. At various points in the story the unicorn may or may not be a unicorn - or a white mare, or a human girl - the magician may be a bumbling clown, or a true wizard; the outlaws may be villains, or grown men play-acting in the woods; the spider may be weaving webs that hold the world together, or simply a spider.

Upon leaving her enchanted forest the unicorn is shocked to go unrecognized. She is mortified to be mistaken for a white mare by the humans who see her.

”I suppose I could understand it if men had simply forgotten unicorns, or if they had changed so that they hated all unicorns now and tried to kill them when they saw them. But not to see them at all, to look at them and see something else - what do they look like to one another, then? What do trees look like to them, or houses, or real horses, or their own children?” (p.11)

An old witch named Mama Fortuna runs a night carnival, using her powers to make people see mythical beasts where there are normal animals. But she also uses this ability to make the people see the unicorn for the first time. The human power of self-contradiction - wanting to see the magical, yet refusing to see it - is at work.

”She can’t turn cream into butter, but she can give a lion the semblance of a manticore to eyes that want to see a manticore there - eyes that would take a real manticore for a lion, a dragon for a lizard, and the Midgard Serpent for an earthquake. And a unicorn for a white mare.” (p. 27)

Self-belief also works it’s own powerful magic, as the spider in the witch’s carnival believes sincerely in the witch’s illusion - believes itself to be the mythical Arachne, her web holding the world together. Her reality is shattered eventually with the disillusion of the witch’s spells, and our main characters leave the carnival hearing ”the tiny, dry sound of a spider weeping.” (p.54)

Later, a group of wannabe outlaws are overrun with longing and despair by an illusion of Robin Hood and his merry men parading through the forest. They chase after the vision, wanting to be part of it.

The unicorn, on her quest to discover what has happened to her people, befriends Schmendrick the Magician - a bumbling wizard who can do no real magic, who makes his way using slight of hand tricks and illusions. However, real magic does come to him and it manifests in a way that alters physical reality, transforming the last unicorn into the body of a human girl.

The change in outward reality means the unicorn can no longer perceive herself, she is as blind to her true nature as the humans she encountered were previously. This begins transforming her more and more into the illusion the magician set for her, until she can no longer even remember being a unicorn. As with the spider, our reality seems very much what we make it.

Prince Lir’s actions change depending on whether he perceives himself to be a young man in love, or a hero (or is reminded by Schmendrick to see himself as a hero), or as a new king to his people.

The ending is incredibly bittersweet, and it’s hard to say that anyone is really happier for being reminded what they "really" are.

But I don’t want anyone who reads this review to think The Last Unicorn is all moody philosophical meanderings - the prose is beautiful, descriptive and transportive without ever be plodding or slow. There is a lot of humour and adventure, and a real sense of magic and wonder about this book. It’s one of the most perfect books I’ve ever read. I highly recommend reading it - whether you like fantasy or not, whether you like unicorns or not. There is a lot to unpack from this novel and it has some of the most gorgeous prose I've ever read. ( )
1 vote catfantastic | Oct 2, 2016 |
Humble eBook Bundle 2
  GoldenDarter | Sep 15, 2016 |
I have watched the movie of this book a million times. Growing up I would watch The Last Unicorn, Labyrinth, and Princess And The Goblin all the time. As an adult I have read the books furthering my love of them. This book is so good and the movie stays really true to it. I like how the Unicorn goes back to her normal form in the end and doesn't stay human and it's a bittersweet ending. It follows the normal fairy tale guidelines and then ends with everyone alive (everyone important anyways), the unicorns are back in the world free of the Red Bull (right now I'm picturing unicorns being harassed by the energy drink...) and it's not exactly happily ever after but it's good enough. ( )
  oxlabyrinthxo | Jul 10, 2016 |
It is a classic, it is wonderful, it is heartbreaking, and it is beautiful. And I can never seen a movie version of a unicorn without seeing how lacking a white horse with a pseudo-horn on its head is, compared to how the Unicorn is described in this novel. ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
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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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Awards and honors
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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References to this work on external resources.

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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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