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The Last Unicorn (1968)

by Peter S. Beagle

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Last Unicorn (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,2641911,212 (4.2)1 / 49
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.
  1. 213
    Stardust by Neil Gaiman (aslikeanarnian, MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For, "I do not know what you were like as a wood-nymph, madam, but you are a magnificent tree."
  2. 40
    The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (Cecrow)
  3. 30
    The Line Between by Peter S. Beagle (aces)
  4. 31
    Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees (twilightnocturne)
  5. 20
    The Ring of Allaire by Susan Dexter (humouress)
    humouress: An unusual equine is camouflaged by magic, and the quest cannot continue until the enchantment is broken.
  6. 00
    Elfleda [short story] by Vonda N. McIntyre (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For another singular unicorn, in a tale more bitter than sweet. Available on the author's website.
  7. 00
    Spellfall by Katherine Roberts (bookel)
  8. 00
    Spellhorn by Berlie Doherty (bookel)
  9. 00
    The Ratcatcher by Viktor Dyk (mysimas)
  10. 00
    The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (mysimas)
  11. 00
    Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall (mysimas)
  12. 00
    Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (mysimas)
  13. 00
    Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (mysimas)
    mysimas: The heroines both deal with the conflict between their identity and the perception of others (Fevvers’ slogan ‘fact or fiction’ fits perfectly) and live in a world that tries to entrap them. There’s magic, and freeing love. The Last Unicorn is more on the fairy-taleish side and suitable even for young readers.… (more)
  14. 01
    Ariel by Steven R. Boyett (spiphany)
  15. 01
    Rampant by Diana Peterfreund (cbcsms)
  16. 13
    The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee (MyriadBooks)
1960s (42)

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Group TopicMessagesLast Message 
 Folio Society Devotees: OT Suntup the last Unicorn6 unread / 6woodstock8786, September 27

» See also 49 mentions

English (184)  Italian (3)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (191)
Showing 1-5 of 184 (next | show all)
Independent Reading Level: Grades 4-5
Awards: none, but in 1987 'The Last Unicorn' was ranked number five among the thirty-three all-time best fantasy novels.
  Mathews_mallory | Nov 26, 2023 |
Sweet and whimsical, but also longwinded and trying to be poetic and deep. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. ( )
  Yggie | Oct 12, 2023 |
This is the type of book I would expect to love, but I couldn't get into it for some reason. Maybe I just read it at the wrong time. ( )
  AngelClaw | Sep 12, 2023 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this young adult fantasy novel and it may even be a Top 5 contender for 2023. Published in 1968, The Last Unicorn by American author Peter S. Beagle has become a modern fantasy classic. Included in my copy of 501 Must-Read Books and voted by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Best Fantasy Books of all time, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is a new favourite and exceeded all of my hopes and expectations.

This quest novel features a unicorn who is worried she may be the last of her kind on earth. As she leaves the serenity and sanctuary of her wood to venture forth and find the truth, she meets fellow travellers along the way who join her in her quest.

While I'm generally not a fan of anthropomorphism (talking animals) in books, I have been known to make the odd exception (Watership Down by Richard Adams), and here it seemed natural and endearing.

'He ran,' the unicorn said. 'You must never run from anything immortal. It attracts their attention.' Her voice was gentle, and without pity. 'Never run,' she said. 'Walk slowly, and pretend to be thinking of something else. Sing a song, say a poem, do your tricks, but walk slowly and she may not follow. Walk very slowly, magician.' Page 53

The unicorn isn't the only immortal or mythical creature in the novel, we also have magicians, curses, an evil King, a hero Prince and even a harpy!

"I am a hero. It is a trade, no more, like weaving or brewing, and like them it has its own tricks and knacks and small arts. There are ways of perceiving witches, and of knowing poison streams; there are certain weak spots that all dragons have, and certain riddles that hooded strangers tend to set you. But the true secret of being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock at the witch's door when she is away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story." Page 249

This quest novel was a real adventure and definitely gave me the feel-good fairytale vibes I was seeking when turning to The Brothers Grimm earlier this year. The writing also made me chuckle at times, with observations like this one in the face of immediate danger:

"The magician stood erect, menacing the attackers with demons, metamorphoses, paralyzing ailments, and secret judo holds. Molly picked up a rock." Page 130

As you can see, the author's writing is sublime and the descriptions are incredibly evocative and refreshing:

"So they journeyed together, following the fleeing darkness into a wind that tasted like nails." Page 105

Wow, such a punchy description! Reading and enjoying The Last Unicorn, I couldn't help wondering whether the book influenced Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro in the writing of his quest novel The Buried Giant. In my opinion, The Buried Giant falls well short of The Last Unicorn, but I couldn't help noticing some similarities between the two.

Rich in allegory, The Last Unicorn has aged exceptionally well, but I'll leave you with one last quote I especially enjoyed, and which reminded me a little of Harry Potter:

"An old man in a dark, spangled gown and a pointed, spangled hat was standing there, and no one could say surely that he had not been standing there in plain sight since they entered the throne room. His beard and brows were white, and the cast of his face was mild and wise, but his eyes were as hard as hailstones." Page 163

Having sold more than 6 million copies, I can definitely see why The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is so beloved by children and adults, and why it continues to find new readers this past half century.

If you'd like to discover the magic for yourself, you can read the Introduction by Patrick Rothfuss and the first chapter and a half for FREE via my blog here: https://www.carpelibrum.net/2023/09/review-last-unicorn-peter-s-beagle.html

Highly recommended! ( )
  Carpe_Librum | Sep 12, 2023 |
The prose in this book is simply gorgeous. It's like poetry and Tolkien but closer to the perfect length, although I wish more was in my edition (like the "sequel" where the primary cast meets up again later in their lives). It sounds like a stereotypical fairy tale, but it hits the perfect note of old-fashioned and whimsical.

The story is fun and all the characters are interesting. It's interesting to see a character who is so "ignorant" of the world but who is also one of the wisest characters in the cast. It's a neat way to write a fantasy protagonist: not an empty canvas to be fashioned into a masterpiece by the end of the novel, but a character with a decent knowledge base and flaws, like most people, who would make sense as a group member or even as a leader because of the skills she can offer.

It's also a nice reflection on prophecy (particularly self-fulfilling prophecy), obsession, adventure, love, heroism, friendship, compassion, environmentalism and fear. I also don't know of many books that star unicorns outside of the "My Little Pony" franchise, so that's neat.

If you love the book, watch the movie, and vice versa. The film is one of the best book-to-film adaptations I've ever seen, with most of the plot remaining the same (although a lot of Liir's story is cut out) and much of the dialogue is lifted straight from the novel, and the movie is very enjoyable on its own merits. ( )
  AnonR | Aug 5, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 184 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter S. Beagleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bodt, RenéeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cox, Rebekah NaomiCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallardo, GervasioCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grant, MelvynCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidd, TomIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oakes, TerryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Phillips, ElizabethCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prygov, SergeyCover 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.
It's a rare man who is taken for what he truly is.
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.

Wikipedia in English


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.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary
This Red Bull does not
"give you wings." It captures all
the world's unicorns.

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OT Suntup the last Unicorn in Folio Society Devotees

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