Welcome to the first post of Monstrous Monday, so named because I’ll be taking a look at different creatures that are considered ‘other than human.’ I know the unicorn doesn’t typically fit the general idea of monstrous, but in some places, it is considered a monster. Most notably, in Dungeons and Dragons and occasionally in certain video games. I’m also using the unicorn because I figured I’d revisit this topic with a new voice and some additional information to round things out, including my own personal interpretations of them in creative writing. Mind you, these particular stories haven’t been finished and I don’t know if or when that will happen, but there are some liberties I take with certain mythical creatures.
Let’s begin, shall we? First off, I’ll keep the original bit about the various cultural names of unicorns. I find that rather fascinating. Whereas we name them ‘unicorns’ in English, they appear in lots of other cultures too. There’s an absolutely fascinating breakdown and explanation of the unicorn you can find in THIS BLOG POST that offers information about various ways in which it appears in history and some really incredible descriptions. I mean, I’d heard the standard white equine beast with cloven hooves and a lion’s tail, but apparently sometimes it has a flexible horn or a multi-colored horn or a black horn or different animal elements. I encourage you to check it out. The accompanying images are quite intriguing as well.
For the sake of everyone involved, I won’t attempt to pronounce these cultural variants of the names, but please enjoy all the same. ^_^
Alternate Names: German – Einhorn; French – licorne; Latin – unicornus; Spanish – unicornio; Italian – alicorno (or liocorno); Norweigan – enhjørning; Polish – jednorozec; Arabic – karkadann; Japanese – ikkakujuu (kirin); Chinese – ki-lin (quilin); Greek – monokeros; Russian – yedinorog; Finnish – yksisarvinen; Dutch – eenhoorn; Lithuanian – vienaragis; Esperanto – unukornulo Portuguese – unicórnio; Swedish – Enhörning; Hebrew – Had-Keren; Latvian – vienradzis; Welsh – Uncorn; Romanian – inorog
*I currently do not recall where I pulled my information from, much to my chagrin. My younger collegiate me is lamenting this lapse in not being able to give credit to the source material. I’m banking on the likelihood the following has been pulled from one of the weblinks at the bottom of this article. Taking a look at the origin of unicorns: Some of the earliest references can be found in the travel journal In Patagonia (1977) where a South American scientist theorized that unicorns had existed in South America at one time but had been hunted to extinction by 6000 to 5000 B.C. Granted, such a theory was largely based on the unconfirmed reports of aboriginal cave paintings featuring a unicorn in Namaqualand. Other references can be found in the bible in the books of: Psalms, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Job, and Numbers, where God is compared to a unicorn in description or sends such creatures to do his bidding. The most widely known unicorns have been recorded in both Eastern (Japanese and Chinese) and Western (Americas) mythologies and while they take on slightly (most of the time) different characteristics or go by different names, the creatures are quite similar.
Primary Characteristics: In Western mythology, the unicorn is a four legged creature usually resembling a white horse with a single horn rising from its forehead. Sometimes it was portrayed with solid hooves more akin to a horse or with cloven hooves like that of a goat; occasionally it had a beard and often a lion’s tail. The body of a unicorn has been described as that of a deer, goat, or donkey along with the familiar equine descriptor. In earlier portrayals, it was more a creature to be feared than the primary image we have of it today; previously bestowed with great strength and a vile temperament. Today’s image portrays them more as shy, peaceful creatures that can only be tamed by a virgin maiden.
In Eastern mythology (Chinese), the unicorn takes on a more chimera-type appearance with a froth covered horn, the body of a deer covered in green scales and bearing the head of a lion. Following Japanese mythology, the unicorn (ki-rin) looks more like the Western version but with a backwards curving horn. They have also been described as having the head of a dragon and a tiger’s body with scales. They are known for being peaceful creatures as well but can become fierce if a pure person is threatened by a sinner and takes great care not to harm or tread on any living thing, including blades of grass.
Almost unanimously, they tend to be a symbol of purity and/or nobility and their horns (alicorns) are often attributed with having healing abilities beyond the norm including the ability to neutralize or protect one from poison.
This latter version is the one I most frequently utilize in my own writings. Since I dabble most commonly in the world of fantasy, almost anything can be possible. That being the case, my first unicorn was a very true to form interpretation of a Western unicorn. White fur, single meter long horn, blue eyes… the works. He could communicate with humans telepathically and was oh so human in his emotions. haha He could heal like most unicorns could, but he also had quite an aggressive streak should the occasion call for it. This happened mostly when he was trying to protect someone. With my second unicorn, I took a little more creative license with him. He could take the form of a human and shift freely between them at will. He also had the typical powers of a unicorn, insofar as healing was concerned, and similarly could manifest protection type barriers for warding off attacks or keeping enemies at bay. In an even later setting, I created a species wherein unicorns are typically peaceful creatures with the ability to communicate telepathically but otherwise live similarly to intelligent horses. However, there was a rare occurrence where a ‘reverse’ unicorn could exist. Pulling straight from my plotting notes:
Unicorns are pacifists and healers, therefore innocent, but only because they were created in such a way that the violence that would balance them only manifests periodically. On rare occasions, a unicorn is conceived that carries the weight of the entire species’ unmanifested anger and violence. There is no way to predict it and every female unicorn that conceives has a chance of experiencing this type of pregnancy. In the majority of cases, both the mother and the foal die before or during birth, thereby alleviating the concern of taking care of the Cursed/Tainted unicorn.
In very rare cases, the foal survives, either because it was able to cut and kick free on its own or because it was helped by someone else. The mother never survives. This is due in no small part because a Tainted unicorn’s horn grows exponentially during the period just before birth, thereby causing massive internal damage to the mother.
• Granting minor blessings (luck for the coming year, healthy pregnancy, easy recovery, etc)
• Soothing aura
• Shielding (full encompassment)
Tainted Unicorn Powers:
• Reverse healing of self (stealing life force of others to heal)
• Murderous aura
• Granting curses
• Much physically stronger in unicorn form
• Shielding (frontal focus for frontal assault and defensive purposes only)
I have not completed this story and it might be a while before I do, but I’m fascinated by it all the same. My first introduction to violent unicorns was in The Black Unicorn by Terry Brooks. This was simply the first creative iteration where I got to further contemplate how a violent unicorn might manifest in a different world.
My latest attempt to dabble with a unicorn is actually with a unicorn dragon hybrid creature in my science fiction WIP. Imagine some combination of these critters:
At this point, I’ve no idea what I’ll do with any further ones. I’ve contemplated making multi-colored unicorns more akin to draft beasts of war in a different setting but haven’t really fleshed that one out yet. We shall see! One day anyway. >.>
To wrap things up though, I’d like to introduce you to a few venues that I discovered had unicorns in one way, shape, or form including movies, books and games (video and table top).
My first introduction to unicorns was in Legend (1985). It remains of my favorites to this day. Voyage of the Unicorn (2001), Alice in Wonderland (2010), The Last Unicorn (1982) – also one of my absolute favorites from my childhood, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), Stardust (2007), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Nico the Unicorn (1998), etc.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (the book that The Last Unicorn movie was based off of); The Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville – my first unicorn book in middle school; Unicorns of Balinor by Mary Stanton; The Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony; Tanith Lee’s Unicorn Trilogy; The Unicorn Wars by John Lee, etc.
Pryzm the Unicorn (PS2); Suikoden (PS and PS2); Dungeons and Dragons (tabletop); Ultima Online (PC); Chrono Cross (PS); Final Fantasy (PS and handhelds)
Of course there are many other examples, especially in recent history like My Little Pony and I’m pretty sure there’s a PS3 / PS4 game called The Last Unicorn too. But I’m a bit behind the times and the one’s I’ve previously listed I have at least played, watched, read or heard of the majority of them so can vouch from personal experience. For more in-depth information or further reading, please see the links below. That’ll take care of it for today so thank you for checking out my blog and have a great day!
**And because I’m late to the party here, I also wanted to add the Acorna Series by Anne McCaffrey.
Any suggestions or requests for our next Monstrous Monday? ^_^