Unicorns are legendary and mythical animals, which in European folklore usually resemble a horse with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead, and sometimes a goat's beard and cloven hooves. First mentioned by the ancient Greeks, it became the most important imaginary animal of the Middle Ages and Renaissance when it was commonly described as an extremely wild woodland creature, a symbol of purity and grace, which could only be captured by a virgin.
- 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?
- Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.
- I am the only Unicorn there is? The Last? … That cannot be. Why would I be the last? What do men know? Because they have seen no unicorns for a while does not mean we have all vanished. We do not vanish. … There has never been a time without unicorns. We live forever! We are as old as the sky, old as the moon! We can be hunted, trapped; we can even be killed if we leave our forests, but we do not vanish. … Am I truly the last?
- The Unicorn Sonata … tells us that our true home is often right around the corner, if we'd only open our eyes — and our ears — to find it.
- Peter S. Beagle, in The Unicorn Sonata (1996)
- A Chinese prose writer has observed that the unicorn, because of its own anomaly, will pass unnoticed. Our eyes see what they are accustomed to seeing.
- Jorge Luis Borges, in "The Modesty of History" in Other Inquisitions (1952)
- It is universally held that the unicorn is a supernatural being and of auspicious omen; so say the odes, the annals, the biographies of worthies, and other texts whose authority is unimpeachable. Even village women and children know that the unicorn is a lucky sign. But this animal does not figure among the barnyard animals, it is not always easy to come across, it does not lend itself to zoological classification. Nor is it like the horse or bull, the wolf or deer. In such circumstances we may be face to face with a unicorn and not know for sure that we are. We know that a certain animal with a mane is a horse and that a certain animal with horns is a bull. We do not know what the unicorn looks like.
- I don't want to talk about the texts or the class. We can do that another time. I just want to know the last time you saw a unicorn and do you still believe in primeval forests.
- Leo Buscaglia, in Living, Loving, and Learning (1985)
- Billy lowered his head and ran, headlong, at the unicorn, as if he were about to butt it with his forehead. The unicorn lowered its head also, and Billy the Innkeeper met his unfortunate end.
- She had a unicorn to protect her. Now I have the unicorn's head, and I will bring it back with me, for it's long enough since we had fresh ground unicorn's horn in our arts.
- Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?
- I agree that clouds often look like other things — fish and unicorns and men on horseback — but they are really only clouds. Even when the lightning flashes inside them we say they are only clouds and turn our attention to the next meal, the next pain, the next breath, the next page. This is how we go on.
- If even one Unicorn walks the Earth my power is not complete.
- You know what they call a unicorn without a horn? A freaking horse.
- When a pony does a good deed, he gets a horn and he becomes a unicorn and poops out cotton candy until he forgets he’s magical and then his horn falls off. Black unicorns become zebras.
- I'm also a unicorn. Maybe a bi-corn. Either way, I'm starting to believe in my own magic.
- Now I will believe
That there are unicorns; that in Arabia
There is one tree, the phoenix' throne, one phoenix
At this hour reigning there.
- Once upon a sunny morning a man who sat in a breakfast nook looked up from his scrambled eggs to see a white unicorn with a golden horn quietly cropping the roses in the garden. The man went up to the bedroom where his wife was still asleep and woke her. "There's a unicorn in the garden," he said. "Eating roses." She opened one unfriendly eye and looked at him. "The unicorn is a mythical beast," she said, and turned her back on him. The man walked slowly downstairs and out into the garden. The unicorn was still there; he was now browsing among the tulips.
- James Thurber, in "The Unicorn in the Garden", The New Yorker (31 October 1939); Fables for Our Time & Famous Poems Illustrated (1940); this is a fable in which a man sees a Unicorn in his garden, and his wife reports the matter to have him taken away, to the "booby-hatch". Online text with illustration by Thurber
- If you herald some turn in our fortunes, if you bring us some measure of grace — thanks, unicorn … And even if you do not, thanks for the brightness of your company at a dark time.
- Roger Zelazny, in the Chronicles of Amber novel Sign of the Unicorn (1975), Corwin, in Ch. 5
- It is no shame to lose to me, mortal. Even among mythical creatures there are very few who can give a unicorn a good game.
The Unicorn in Captivity (1955)
- Here sits the Unicorn
His bright invulnerability
Captive at last
- Here sits the Unicorn
- He could leap the corral,
If he rose
To his full height;
He could splinter the fencing light,
With three blows
Of his porcelain hoofs in flight —
If he chose.
He could shatter his prison wall,
Could escape them all —
If he rose,
If he chose.
- Here sits the Unicorn;
The wounds in his side
- Dream wounds, dream ties
Do not bind him there
In a kingdom where
He is unaware
Of his wounds, of his snare.
- Here sits the Unicorn;
Leashed by a chain of gold
To the pomegranate tree.
So light a chain to hold
So fierce a beast;
Delicate as a cross at rest
On a maiden's breast.
He could snap the golden chain
With one toss of his mane,
If he chose to move,
If he chose to prove
But he does not choose
What choice would lose.
He stays, the Unicorn,
- Yet look again —
His horn is free,
Rising above chain, fence, and tree,
Free hymn of love; His horn
Bursts from his tranquil brow
Like a comet born;
Cleaves like a galley's prow
Into seas untorn;
Springs like a lily, white
From the Earth below;
Spirals, a bird in flight
To a longed-for height;
Or a fountain bright,
Spurting to light
Of early morn —
O luminous horn!
- Here sits the Unicorn —
- Forgotten the strife;
Now the need to kill
Has died like fire,
And the need to love
Has replaced desire
- Quiet, the Unicorn,
In contemplation stilled,
With acceptance filled;
Quiet, save for his horn;
Alive in his horn;