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The Secret Life of Unicorns
Most Common Questions about Unicorns
Unicorns are admired across the world and many questions have been asked about their background, appearances and alleged magical powers.
Is the Unicorn from Asia, or is he European? How can you tell the difference?
When was a unicorn last sighted?
Where can I find a unicorn and do I have to be a fair maiden?
Read on , for everything you wanted to know about unicorns but were too shy to ask.
"Well, now that we have seen each other," said the Unicorn, "If you'll believe in me, then I'll believe in you".
"If you like", said Alice. - Through the Looking Glass
Where do Unicorns come from?
There are two competing theories
There are two very different schools of thought when it comes to the Unicorn. Some say he is most definitely Asian, while others say he can only be from Europe.
Let me state my position first. When it comes to unicorns I follow the European theory and in no way do I pretend to be impartial.
Purists believe that the K'i-lin of China is the definitive unicorn, a powerful creature who has shaped much of the history of the region. They maintain that all other unicorns are, at best, a pale copy of the wise K'i-lin, or even, (so some followers of this theory dare to suggest), merely an imaginary creature.
There is much erudite discussion and scholarly dispute but no agreement has yet been reached on which is the 'true' unicorn and which is the 'copy'. On this vexatious issue, the jury is still out.
My money is on the European Unicorn, dream visitor of the Caucasian subconscious.
But first, let's consider the Asian version.......
K'i-Lin, the Chinese Unicorn
Comparable in power and wisdom to the Dragon, the K'i-lin is seen rarely, but his appearance almost always means good news.
He has the body of a stag, the hooves of a horse, the tail of an ox, a long horn on his forehead and a magnificent multi-coloured coat in the five sacred colours - red, yellow, blue, white, and black.
Emperor Fu Hsi met a K'i-lin in the Spring of 2800 BCE. With admirable presence of mind he closely examined the pattern on the colourful pelt. He discovered that the markings were symbols which revealed the written Chinese language.
And that's how the ancient script of China began!
In the 6th century, a K'i-lin approached a woman named Yen Chen-tsi and gave her a jade tablet on which it was written that she would be the mother of a king. A king who had no throne. Some years later, Yen Chen-tsi gave birth to a son. His name was Confucius.
Kirin, the Japanese Unicorn
In Japan, the Kirin is able to detect guilt, and he was called upon in tricky cases. He would stare eerily at the guilty party and then use his horn to pierce the culprit through the heart.
The Kirin and the K'i-lin are wondrous beasts indeed, but are they unicorns?
A pair of unicorns is called a 'Charm'
The European Unicorn
You must know yourself what the European Unicorn looks like, almost every illustration which you see is of the Monoceros Europorum.
Unicorns are almost always white, a pure fresh white or else shades of cream and ivory. His horn is white too, straight, and sharply pointed. I say "almost always" for there have been unsubstantiated reports of unicorns with coats of midnight black.
Stallions are the same size as common or garden horses while females are slightly smaller. All unicorns have well developed manes and tails which are moderately long and fairly shaggy, while the older male sports a beard under the chin.
His eyes, either dark blue or star-lit brown, are very large, much larger than those we see in horses. They communicate with us (if we are lucky enough, and good enough) through telepathic means.
The First Recorded Sighting of the European Unicorn
And the powers of transmutation
We first hear of the European Unicorn from the Greek historian, Ctesia of Cnidus.
At the end of the 5th Century BCE Ctesia described an ass-like creature in India with the head of a deer, the body of a horse, the tail of a lion, the feet of a goat, blue eyes and one white horn on its forehead.
"Those who drink from these horns, made into drinking vessels, are not subject, they say, either to convulsions or to the falling sickness. They are immune even to poisons if, either before or after swallowing such, they drink water, wine, or anything from these beakers."
This is obviously a unicorn. The horn of the unicorn transmutes, and renders harmless, all the deadly poisons known to Man.
Unicorns for the Younger Ones
The Lion and the Unicorn from Babylon
The Grandmother of all European Unicorns
The progenitor of all European unicorns is from Babylon where, in a story familiar to readers from the British Isles, he battles with a lion.
The unicorn represented Spring and the lion represented Summer, each year the two would fight for supremacy, and each year the lion would win.
The magnificent lion was the heraldry of England and a nursery rhyme summed up past battles with Scotland. The English invariably won.
The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All round about the town.
Since Robert III, the Unicorn of Purity had been a part of the official seal of Scotland. When James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, a new coat of arms which included the lion and the unicorn was drawn up. King James seemed to be unaware of the irony.
The Lion and the Unicorn still support the royal shield on the coats of arms of Britain and Canada. Australia, with no sense of heraldry or good taste, replaced them with a Kangaroo and Emu.
Unicorns skim lightly over the ground, so finding their trail is almost impossible
Unicorns on Battlegrounds?
While Julius Caesar merely reported news of a unicorn in Bavaria, Alexander the Great claimed to have ridden one into battle!
I would not go so far as to call the Conqueror of the Known World a liar, perhaps Alexander was just confused, for unicorns have a deep distaste for battles and would never be involved in a military campaign. Besides, Alexander had one of the greatest horses of history, the magnificent and mean-natured War Horse, Bucephalos who was far too bad-tempered to put up with a unicorn.
It's more likely that the Macedonian General struck up a brief friendship with Pegasus the Winged Horse. As you well know, the winged steed is no unicorn.
The Unicorn who saved India
A Meeting with Genghis Khan
The Mongolian Warrior-Emperor, Genghis Khan, conquered much of Asia to build a great empire, but the intervention of a Unicorn made him abruptly turn back from invading India.
As Genghis was lining up his horsemen into their battle units for an easy victory, a unicorn appeared, cantered up to the Khan and knelt before him.
Genghis was astonished. Can you blame him? There's no record of any conversation but, as you are aware, unicorns are telepathic and we will never know what communication passed between these two.
The upshot was, Genghis turned his army away. One of the most famed and fearless warriors in history had been tamed by a Unicorn.
A soft plush castle complete with five little unicorn plushies. A winner with the littles
Is your little one of the age of wanting to carry things around? This perfect little plush unicorn is just right!
Never lose faith in a unicorn or your future will be bleak
Protect the Unicorn
The sighting of a unicorn is a magical and marvelous event.
If you are resting by clear running water in a remote and unspoiled woodland dell and, by wondrous chance, you see a passing unicorn, do not exclaim and jump up. And don't run up to touch him! Just stay silent, still and calm, allowing the unicorn to gracefully acknowledge your presence.
Remember that the unicorn is an aloof creature, solitary in his ways, and rarely allows any of us a sighting.
Respect his privacy. Never ever tell anybody else of his whereabouts.
(It's alright to tell me, I can keep a secret)
The Unicorn will Return when Goodness Returns
Keep on the lookout for unicorns. To see one is a sign of good times, which is why such sightings have dwindled the last few years. But the Unicorn will appear again - when goodness returns to the earth.
Do you believe in Unicorns?
You're more than welcome to state your opinion. You don't have to be a mythological creature.
Does the unicorn exist?
Anyone can leave a comment, you don't have to be a magical creature (or a fair maiden) to post yours
© 2008 Susanna Duffy