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Unicorns and Unicorn Mythology

Updated on May 13, 2015

Unicorns are Wonderful Creatures

The unicorn is one of my favorite legendary creatures. Basically they are white horses with a single horn, but they also have some special, supernatural abilities.

Unicorn mythology always portrays unicorns as good, unlike most of the mythical creatures of legend and lore. Also, unicorns are featured on the coat of arms of Scotland. So, unicorns are quite close to my heart!

Unicorn Walking Towards Waterfall by Buddy Mays

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Unicorns are Special

Unicorns are mythical creatures found in mythologies, legends, fairy tales, and folkore, and depicted in bestiaries and books of wondrous creatures, especially from the medieval age. Today, they abound in fantasy tales.

Unicorns are generally considered to have supernatural abilities. Their horns have healing powers and are able to neutralize poisons. Unicorns represent purity and innocence, and can be tamed only by a virgin.

Unicorn Dances by Sue Clyne

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Don't Confuse Unicorns with Pegasus!

The unicorn is described as a horse, almost always white, with a single, spiral horn coming out of its forehead. Not to be confused with the pegasus, also a white horse, the unicorn has no wings.

Origins of Unicorns

Unicorns seems to exist in legends around the world. And many believe that unicorns really existed in the past. Or at least, creatures that had one horn if not all the other characteristics of the unicorn. Thus, deformed members of the deer or goat family have been suggested as the origin of unicorns.

Narwhals
Narwhals | Source

It has been suggested that the unicorn horns that have been displayed as historical curiosities are actually from narwhals. These are a kind of whale, found in the Arctic waters, with a single distinctive straight spiral tusk. In fact, the depictions of unicorns in art usually feature a horn that clearly resembles the tusk of the narwhal.

The unicorn appears in the stories and mythology of the ancient Sumerian culture, the Old Testament of the Bible, as well as Ancient Greek natural history. In the orient, Chinese mythology describes the qilin as a chimera - usually depicted as a creature with the head of a dragon, hooves and antlers of a deer, and tail of a lion - that serves as a good omen of prosperity. Some have suggested the giraffe was misinterpreted as this creature, with the modern Japanese word for giraffe being kirin.

The "Real" Unicorn

Deformed goats, strange whales with tusks, and even a giraffe - give me a break! Those who make such suggestions have missed the fundamental characteristics of the unicorn, at least in my opinion.

Unicorns are glorious creatures, gentle and good (at least toward those who are innocent), and filled with grace and splendor. Magical, yes, in their appearance and character, if not in their abilities.

Unicorns are always delicate, elegant, and entrancing to look at, but when pictured with their young they are just the best!

Unicorn Mare and Foal by Corey Ford

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Arms of Scotland
Arms of Scotland | Source

Unicorns in Heraldry

Unicorns are quite popular in heraldry where, like this Scottish unicorn, they are usually shown with a broken chain indicating that although once captured they are now free. The heraldic unicorn is a horse with the cloven hooves and beard of a goat, a lion's tail, and the traditional single spiral horn on its forehead.

The Scottish Royal Arms actually feature two majestic unicorns (although this photo shows only one). Another reason I love unicorns!

Unicorns on Tapestries

There are two very significant tapestries, well actually each is a series of tapestries, that feature unicorns. They were both created around the end of the fifteenth century. The unicorns have the characteristics of the heraldic unicorn - a horse with the cloven hooves and beard of a goat, a lion's tail, and the traditional single spiral horn on its forehead.

Detail from The Lady and the Unicorn: Sight Tapestry
Detail from The Lady and the Unicorn: Sight Tapestry

The Lady and the Unicorn

The Lady and the Unicorn series has six tapestries. Each tapestry has a noble lady in medieval garb, a unicorn, a lion, as well as various other animals. Five depict the senses: touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing. Thus, in the detail from the "sight" tapestry, the unicorn is shown looking at its reflection in a mirror held by the lady. The sixth tapestry is mysterious, bearing the inscription A mon seul desir ("to my only desire") woven into the tent behind the lady. A common understanding is that it represents love.

Detail from The Lady and the Unicorn: Sight Tapestry

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The Unicorn is Found, one of the series of seven tapestries "The Hunt of the Unicorn"
The Unicorn is Found, one of the series of seven tapestries "The Hunt of the Unicorn" | Source

The Hunt of the Unicorn

The series "The Hunt of the Unicorn," also called the "Unicorn Tapestries," contains seven tapestries. These depict a group of noblemen and hunters hunting a unicorn. As the series progresses, they encounter the unicorn and are amazed by its powers as it dips its horn into a poisoned water fountain to protect and heal all the creatures. However, the unicorn is attacked, and despite fiercely defending itself, it is captured and brought back in triumph, mortally wounded. In the final tapestry, though, the unicorn is seen alive again, and apparently tamed.

Interpretations of this series of tapestries include the mythological account that a unicorn can only be tamed by a virgin maiden (only fragments of the tapestry apparently depicting this scene remain), and Christian symbolism of the resurrection of Christ.

The Last Unicorns

Since unicorns have not been seen on the earth in recent years at least, many have imagined how it must have been for the last unicorns.

In this animated movie a unicorn appears to be the last of her kind, and sets off on a quest to search for any others who may have survived. Based on the book by Peter S. Beagle "The Last Unicorn" is my favorite unicorn movie. It has simple animation but the voices from an all star cast and the haunting soundtrack make it wonderful. This is just a lovely movie with such sympathy toward the unicorn, and with a host of other mythical creatures as well as humans, even a magician!

The Last Unicorn Movie

"The Last Unicorn" Book

Peter S. Beagle's "The Last Unicorn" is a classic of fantasy, well worth reading by children and adults alike.

The Last Unicorn song by America

This amazing song is the title song in the movie "The Last Unicorn."

Unicorns Inspire Fantastic Art!

Real or imaginary, artists don't care. They just love unicorns, and these magnificent creatures grace their work in many wonderful ways. Here are just a few examples.

 Serigraphy "The unicorn" by Adi Holzer. It is a part of the "Noah Zyklus" from the year 1975.
Serigraphy "The unicorn" by Adi Holzer. It is a part of the "Noah Zyklus" from the year 1975. | Source

Enchanted Forest

by Lydian at zazzle.com

Unicorn Waves
by Rachael Tallamy at zazzle.com

© 2009 Jennifer P Tanabe

Love Unicorns?

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    • profile image

      Tari Chabot 20 months ago

      So very pretty.

    • profile image

      stevbonhage 2 years ago

      A very nice read. I just wrote an article about the Unicorn Café in Bangkok http://stevbonhage.hubpages.com/hub/The-Unicorn-Ca... & your hub was featured in "related hubs".

    • raffael lm profile image

      raffael lm 3 years ago

      You took me fascinated with the charming of unicorn portrayal.

    • profile image

      Bartukas 4 years ago

      Great lens thanks

    • profile image

      gradientcat 4 years ago

      I love the Last Unicorn movie. We also just read the story to our kids.

    • Mamabyrd profile image

      Mamabyrd 4 years ago

      Beautiful lens! I have love unicorns since I was a little girl. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      MuffinPuffART 4 years ago

      Lovely lens, I adore Unicorns and its nice to see them so well represented on Squidoo!

    • attraction 42 profile image

      attraction 42 4 years ago

      I love unicorns.

    • profile image

      UnicornPrincess9 5 years ago

      What beauty lies within their mystery! What goodness is found in their hearts! Oh, My sweet Unicorn, the most beautiful creature who has ever awakened to existence, has progressively galloped his way into my heart. The magic in his majestic horn will always keep me wondering. The enchantment of his fairytale will eternally be reality in my eyes. I love you, dearest Unicorns. :).

      And, your lens was absolutely wonderful. The images were capturing and the information fascinating. You can see the soul in what you speak of.

    • profile image

      1tadej1 5 years ago

      Nice lens. I love unicorns

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Cool Lens!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Lovely lens, really fun and instructive. I enjoyed learning about The Lady and the Unicorn, I had never noticed that there were several tapestries. Going to see the original tapestries would be a wonderful quest. Pinned - one on the board" "Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales for Kids and Grown-ups" and also on "Squidoo lenses worth Blessing."

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I used to have an entire collection of assorted unicorns. Somehow I lost interest in collecting them but you've definitely inspired me again :)

    • Julia Morais profile image

      Julia Morais 5 years ago

      I love unicorns too. Their magical abilities, and how gorgeous they are. Great lens.

    • Elric22 profile image

      Elric22 5 years ago

      I need to add The Last Unicorn to my son's (four) reading and movie list. Thanks for the great thread!

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      Magical lens! Great job on a beautiful mythical creature. Blessed!

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens! I really enjoyed the images!

    • profile image

      antoniow 5 years ago

      Very interesting rading thumbs up!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      I love unicorns. What a beautiful lens.

    • yayas profile image

      yayas 5 years ago

      Unicorns definitely inspire beautiful thoughts of magical possibilities, don't they?

    • tcorbs profile image

      tcorbs 5 years ago

      Unicorns are beautiful creatures!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I always have and always will!

    • profile image

      pyramidsphinx 6 years ago

      Yes I do love them.... They are so healing

    • profile image

      karitina 6 years ago

      Magical and mystical horse that makes me fly with my imagination

    • writercb1 profile image

      writercb1 6 years ago from United States

      I do like unicorns. They are beautiful creatures. Gosh, your lens are wonderful...they make me somewhat sad and nostalgic for my childhood, though. I was really into all this legendary stuff as a kid; I still am, but now it goes into my stories, and then it went into my games of pretend. Your wonderful unicorns lens had made me remember a beautiful book I used to have as a child. It was a picture book, with big pictures, and it had the entire alphabet in it, with one or two pages per letter, and each letter was a legendary creature. U, of course, was Unicorn, and it had some of the most exquisite detailed illustrations. They had tails somewhat like lions, which I always thought added to their mysticism. Lion tails add more to their fantastic-ness and are much more exciting than horse tails, I think.

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 6 years ago

      **Blessed** and featured on My Time as a Squid Angel

    • jennikitten lm profile image

      jennikitten lm 6 years ago

      Excellent lens, I love unicorns.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I don't know anyone who does not love unicorns, you have to be soulless to not like them. They are just magical wonderful creatures.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great lens! My mom, God rest her soul,, loved Unicorns. Every birthday,Christmas etc. she wanted something with a Unicorn on it.

      Blessed by a Squidoo Angel on 1/3/2011. Have a "magical" day!

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

      Really lovely! Of course I love anything equine related. :) You did an amazing job with this lens. Congrats on the purple star.

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 6 years ago

      Love unicorns because as you say, they are symbolic of goodness. They are such enchanting creatures, and maybe one day our collective wishes will cause a horse to evolve into one. Wouldn't that be fantastic?

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 6 years ago

      Well, I must be psychic, or maybe you are ... but on a previous page, I answered that I love unicorns ... gosh, I must now repeat myself. ribbit ribbit ....

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Beautifully done and absolutely magical!

    • profile image

      resabi 6 years ago

      I've always loved unicorns (and I'm so happy to see that you featured The Last Unicorn -- one of my favorite books). Beautifully presented and informative lens. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 6 years ago

      Unicorns are such a treasured animal in my world. I find them fascinating and beautiful. You received a very well-deserved Purple Star on this lens. Now add Angel Blessing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What an awesome lens! My mom(God rest her soul) always loved Unicorns and had a collection.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I love horses, but I love unicorns even more!

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      Congrats on your purple star!!!!!:):):):):):):):)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Oh yes, we love Unicorns and this is a magical lens. Congratulations on your Purple Star :)

    • profile image

      scar4 6 years ago

      Love those unicorn pictures. Thanks for such an informative lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Real or not unicorns are beautiful

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 6 years ago from London, England

      Lovely lens and great selection of unicorn pictures.

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 6 years ago

      Do we can become Unicorns someday? It would be wonderful. Beautiful lens. Thank you.

    • awakeningwellness profile image

      awakeningwellness 6 years ago

      A lovely lens about my favorite animal, I have lensrolled this to my Magical, Mystical, Unicorns ...Oh and thanks for your lovely comment!

    • missbat profile image

      missbat 6 years ago

      Thank you for featuring my Unicorn Tapestries lens! I've loved unicorns forever, and you've chosen some really great information as well as beautiful images for this lens. Have lensrolled this to all my unicorn lenses.

    • profile image

      MaryRay1 6 years ago

      I tried to catch one - but I am no longer a virgin.

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 6 years ago from Covington, LA

      Unicorns are one of my favorite mythical creatures, too. Beautiful lens.

    • squidoohelp profile image

      squidoohelp 6 years ago

      Hm... who DOESN'T love unicorns? Beautiful lens - and interesting information.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This site is very little kidish! Put in more "facts" not opinions.

    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      I always have trouble getting the bridle on mine! Gorgeous lens and beautiful pictures. Angel blessed :-)

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

      What a fascinating read. Lensrolling to my unicorn coloring pages.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

      Wonderful information about unicorns. I'll lensroll it to my Zazzle Unicorn Showcase lens.

      Such a wonderful creature!

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 7 years ago

      I'm back for a visit. I love Unicorns. This is such a great lens. Blessed! http://www.squidoo.com/horseandpony-squidangel

    • profile image

      Ilovemusicgirl 7 years ago

      unicorns are lovely animals

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      I love doing paintings of Unicorns and Pegasus...mostly in miniature format.. this is a fun lens...5*

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      That "Last Unicorns" poster is beautiful. I love the song.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 7 years ago

      I love unicorns! I used to have a print of one when I was in my twenties. Love your lens! Blessed by an angel!

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image

      eclecticeducati1 7 years ago

      I have always loved unicorns. I wish they were real. Great lens. Blessed by an Angel.

    • svkhereiam1 profile image

      svkhereiam1 7 years ago

      a beautiful lens about one of the most beautiful mythical animals

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

      I've always been intrigued by unicorns and I think you've done a wonderful job of sharing their mystique with us! And yes - the Last Unicorn and the sequel, Unicorn Sonata are must-reads (:

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 7 years ago

      I love Unicorns. What a beautiful lens. I think we need to watch The Last Unicorn Movie.

    • KOrazem profile image

      Seeking Pearls 7 years ago from Pueblo West

      I do love these magical creatures. I have copies of a journal about unicorns that seems like Da Vinci's work. They are and forever will be a fascinating subject to me. Lovely Lens Jennifer.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Beautifully done, Jennifer! I love unicorns...used to have quite a collection of them.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      This is great. I agree with Sylvestermouse...you found some great posters. 5*

    • jptanabe profile image
      Author

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Thanks! Yes, love "The Last Unicorn"!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

      You know we love unicorns! The posters you chose for this lens are beautiful. Have you seen "The Last Unicorn"? It is wonderful!