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Unicorn Myths, Legends and Facts
Horn of the Unicorn
A unicorn is a legendary and mythical animal depicted as a beautiful white horse with a long strong horn on its forehead. According to some legends, unicorn had the hind legs of an antelope, a tail of a lion and the beard of a goat. This legendary animal is mentioned in many of the European and Asian myths. Some scientists believe this magnificent beast could have been a distorted form of a rhinoceros. However, there were actually no records of it being captured by anyone.
The earliest description of this mythical creature is found in the
works of Ctesias. Unicorn was described by him as an animal as big as a
horse (or even bigger), with a long horn which is colored white, black
and red. Unicorn was also mentioned in the works of Aristotle. According
to Ctesias, unicorns lived in India. Old testament of the bible mention
that unicorns lived in the “Garden of Eden”.
It was believed by people in medieval ages that unicorn is a savage animal and runs silently through the forest. The horn of unicorn possesses healing abilities and if placed on an injury, it would heal the wound. It is also said that the horn was used in ancient times to neutralize the effects of poison in drinks and food. Hence, many cups were made from unicorn’s horn. Legend tells that possessing even a fragment of this horn could prolong life of a person.
In France, till late 18th century, it was custom to carry a cup made from horn of unicorn to test whether the drinks and food were poisoned or not. In 1577, Queen Elizabeth was presented with a narwhal tusk. It was believed during that period to be a unicorn’s horn. It is still considered as a royal treasure. In 1994, a beautiful and carved “horn of unicorn” was auctioned at Christie’s in London.
Unicorn Figurines and Sculpture
Qilin Statue and Amulet
In Chinese mythology, unicorn is known as Qilin, Chi Lin or Ki Lin. Chinese unicorn is considered a harbinger of good fortune. Chinese legend tells that Qilin would only appear at the time of birth of kind and wise men or leaders. They also believe at the time of birth of a Confucius, a Chinese thinker and philosopher, a Qilin appeared carrying a piece of imperial jade in its mouth.
However, Chinese unicorn never resembled a unicorn from the West or European unicorn. Chinese unicorn or Qilin was a combination of a horse and a dragon, the horn/s was short and grew backwards. Sometimes Qilin is also called as dragon-horse and the creature is said to have a beautiful voice and was extremely gentle animal. Chinese believe Qilin had a very long life and could live up to 1000 years.
The two warriors who were associated with the sightings of unicorn were Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. According to the stories, Alexander the Great had a few encounters with a beautiful creature called Bucephalus. The head of this animal was described having a body of a horse and its head looked like that of a lion with a horn in the forehead. Unicorn was also described by Julius Caesar as a unique animal that looked like “ox-like stag” with the horn in the forehead that was long and straight. However, nobody is sure whether this creature existed or not.