The Unicorn- Not a uniform myth.

How the myth of the unicorn came about, has been something of a mystery. While other mythical creatures appear to embody our fears as humans (from vampires to werewolves), the unicorn has been described as a peaceful animal, albeit with magical properties which would lead people to search the earth in the hope of finding one. Perhaps there was never anything to drive the beginning of this myth, other than a common perception of deer/horse-like animals as beautiful and noble. Maybe it just stemmed from a need for hope, the human need for the otherworldly, which gives us comfort in bad times, and allows us to believe that ordinary life is not all that there is.


The collective name for a group of unicorns is a “blessing of unicorns” so it’s likely the creature is mixed up another great source of hope, namely, religion. The single horn of a unicorn was believed to neutralize poison; it was the good to heal the bad. Another handy use for unicorns was in deducing whether a woman was a virgin or not. Only virgins could tame a unicorn (as we know virgins, and the Virgin Mary herself rate very highly in the catholic religion), and seemingly only a virgin could mount a unicorn. So if he kicked her off then you knew someone was telling porkies. Then again, perhaps this method of distinguishing virgins was about as accurate as the old floating witch trick (stick a suspected witch in a chair, put her in a lake, if she floats she’s a witch, if she doesn’t she’s normal but also sadly, recently deceased..).


According to the traditional medieval description of unicorns, they are like a horse, but sport a billy-goat beard, a erhm..lion tail and cloven hooves. And have that single horn in the centre of their forehead. However, according to Marco Polo, the famous explorer round the 13th century, unicorns were


scarcely smaller than elephants. They have the hair of a buffalo and feet like an elephant’s. They have a single large black horn in the middle of the forehead… They have a head like a wild boar’s… They spend their time by preference wallowing in mud and slime. They are very ugly brutes to look at. They are not at all such as we describe them when we relate that they let themselves be captured by virgins, but clean contrary to our notions.  (excerpt stolen from Wikipedia).


It seems Marco Polo had bumped into a few rhinos on his travels. It’s doubtful that these animals had anything to do with the unicorn myth. They are so unlike the graceful horse type creature we imagine a unicorn to be. A great deal of truth altering and creative blindness would have to be employed to turn a rhino in the classic unicorn. In the world of Harry Potter (the most recent representation of unicorns in popular culture) they are seen as pure, glowing white angel of a horse, with a noble spiraled horn and silver blood. Drinking the blood of a unicorn will prolong ones life, but it brings curse upon them (according to Hagrid). The only indication that a rhino may be the source of the myth, lies with the fact that a rhinoceros’ horn has an interesting property- it reacts with alkaloids by turning a different color .A majority of the medieval poisons were made from alkaloids (naturally occurring chemical compound which have a nitrogen containing base), which coincides with the myth that unicorn horns change color when a poison in placed within them.


As of last Wednesday (the 11th June 2008), a fresh idea has literally been born, regarding how unicorns came about. A deer with a single horn in the centre of its forehead was spotted in a nature preserve in Tuscany, Italy, much to the surprise of well..everyone. Previously, deer with one horn have been born but usually with the horn to either side of the head. The single horn is believed to be the result of a mutation, a genetic anomaly which occurred in just this deer (name Roe Deer) and not his twin i.e. it was not an inherited mutation, just one which arises as a “once-off” of sorts. A deer is a much more likely candidate to inspire a unicorn myth, being as it is like a smaller, graceful horse. If other single-horned deer were spotted back in the Middle-Ages, there’s no doubt they would have been named a unicorn and the shy, nervous and quick-to-bolt, nature of deer (when approached by humans) would have definitely fit the bill. As for Roe Deer, many have flocked to the nature preserve to catch a sight of him, but he is hard to coax into the limelight. Maybe it’s time to send in the virgin maidens?




33 Responses to “The Unicorn- Not a uniform myth.”

  1. I would like to believe unicorns exist as much as the next person, but the sad fact is that mankind would probably murder them either for the horns or to see what makes the creatures tick….so if they do exist, they will never show us until we can all prove ourselves worthy of that kind of magic.

  2. I just read Stardust and there was a very sad case involving a unicorn in that. In the endnotes, Neil Gaiman sounded like he’d developed quite a bond with said unicorn! It did have quite a presence in the story; out of all mythical creatures it does seem to be the most magical and compassionate.

  3. I had watched the movie spider whick and it was really inspiring deep imaginary facts, spider whick is also a misterious movie also the mysterious unicorn

  4. I really believe that there once was Unicorns but man kind has destroyed like many other mythical creatures that have become Extinct.

  5. I do believe in UNICORNS but the sad thing is that people can’t say that they are real.You now what i mean?Its just we can’t prove it yet.And all of you out there that is thinking about capturing unicorns please don’t…It might happen to them like what happen to dinosoars…And I don’t want that to happen to them.

  6. That is so cool !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  7. One idea is that gemsbok and other straight horned antelopes where mistaken for having one horn from the side and that that is where lions tail comes from to because that is what sort of tail and hooves that gemsbok have. The rest probabley grew around that.

  8. i do believe in unicorns, but so many people thinking they are mythical creatures, and so many people thinking of war, and hate, and so many people not believing in magic, i wouldn’t make myself visible with thoughts like that.
    there isn’t enough happiness and magic in this word to day, magic and beauty that great, is unforeseeable to the eyes of who do not believe.
    my personal favorite movie in the whole word is The Last Unicorn ,its heart touching and just make you want to believe even more, and help others believe so that maybe one day, we can experience the magic of sighting a unicorn. that’s all i have to say. 🙂

  9. i love unicorns!! ❤

  10. oh, and please visit my web site at The Unicorn, it may not work, but please, check it out if you can!!! 😀

  11. ahm right now, i did notreally believe about that unicorn,,,, unless i saw it in actual….. it is only a mythical creature said to be the ancient gods, and godesses,,,,

  12. Unicorns are real.

  13. I love unicorns but ialso dont think they are real.

  14. i love unicorns they are amazing

  15. […] While looking for the image for the top of this article, I discovered that “the collective noun for unicorns is ‘a blessing‘”. What’s the collective noun for people who make up collective nouns for […]

  16. tori weber Says:

    i think that many magical creatures exist without us noticing. we are all to wrapped up in doing everything so fast that maby we overlooked what is right in front of our noses. the simple truth is i hope we dont find them,,i would never wish that kind of harm on an animal so innocent


  18. o.m.g. (oh-my-god!!:) i cant belive it!
    now i might have hope for santa!

  19. I belive that unicorns are real by the picture. People like my sister Erica
    do not. So if they are I would like proof.

  20. These mythical creatures are not real because the picture is from a computer.How come a horse would have a horn in the middle of it’s head? If a unicorn were real men would kill them. And if unicorns were real it would poison you if you were to touch it.If little boys were to see such a thing they would start throwing sticks at it.If little girls were to see such a thing they would like it and try to touch it.

  21. i believe in unicorns as much as half of you but eventually they are not coming til the end of the earth to tell us how to be prepared.the reason that i think this is because that will be the time we will work together to be safe from harm.but if i happen to be wrong and they come before i mentioned just keep a watchful eye out and listen to their message.

  22. Numbers 24:8 – “God brought him (Israel) forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an UNICORN…”

    Unicorns existed when the Pentateuch was written…..

  23. I have been in contact with a unicorn named Moonglow for a while now just like my friends Hannah and Madison.(although their unicorn’s names are Peppi and Mrs. Fancy.)But I don’t contact her in words,I contact her in scrolls.

  24. THIS IS SOOO COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. that is cool its it real is it?????????

  26. Magic Star Pony Says:

    Unicorns ARE real!I know this might sound like rubbish,but its true,I saw one with my own two eyes!Me and a few friends went out into the forest to play,our mothers told us not to go far,but we never listen,and in this case that was a good thing.We ventured out a ways then heard something move,we got real still and then a flash of white flew by,we were astonished!It was a real unicorn!It ran by in a second but its true,they do exist!We swore to tell no one exept true belivers,and I read all the comments and know you all are,so I wanted to share my experience with you.This can give us hope that someday unicorns will be as common as grass on a plain.I hope that someday I will see it again,but for now,knowing they are real is enough.=)

  27. Well….. if unicorns do exist, and if they only appear to the virtuous, then I doubt if man could destroy them….wouldn’t the unicorn(s) already know their fate if they appeared to someone with these intentions? Therefore they wouldn’t appear to them

  28. as much as u want to prove that unicorns excist im never in my life going to believe it so ummm ur ganna hav to stop trying to convince all people. so if u want to convice people that “unicorns” exist put one in a zoo and then ill believe you.

  29. alannah jules Says:


  30. I believe that unicorns along with their cousons the peguses (winged horses), fairies, pixies, gnomes, goblins & dragons & other mythical creatures have been tranaported to another dimemison by aliens to protect them from Man’s relentless persecution of them. Thus saving them from exstinction!
    What do you think?

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