A few months ago, I thought to myself, “I really need to start and read more Fantasy classics.” The only classics I’ve read (if one doesn’t consider David Gemmell‘s entire oeuvre classics) are Tolkien‘s The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. So I took a peek online to see what were commonly seen as Fantasy classics – and it turned out I had some of those already on my wish-list – and added some of those classics to my wish-list and put two of them in the shopping cart of the online book store I frequent.
They were Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke and Peter S. Beagle‘s The Last Unicorn. I finished The Last Unicorn last night.
She is the last unicorn, or so she believes. But what if there are still others like her out there? The unicorn decides to leave her safe forest and to travel, to seek her kin, to make sure they aren’t all dead. She is later on joined by magician Schmendrick who has no magic and a woman called Molly Grue. Together they try to find out if she truly is the last unicorn, and if so, what happened to the rest.
It’s truly a lovely fairy tale, though much longer than the fairy tales I read when I was younger. It’s quite interesting really, I’d always imagined the unicorn to be a horse with a horn, but it’s not. Unicorns aren’t horse-like at all. He wrote:
“She did not look anything like a horned horse, as unicorns are often pictured, being smaller and cloven-hoofed, and possessing that oldest, wildest grace that horses have never had, that deer have only in a shy, thin imitation and goats in dancing mockery.”
And later on we find out she has a lion’s tail, and cloven hoofs like a goat’s. That’s not at all how I pictured unicorns.
The characters surrounding the unicorn and interacting with her are all so very interesting. They all have their parts to play, but there will always be a bit of mystery about them. How old is Schmendrick really? What was up with Molly Grue? Why did she immediately recognize the unicorn, like she’d seen one before? Will prince Lír find love again? Was Mommy Fortuna really a powerful witch? How did she get the harpy? Why couldn’t King Haggard feel happiness? Was he so afflicted since birth? So many questions. Except the cat. The cat was precisely how I imagined cats are. Never a straight answer.
But it was a great read, something I would probably read to my children someday as well.