Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Modern Day Unicorn

Behold! Proof that unicorns exist! This picture is of a baby deer born in Italy. It has a twin with two antlers, but this one had some genetic defect that made him only have one. This one's mother was hit by a car and brought to a park to live. The park rangers named the baby, wait for it because it is soooo original, "Unicorn."

Which brings us to mythology. The earliest mention of a unicorn comes from Herodotus, a Greek historian in the 5th century BC. One source I read claims that it was Leonardo Da Vinci who first suggested unicorns could be captured by a virgin. He wrote in his notebook, "For the love it bears to fair maidens [the unicorn] forgets its ferocity and wildness and laying aside all fear it will go to a seated damsel and sleep in her lap, and thus the hunters take it."
Unicorn-like creatures exist in many cultures. You have:

India - the unicorn looks more like a donkey, but larger than a horse. It has a white body, dark red head, and dark blue eyes. In one story, a unicorn mated with a man and gave birth to a unicorn boy.

China - The k'i-lin is a unicorn that resembles a calf, but has dragon scales. Supposedly the scales had symbols on them that became the first language. Confucius was said to have stopped eating when he saw the k'i-lin because it foretold his death.

Arabia - the karkadann is a monstrous unicorn looking more like a rhinoceros and having a curved sickle-like horn. The karkadann and the elephant hate each other and there is a story about a fight between the two resulting in the curved horn getting stuck in the elephant. Both creatures were stuck until a roc came and picked them both up and fed them to her babies. Alexander the Great was said to have a karkadann that he rode into battle.

Japan - the sin-you looks more like a lion and has the ability to know right from wrong. When it found guilty people, it would impale them on its horn.

Biblical - O.K., while not found in the bible, there are stories that exist that say that the unicorn was given the ability to stay in the Garden of Eden, but chose not to in order to help mankind. During the flood, it swam beside the ark until several of the birds perched on its horn and drowned it.

There are others. All of them have different aspects, but one thing remains the same. The alicorn, or the horn of a unicorn, has special properties. It can usually heal almost anything. Doctors in the middle ages sometimes advertised that they had an alicorn that they used to make their medicine. The tusk of a narwhal grows out of its upper lip and is spiral, much like we envision the unicorn's horn to be. This was used often for visible proof of the alicorn.
If you are into unicorns, or at least just want to read up a little, I suggest Nancy Hathaway's book The Unicorn. It is probably available in your public library. While it is not on the edge of your seat reading, you will find more about what I wrote here and other unicorn figures. There is a good Russian unicorn story that I may share on this blog at some point in the future.

No comments: