This book was so beautiful I wanted to hug it (in fact, I may have).
I looooved The Last Unicorn movie as a kid and watched it repeatedly, but I’m ashamed to say until recently I didn’t even realise it was a book. I ordered it as soon as I discovered it was, and finally got around to reading it this week. From the opening lines (“The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone... she was no longer the careless color of sea foam, but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night.”) I knew I was in for an amazing read. Of course, I already knew the story, but I didn’t know just how clever and wonderful the telling of it would be.
If you’re unfamiliar with the tale, The Last Unicorn is, as the title suggests, about a unicorn who discovers she’s the last of her kind and leaves the safety of her lilac woods in search of the truth about what happened to her people. Along the way, she picks up some allies in the adorably incompetent magician, Schmendrick, the strong, rough but caring Molly Grue and the handsome, heroic Prince Lir. She also learns a couple of important truths about herself and the nature of humanity.
This is a fairy tale full of whimsy, warmth, comedy, action and sadness. Beagle’s use of language is exquisite, his pacing is pretty much perfect and his characters are quirky but real, each one of them flawed and dealing with their own search for meaning and purpose. So while on the surface this is an entertaining read, it’s strengthened by a deeper level. What struck me most was the poignant exploration of love, life and mortality. Unicorns are immortal but cannot feel love, while humans love deeply but must die. Then there’s Schmendrick, stuck in between – a human blessed (or cursed) with immortality until he can find his true self and access his full power. I suppose your own interpretation would determine which state was better, but to me the ultimate message of The Last Unicorn seemed to be that love is the most powerful magic of all; able to conquer mortality (or the fear of it, at least) and give meaning to life. Now that’s a message I can embrace (literally... excuse me while I go back to hugging my book).
|Max Irons as Prince Lir|
|Zachary Levi as Schmendrick the Magician|
|Helena Bonham Carter as Molly Grue|
|Frida Gustavsson as the Lady Amalthia|
Published: 1991 (40th Anniversary Edition)
Get It: Book Depository