Rediscovering The Last Unicorn

“It all seems a bit unfair, my lord, begging your pardon. What could we have done to save the unicorns? We were afraid of the Red Bull. What could we have done?”

“One word might have been enough,” King Lir replied. “You’ll never know.”
– Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

I read Peter S. Beagle’s  The Last Unicorn for the first time when I was a university student – a long, long time ago. It was a wonderful read. There were passages that left me laughing out loud, and passages that filled me with courage and hope. The Last Unicorn left me feeling heart-filled and sort of… nobler, I guess.

A few days ago – when I’d read up to page 100 of The Nightingale  – another great read – I realized I was too fragile at the moment to go on, and set it aside. The thought entered my noggin (and where this thought came from, I still do not know – I hadn’t thought about this book for a long time) that I needed to read The Last Unicorn again. And so I did.

And oh, it was perfect – the exactly right book for me right now! If you’ve never read The Last Unicorn, I highly recommend it. If you’ve already read it, I recommend you read it again. I don’t know how anyone could read this little book and not come away from it feeling braver and nobler and more hopeful about the world.

***

“The universe lies to our senses, and they lie to us, and how can we ourselves be anything but liars? For myself, I trust neither message nor messenger; neither what I am told, nor what I see. There may be truth somewhere, but it never gets down to me.” 

“The most professional curse ever snarled or croaked or thundered can have no effect on a pure heart. Good night.” 

“Be still,” and the two words cracked like autumn branches. He said, “The magic knew what it was doing. Be still and listen.” 

“Witchwork, surely, Schmendrick thought, and nothing made by a witch is real, at the last.” 

“I love whom I love,” Prince Lir repeated firmly. “You have no power over anything that matters.” 

“No,” he repeated, and this time the word tolled in another voice, a king’s voice… a king whose grief was not for what he did not have, but for what he could not give.” 

“Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.” 

“She stood very still, neither weeping nor laughing, for her joy was too great for her body to understand.” 

“The magic lifted her as gently as though she were a note of music and it were singing her.” 

“You may plant your acres again, and raise up your fallen orchards and vineyards, but they will never flourish as they used to, never – until you learn to take joy in them, for no reason.” 

“Moths and midges and other night insects too small to be anything in particular came and danced slowly around her bright horn, and this did not make her appear foolish, but them most wise and lovely as they celebrated her.” 

“So they began their new journey, which took them in its time in and out of most of the folds of the sweet, wicked, wrinkled world, and so at last to their own strange and wonderful destiny.” 

 – Peter S. Beagle

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