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The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (Thoughts)

November 1, 2011

My new copy

From the publisher’s website:
“The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam, but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea…”

When I was little, I loved the animated movie The Last Unicorn. Of course, I remember telling my parents that I greatly disliked it, but that was because it made me cry and cry and cry. Still, I watched our recorded-from-tv copy over and over again. Imagine my delight when, years later, I came across a battered copy of a book called The Last Unicorn and realized it was the original story the movie I had loved was based on? I was in High School at that time and gratefully lost myself in the unicorn’s world. A year or two passed and I read it again. And then again. And again. Honestly, I’m not sure how many times I’ve read it, but I do know that the last time I had read it was at least 5 years ago. Since then I’ve started reading lots more and a greater variety of books, and I was a bit worried that The Last Unicorn would now pale in comparison.

Really, I had nothing to worry about. I’m going to have to borrow Jenny’s Sparkly Snuggle Hearts tag for The Last Unicorn because oh boy do I love this book. But my love for The Last Unicorn has less to do with the story or the writing, which I do think are fantastic although I know are flawed. My love for it has more of a comfort, nostalgic quality to it. Just reading those opening sentences is like curling up in a warm blanket. A couple months ago my husband and I put together emergency (read: earthquake) survival packs, and the list we followed said to include “books, cards, items that make you feel comfortable.” I immediately thought of The Last Unicorn and this re-read has confirmed that it was the right choice.

My original copy

If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, I’ll give you a brief plot summary. So, there’s the unicorn, who is apparently too old to have a name, who lives in her wood happy as can be, until she overhears some hunters saying that there are no more unicorns in the world, and that if there is indeed still one in this wood with eternal Spring, she is most certainly the last of her kind. This thought ruffles the otherwise calm and unconcerned unicorn. So, she leaves the safety of her wood in search of any kind of sign that there are still other unicorns in existence. During her travels she is joined by two humans – Schmendrick the Magician and Molly Grue – and together they embark on a journey in search of the vanished unicorns.

Of the two sidekicks, I love Schmendrick the most. He’s incompetent and sincere and can become irrationally snarky, with a vague promise that he’s destined for bigger and better things – all of which I related to as an adolescent. Who am I kidding, I still relate to all that. His line “We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream” is one of my most favourite things ever.

If you have held off on reading the book thinking that, like the movie, it’s for children, please don’t let that stop you. I wouldn’t classify it as Children’s Literature, honestly I’m not sure how to classify it, other than REALLY FANTASTIC. So, just read it, okay?

My rating: 10/10
Soundtrack Saturday

If you had to choose one book for a survival pack, what you pick?

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2011 12:19 am

    The Last Unicorn really is fantastic! It’s been a couple years since I’ve read it as well.

    I’m pretty sure they are re-releasing the movie soon. With touched up art and such. Should be fantastic!

    And, the book I would choose for a survival pack is probably Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.

    Or, the complete Lord of the Rings as that one would last awhile.

  2. November 1, 2011 3:10 am

    This is one of my favourites too. I love Beagle’s writing so much!

  3. November 1, 2011 9:55 am

    my kids loved this book.
    one book??????
    I would have to take scriptures

  4. Mumsy permalink
    November 1, 2011 10:03 am

    This is one of my Sparkly Snuggle Hearts, too. I can take or leave Beagle’s other novels, except for Tamsin, which is an unequivocal Sparkly Snuggle Heart as well – although one I came to much later in life. If I had met it earlier, I bet one of my daughters would be named Tamsin.

  5. November 1, 2011 2:20 pm

    Oh how I loved this book. Came to it later in life. I think I was too old by the time the animated movie version came out, so just totally missed both as a kid. I also agree with Mumsy about Beagle’s “Tamsin.” Loved that one too!

  6. November 1, 2011 3:22 pm

    Ahhhh, i don’t know what is wrong with me and this book! I have never liked it, and I never liked the movie. Now it’s been a few years since I read it, and your enthusiasm and coopting of my category makes me feel like I have been unfair to it and should try again.

  7. November 2, 2011 2:32 pm

    I’ve never heard of the book or the movie, but now I’m interested so I’ll have to check the library shelves next time I’m in. As for the book in my emergency pack…can my pack be a steamer trunk? I’m gonna need more room.

  8. November 4, 2011 8:57 am

    A flawed story and writing, you say, but you still love the book. I have been curious about this story for a while and I am now even that more curious. This book is sitting on my shelf. I am have decided that I am going to read it before the year has ended.

  9. November 4, 2011 12:57 pm

    I’ve never seen the movie but I fell in love with the book when I read it for the first time last year. It made me laugh out loud on one page and cry my eyes out on the next. As for what book I’d include in a survival pack, it would be Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. It’s one of those books that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside; a real comfort book.

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