Reading: The Last Unicorn


Title: The Last Unicorn
Published: 1968 by Viking Press, 2008 by Penguin
Pages: 294 pages
Status: First reading, 13/10 – 20/10
Genre: Classic, Fantasy, Young Adult

I listen to a lot of book podcasts and read interviews with authors and The Last Unicorn kept coming up as a book the authors loved and was inspired by. I had never read it so some months ago when I was ordering books from Amazon I put it in my basket, it arrived with the other books and I forgot about it after putting it on my To Read list.

Yesterday I finished reading Battle Magic by . I tried to read some short stories from Glitter & Mayhem but I was not in the mood for that level of strange just after finishing a straight up fantasy. So I looked at my To Read pile on my bookshelf. I had Last Unicorn and The Watchtower there. I couldn’t figure out what to read so I held them up to my boyfriend and he picked “that one”.

Someone tweeted a classic piece of music which I listed to and it put me in the mood for classical music (not what I normally listen to). The number they linked was a bit too dark for Last Unicorn, so I figured that Carl Nielsen might do the trick. And oh boy did it! Carl Nielsen‘s beautiful and melancholy music fitted the book perfectly. I can strongly recormend putting him on while reading.

Last_unicorn_hbI read the first 68 pages last night and I was very positively surprised. Even though the authors I follow on GoodReads all had given it a 5-star rating I was a bit septical… the book is over 40 years old, it is a young adult, it is about a (freaking) unicorn. It might have been super corny and it might have seemed old fashioned. But it didn’t. Rather than being a candy sweet childrens story, it feels more like an old fairytale (the real kind – not disneyfied). It starts out with very simple language of the kind you would find in any children story. The quest is introduced within the first chapter and the unicorn sits out to find other of it kind. The book is melancholy, beautiful written and has the the same dark undertones as you would expect to find in any story by the Brothers Grimm. However the storytelling is not that of a fairytale but there is a lot of the classic elements of one.

14/10: I have read a bit further and I started noticing some parallels to Alice in Wonderland, in voice of the book.  A lot the characters are acting in the same slightly bizarre way that the characters in Alice in Wonderland do, not as extreme but still. The characters also have fairytale thinness where they mostly fill out a role rather than giving the impression of fully fleshed characters.

A manic Robin Hood character says:

“Come to the fire and tell us your tale. How do they speak of me in your  country? What you heard of dashing Captain Cully and his Band of freeman? Have a taco”

Schmendrick goes on to think (quite meta by the way):

In fact, Schmendrick had never heard of Captain Cully before that very evening, but had a good grounding in Anglo-Saxon folklore and knew the type.

The story is very aware of it self and insert these kinds of meta comments in the text, drawing on the fact that the reader also know the Anglo-Saxon folklore as well as fairy tales and uses it to it’s advantage.

The unicorn was weary of human beings. Watching her companions as they slept, seeing the shadows of their dreams scurry over their faces, she would feel herself bending under the heaviness of knowing their names.

Read my review of the book here.

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