Every once in a while a book will come along and get written and be released to the world and become something so special and unique that it will stand the tests of time, whether it was published last year, or fifty years ago, or a hundred years ago. In the magical fairytale style of The Princess Bride, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is certainly one of those ethereal books that generation after generation will read and enjoy for years to come.
“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.” What she doesn’t know, but eventually discovers is that she is the last unicorn on earth. These magical beasts once roamed free and helped and healed those around them, but now she is the only one left. And even though she is old, she is not very wise and soon finds herself a member of Mummy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival with no chance of escape. But then a most unique individual comes along, named Schmendrick the Magician, whose magical powers work most infrequently, and only when he really needs them to; and he frees the last unicorn. Molly Grue also joins the unusual travelers, who still has faith in fables and believes in legends, even though she has met a suspicious Robin Hood character and his band of overly-merry men. They journey far and wide across the lands, have many adventures in search of the other unicorns, and end up at the withered castle of King Haggard, where the Red Bull lies in wait for the last unicorn.
Many complimentary words can be said about this book, but still they will not do it complete justice, as it just transcends so many levels and ages, making us all, perhaps just for a moment, believe in these wondrous beasts. For the new anniversary edition, a quote on the front of the book from Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind, says it best: “The Last Unicorn is the best book I have ever read. You need to read it. If you’ve already read it, you need to read it again.”
Originally written on February 13, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.
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