A white stallion with a single, long, twisted horn extending from its forehead, the unicorn is the only mythical creature that does not seem to have any myths associated with it: it was always assumed to exist.
Notably, it is also the only mythical creature not based around human fears— every story about unicorns notes their benevolence and lack of aggression.
Traditionally depicted as a large white stallion with a single twisted horn protruding from its forehead, unicorns are occasionally shown with a goat’s cloven hooves and small beard.
Unicorns were described in ancient guides to wild animals as an animal with the face of an antelope, the feet of an elephant, and the tail of a boar, and native to India. Most likely, the documentarian was trying to describe a rhinoceros or an elasmotherium (Elasmotherium sibiricum), an extinct species of Eurasian rhinoceros with a horn over two feet long and with legs so long that the animal had a more graceful, horse-like gait.
Through history, unicorn horns— most likely narwhal horns, which are long, white and twisted— have been believed to possess magical qualities. These include the power to neutralize poisons and turn them into water. To that end, cups were often made of “unicorn horns” for rulers and kings.
Whole “unicorn horns” were also prized and highly expensive items. Elizabeth II of England had two in a curio cabinet.
The way to capture a unicorn, myths say, was to lure it with a virgin woman. The wild and untamed woodland creature would immediately befriend the girl and lie down to sleep at her lap.
Unicorns have been frequent devices in heraldry. Along with a lion, a unicorn supports the seal of the United Kingdom representative Scotland.
- "Unicorns." Unicorns. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2014. http://monsters.monstrous.com/unicorns.htm
- "Unicorn." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 6 June 2014. Web. 12 June 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicorn