The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

This book has popped up a few times recently being described in glowing terms as a classic fantasy novel. I had never read it, so I decided to take care of that lack by reading it to my kids. I’ve never seen the movie, either – should I?

Published: 1968

Genre: YA fantasy

Length: 212 pages

Setting: a medieval-age world

Summary: We are initially introduced to a unicorn. She realizes she hasn’t heard rumors of any other unicorns lately, so she goes off in search of other unicorns in the world. No one recognizes her as a unicorn during her wanderings until she comes across Mommy Fortuna’s traveling circus. The unicorn is caged as she sleeps, but is eventually freed by Schmendrick, a magician who only occasionally can do real magic. As the two are escaping, they come across Captain Cully and his band of merry men in the woods. From that band, they pick up Molly as another companion on the their journey as they follow rumors that King Haggard and his Red Bull know what happened to the unicorns. As the approach Haggard’s castle, the Red Bull tries to drive the unicorn into the sea. Schmendrick turns her human and they go to the castle to find out Haggard’s secrets. The unicorn, in the guise of the Lady Amalthea, becomes more human everyday. It nearly takes them too long to find out where the unicorns are, but all is right in the end.

Final thoughts: The writing in this novel was beautiful, but the story was rather slow. There were times when I was reading that I was impressed by the imagery, and hoping the kids were appreciating the descriptions as well. The story has all the trapping of a traditional fantasy story – a quest, a magician (on his own quest), a knight trying to woo the lady with his gallant deeds, a unicorn that will only let a maiden touch her, a cursed town and castle, and even a tormented king. However, it puts those elements together in a non-traditional way to make a unique story. I particularly enjoyed how the quests of the prince, the magician, and the unicorn were all tied together. Everyone had nearly given up hope, but they still managed to free the unicorns. On a side note, we all found Schmendrick’s name to be perfectly ridiculous, especially for a magician.

Title comes from: The unicorn of our story was the last one the Red Bull hadn’t caught and driven into the sea. I wonder why she was spared when the others were caught?

Reading challenges fulfilled: #86 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

  1. Pingback: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George | Fill Your Bookshelf

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