Our world is full of different cultures and histories, each with its own share of wild and magical creatures. Yet, despite the diversity of myths, the unicorn has always taken pride of place. It seems that all modern fantasies reserve a place for the unicorn, as if we were all attracted to this magnificent creature ! 😍
The first mention of a unicorn dates back to Mesopotamian times. That was so long ago! And to think that there are still so many of them today ! In this article, we will explore the origins of the mystery of the unicorn. In particular, we will focus a little on the Siberian rhinoceros, which inspired the unicorns in part, the link between the unicorn and Scotland, and the modern unicorn.
1) The Origins of Unicorns
The beautiful creature has been the subject of legends since its appearance in Mesopotamian art. From there it continued in Ancient Greece, China and even India. The descriptions of unicorns are different all over the world. Over the centuries, the only thing everyone agreed on was the famous magic horn ✨ !
In Greece, for example, unicorns were not legends. Yes, you read that right: they were considered to be real creatures ! The ancient Greeks thought that these wonderful creatures lived in India, a faraway and mystical land for them. This horse-like creature could indeed have been found in any natural history lesson.
In China, the Chinese Unicorn, also called Qilin, is one of the most important mythical creatures. It was considered to be an animal of good fortune and its appearance signalled either the birth or death of a person of great importance : typically a great ruler. For the Chinese, the unicorn was one of four important spiritual creatures alongside the phoenix, the turtle and the dragon. But in reality, one of them is not like the others ! This magnificent creature is totally different from the White Unicorn as we know it. It is represented in many different ways, sometimes with hooves, sometimes looking like a dragon. But in all cases, she wears a horn (sometimes several, resembling antlers !). She is just as magical and powerful as our European unicorns.
Ctesias, the historian, was the first to depict the unicorn as a horse-like creature in 400 BC, based on stories he had heard during his travels in Persia. At least, people interpreted his unicorn as a horse. It is possible that he was actually writing about a rhinoceros ! However, his description of it is quite familiar. He described these creatures as "as wide as horses", with white bodies, a red mane, and blue eyes. According to him, the horns of these strange animals were multicolored and about 30 cm long. They were so fast and powerful that they were not afraid of any other animal !
Most unicorns could also heal people by touching their magic horn. This is why, in the Unicorn Mythology, great admiration was paid to this legendary creature, a symbol of hope and good health. Those who drank from its horn were cured of poison and disorders. The horn of the unicorn is also capable of purifying poisonous waters. These are just a few of the Unicorn's many powers !
The fabulous creature has since been widely discussed and represented by several other historians. In fact, the Unicorn is in the Bible ! The Hebrew word for "wild ox" has been lost in the Greek translation and is presumed to mean "unicorn" instead. The King James Bible also mentions the appearance of the unicorn and gives it several meanings.
From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, the unicorn can be considered a creature of the woods that represents all that is pure, virginal and graceful. This is why we see many representations of young girls in the company of unicorns, symbols of fertility. Perhaps this is also why unicorns are so popular with young women and girls today ! 😉
In this day and age, the unicorn embodies a whole range of different feelings, and it is undoubtedly the best embodiment of fantasy !
2) Unicorns Exist !
Researchers have discovered that the Siberian unicorn is a likely source of inspiration for our mythical white unicorn ! Also called "Elasmotherium", it is a real animal that lived on Earth. It is an extinct type of rhinoceros that existed about 39,000 years ago. This great rhinoceros had a very big horn sticking out of its nose, which could only be compared to that of a unicorn. Slowly, as they became endangered, they became increasingly rare.
The first known representation of our mythical horse is a painting found in the ancient caves of Lascaux, France. It is estimated that these paintings date back to 15,000 years B.C. It was learned long afterwards that the engraved drawing was in fact that of a creature with two horns : the people behind this discovery were mistaken because the horns were a bit approximate. It is possible that the beast drawn is a bull or an antelope, but we will probably never get the final word on this story !
There are other mammals with similar horns such as the Narwhal : the Unicorn of the Seas. These uniquely shaped whales have large, long horns on their heads, which have a winding texture similar to that of a unicorn. Some even have two, while others have none ! In medieval times, narwhal tusks were sold claiming to be unicorn horns, as these were extremely sought-after 😄 ! If you're interested in learning how to draw a Narwhal, don't hesitate to check out our blog post about it !
Beyond these existing animals, we suspect the existence of many other types of Unicorns, among which :
The Black Unicorn : a darker version of the white unicorns, which we sometimes (but not always) have to be wary of !
The Rainbow Unicorn : they are among the most contemporary unicorns and among the cutest animals there are !
The Nightmare : this unicorn is evil, you must flee from it at all costs ! Luckily for us, they are also fearful.
There are plenty more ! Always keep your eyes open, and maybe you'll discover new ones.
3) The Unicorn : the Emblem of Scotland
In Scotland, a country to the north of the United Kingdom, the unicorn has been adopted as the national animal. First depicted on the coat of arms in the 12th century, the unicorn also began to appear on coins after the 15th century.
However, the Scottish representation of the unicorn is different from the others, as the animal is depicted tamed. In reality, the unicorn has a rather fierce character, and it is very difficult to tame it: the beast is known for its free spirit and wild nature. However, it is suggested that the Scots are powerful enough to tame this fantastic creature !
On the current Scottish emblem, the unicorn is shown with a lion, the king of the Savannah ! This is also the case for the United Kingdom, except that the two animals have swapped places. Scotland likes to boast about having the unicorn as its national animal, as it embodies pride and dominance 💪.
4) The Modern Unicorn
The representations of unicorns are always changing. We have gone from the heavy and massive creature of the origins to the Rainbow Unicorn today, as these unicorns plush shows ! The legendary unicorn is constantly being reinvented to serve its role in the world of fantasy.
You've probably noticed that unicorns have suddenly found their place in popular culture ! This is an incredible trademark for them, being as bewitching as they are. They can be found almost everywhere : in television programs, in the cinema (there are plenty of movies with Unicorns !), in children's and adult books, in fashion and popular culture. The list is endless !
Unicorns appear everywhere, all the time, and that's good for us ! No animal is more fascinating than them : they are both fictional and real, yet rare. This is the real power of their magic ! After going through all eras, they have truly become an emblem of our time, for they represent much more today than the ancients could ever have dreamed.
You may have heard the term unicorn used romantically. A unicorn in this sense is used as another way of saying "rare person". It could also be related to the fact that the horns of unicorns and narwhals are considered an aphrodisiac.
In addition to mermaids, unicorns are increasingly found in gay prides all over the world. After all, rainbows are related to both unicorns and LGBT people. The LGBT community subscribes to the idea that romantic relationships are a social construction, or in other words, something made up from scratch.
Unicorns are very old and in constant evolution. They give hope and positivity to all kinds of people. Unicorns are the culmination of pre-existing creatures that have evolved into fictional stories, representations and symbols related to life, health and, above all, magic. Today, our favorite animal has become a great mascot !
Take part in the Legend of the Unicorn !
We have just seen together that the unicorn as we know it has multiple origins that come from many eras and all continents ! These different sources have given birth to many different unicorns today, and they tend to become more and more crunchy 😍.
So now you have your place among us perfectly : don't miss the opportunity to be part of the legend! And to do so, you must own a Pink Unicorn Plush. Increasingly popular thanks to films such as Me, Ugly and Mean for example, they are becoming one of the symbols of our times !