The Quote Garden
 “I dig old books.”
 Est. 1998

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Quotations about the
History & Legend of Unicorns

Welcome to my page of quotations about the history and legends of unicorns.  —ღ Terri

We may never know precisely when or where or how the legend of the unicorn began. It pervades recorded time and may be dimly visible even in the clouds that hover just above history's sunrise. The mystery of its origin... is one of the legend's most evident charms... We can best take up the tale of the unicorn at the point where it first emerges into the literature of the western world, early in the fourth century before Christ. ~Odell Shepard, "The Gorgeous East," The Lore of the Unicorn, 1930

Only in recent years has the legend of the unicorn been turned over to avowed and professional dreamers; throughout the greater part of its history it has been shaped chiefly by practical men — hunters, physicians, explorers, and merchant-adventurers — who regarded mere poetry with the healthy contempt shown by Shakespeare's Theseus. Yet the literary allusions to the animal are of course very numerous. ~Odell Shepard, "Shaping Fantasies," The Lore of the Unicorn, 1930

According to some folk tales, the unicorn of the Middle Ages symbolized the season of spring, and was thought to possess the ability to renew life, heal sickness, and guard against evil. ~Christy Shaffer, Unicorns Coloring Book, 2000, Dover Publications

Unicorns are immortal. It is their nature to live alone, usually in a forest... They mate very rarely, and no place is more enchanted than one where a unicorn has been born. ~Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968  [a little altered —tg]

Unicorns have always occupied a peculiar position in the opinion of the people as animals of good omen. There is an old legend, that a unicorn made its appearance at the birth of Confucius. The unicorn has been seen as a symbol of love for mankind. Unicorns have from a very early age been entrusted with the guardianship of tombs from unseen evil influences and the neutralisation of misfortune. ~J. J. M. de Groot, The Religious System of China, 1894  [a little altered  –tg]

She had pointed ears and thin legs, with feathers of white hair at the ankles; and the long horn above her eyes shone and shivered with its own seashell light even in the deepest midnight. She had killed dragons with it, and healed a king whose poisoned wound would not close, and knocked down ripe chestnuts for bear cubs. ~Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968

The Orongo was an animal sacred to the Mongols and Tangutans. There were reported to have been whole herds of these antelope, but the singular Orongo or "one horn" was a rare occurrence — about 1 in 2,000. According to legend, its single ringed horn could foretell future events, and its blood had medicinal properties. ~Christy Shaffer, Unicorns Coloring Book, 2000, Dover Publications

A credulous medieval Europe embraced the idea of the unicorn, and codified the qualities that have remained the most familiar to us in modern times. It was at this juncture in its history that the animal became a sacred and wondrous creature: a pure white steed with a flowing mane, an ox tail, and a single spiralling horn, associated with such positive attributes as nobility, strength, purity, innocence, freedom, beauty, and magic. ~Christy Shaffer, Unicorns Coloring Book, 2000, Dover Publications

...but then, she had no idea of months and years and centuries, or even of seasons. It was always spring in her forest, because she lived there, and she wandered all day among the great beech trees, keeping watch over the animals that lived in the ground and under bushes, in nests and caves, earths and treetops. Generation after generation, wolves and rabbits alike, they hunted and loved and had children and died, and as the unicorn did none of these things, she never grew tired of watching them. ~Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968

A long time ago, when the Earth was green
There was more kinds of animals than you've ever seen
They'd run around free while the Earth was being born
But the loveliest of them all was the unicorn...
~Shel Silverstein (1930–1999)

Page Information:
Original post date 2015 Sep 21
1st major revision 2017 May 3
Last saved 2020 Aug 30 Sun 19:30 PDT

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