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2006-02-04 04:52:55
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What do you think of when someone mentions the word “unicorn”? Probably the stereotypical horse with a horn image painted by European mythology. Of course there is much more to it then all that. As a writer these are fascinating creatures to include in your fantasy, however, maybe you want to have various types or do something different then the “usual way”.

A Bit about the European Unicorn

In France there is actually a cave painting that depicts a strange animal with two straight horns emerging from its forehead. The perspective actually makes the two horns appear to be one single straight horn, and has thus been referred to as the “unicorn”.
The first true mentioning of the unicorn in European part of the world was by Herodotus in the 3rd century BC. He spoke of the “horned ass” of Africa, essentially a unicorn though more horned donkey then horse-like. The next major mentioning would be around a hundred years later when the historian Ctesias of Greece visited the Persian area and brought back tales of “the wild ass of India”, supposedly being the size of a horse, bearing a white body, a red head, blue eyes, and a straight horn from the head, one cubit long. The lower part of the horn was white, the middle black, and the tip was red. Supposedly drinking from a cup made of the horn would neutralize poisons, yet this swift creature was nearly impossible to bring into capture.

As time passed the primary story behind the unicorn, within Europe, would be the common white unicorn that bears a billy-goat beard, lion’s tail, and cloven hoofs. The unicorn would also become a symbol of Christ and receive popularity as a major symbol in Europe, and eventually the official seal of Scotland, since the reign of King Robert the Third. Notably, it is also part of the British coat of arms.

Also according to folklore in Europe, adapted from ancient Babylonian tradition, the unicorn and loin hate one another. The unicorn represents spring while the lion represents summer. Each year the two fight for power, yet eventually the lion wins.

The European unicorn is supposedly only to be caught if you use a lovely virgin to lure it and then once it comes to her to lay in her lap, you can easily catch it by using hiding hunters.

A Bit about the Asian Unicorn

Within Chinese mythology the unicorn has existed now for thousands of years. The most common form of unicorn bears the body of a deer, tail of an ox, hooves of a horse, and a single short horn growing out of the middle of its forehead. Supposedly the hair is five-colored and represents the sacred Chinese colors: red, yellow, blue, white, and black. In some accounts it even has green scales like a dragon. The unicorn is known as the Kilin in China. It has the lifespan of a thousand years and its diet consists only of plant life that is no longer living, as to show its respect for nature. It is also widely viewed as a good omen among the Chinese.

In Japan, however, the creature is known as the Kirin and has a shaggy mane and the body of a bull. This beast was not considered a kind caring creature like the Chinese variation, instead a creature to be feared, especially by those who did evil.
The creatures detected guilt and were often used in mythology by judges to determine a guilty party. After determining the guilt it would stare into the eyes of the evil one and pierce him or her through the heart with its mighty horn.

In Arabia, on the other hand, the unicorn is the karkadann and is endowed with magical qualities. Its horn is a good luck charm, and eating its meat would get rid of demons. Now experts actually believe the karkadann is really the oryx, a large antelope creature that appears to have only one horn when seen from the side.

Power of the Unicorn (refers primarily to the European Unicorn)

This creature is supposedly very pure. The horn was considered magical and very valuable, known as alicorn. Its presence provided protection against food poison, and protection from evil. Apparently most alicorn were really just taken from the narwhal, a strange and somewhat rare large marine animal.

*still a somewhat research project in progress.. may continue updating from time to time, thanks*

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2006-02-10 [Nightshadow]: You may also touch on the ways that narwhal horns were passed off as unicorn horns, and especially what they were used for. :3 A very nice article!

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