Unicorns

Translated, this means Unicorn Lair

North Korea’s Own!

So, with the news report on Monday that North Korea found an honest to goodness unicorn lair in Pyongyang, it was an easy decision as to what to write about today – UNICORNS!  (Click for the story from Korea)

Mythology & Antiquity

It seems that the unicorn of the past was not believed so much in as a piece of mythology but as a part of natural history.  The Greek historians seemed to place the existence of the actual unicorn in India.   It has been called the Indian-Ass and is generally said to represent all that is wild and pure.  The unicorn also appears in some translations of the Bible and even version appear in Asian mythologies though it has been noted that the Chinesse version is closer to a Chimera then it is to a unicorn.  It s in medieval time and the Renaissance that most of the mythology about the unicorn comes about.

The medieval people of Europe took the story of the unicorn seeing the virgin, becoming docile and immediately laying its head in her lap as a allegory of the Virgin Mary and the Incarnation. The subsequent death of the unicorn becomes then, a representation of the Passion of the Christ for the religious folk of the Middle Ages.  It is therefore easy to see how the unicorn worked its way into art during this time period.

Marco Polo describes the unicorn thusly:

scarcely smaller than elephants. They have the hair of a buffalo and feet like an elephant’s. They have a single large black horn in the middle of the forehead… They have a head like a wild boar’s… They spend their time by preference wallowing in mud and slime. They are very ugly brutes to look at. They are not at all such as we describe them when we relate that they let themselves be captured by virgins, but clean contrary to our notions.

I think it is easy to see that Mr Polo was probably describing a rhino much as it is assumed that the Greeks had the rhino in mind when they talked of the Indian-Ass.

Horn Properties

Unicorns could not be trapped except by a virgin and there were plenty of reasons to hunt a unicorn.  The horn and its magical properties were the main reason:

  • Unicorn Horn powder was known to be an antidote to poison.  Also, because of this property, making drinking horns out of the horn of a unicorn meant that even the most deadly poison served in the horn would be potable.  Alchemist believed that the horn when powdered could be the antidote to almost any poison.
  • Unicorn Leather could protect you from the plague and other diseases.
  • Water Purification
As late as the 19th century the above mentioned properties made the unicorn horn worth more then its weight in gold.  Many people made good money off the sale of narwhale horns.  Some of these sold for pounds of gold do to the want to display the long horns and ward off evil.

Potter-Verse

In Harry Potter, we encounter unicorns in the fiorst installment.  There is at least one less unicorn on Hogwart’s campus when one is slain to give its blood to a wasted Voldemort that is living (symbiote style) on the back of Professor Quirrell.  Here is what the centaur Firenze has to say about unicorns and their blood:

…it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn. Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.