Thanks to our friend Marigold, we all know that when it comes to magical animals, unicorns are simply the best. But what else is there to know about them besides their breathtaking beauty? Join Phoebe and Marigold on a trip through the history books for 10 magical facts about the most stunning creatures to ever trot the Earth.
Source: Pliny the Elder, The Natural History
Unicorn “myths” derive from many early sources including Natural History, an encyclopedic work by Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder that was taken as fact for over 1,600 years.
The unicorn makes an accidental appearance in the initial King James Version of the Bible thanks to a mistranslation of “re’em,” which scholars now believe referred to a wild ox.
Source: The Travels of Marco Polo, Book 3
Marco Polo described the unicorn as “a passing ugly beast to look upon, and is not in the least that which our stories tell of.” That’s because he was looking at a rhinoceros.
Source: National Geographic
Poor narwhals were also mistaken for unicorns, or at least passed off as them. Their tusks were sold as magical horns throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Source: Unicornucopia; The Smithsonian
The myth that unicorns possess healing powers comes from legends claiming that their horns could protect against poisons. “Unicorn horns” became a staple in early apothecaries. Queen Elizabeth even had a cup made from one!
Source: The Last Unicorn (1968), Peter S. Beagle
The 1968 fantasy classic The Last Unicorn sparked modern interest in unicorns and their representation in popular media. In the book, all but one unicorn are turned into narwhals (which would explain where they all went today). (The author, Peter S. Beagle, is a big Phoebe fan, by the way!)
Source: Lake Superior State University
Lake Superior State University in Michigan started issuing permits for potential unicorn questers in 1971. Approved questing devices include serious intent, sweet talk, and iambic pentameter.
Source: Heraldic Sculptor
The Scottish unicorn, famously found on the United Kingdom’s Royal coat of arms, is depicted with a tail resembling that of a lion. The Scottish unicorn and Marigold seem to have this in common.
Source: Complete Set
Mystic the Unicorn, first released in 1994, is cited as one of the most valuable Beanie Babies in existence. While its 1999 redesign left Mystic rainbow-maned and worth considerably less, the classic yarn-haired, cloth-horned Mystic has been listed for $3,750.
Source: Physiologus, 14th Century interpretation