The Last Unicorn. Simple, yet deeply entrenched within fantasy and brimming with meaning. The movie adaptation retains a cult following despite being 39 years old. But unlike most cult classics, The Last Unicorn was seemingly just as popular back then as it is now. Why? Its soundtrack, animation style, and stellar voice acting. And that’s just for the movie adaptation!
Both the 1968 novel and movie follow the journey of the titular character, the Last Unicorn herself as she journeys to discover what happened to the rest of her kind. Along the way, she encounters enemies and allies alike, including a Witch who seeks to use her as a circus attraction, and a well-meaning magician whose unpredictable magic does more harm than good. Everything culminates in a final confrontation with a wicked king, whose control of an entity known only as the Red Bull has allowed him to confine all unicorns, but one, into the sea.
My memories of this movie are quite limited, as I only watched it once as a child. I remember making fun of it relentlessly, due to greatly misunderstanding it. However, looking back I can’t help but want to rewatch it, and perhaps read the book as well. There were many fun moments, such as a skeleton getting drunk with imaginary wine. But what intrigues me the most are the deep fantastical themes the story presents. They give me the feeling of an older, wilder sort of fantasy. The sort where magical realities are both beautiful and terrifying.
Of all the themes of The Last Unicorn, it is the dichotomy between the Magical and Human worlds that is explored the most. There are many times the Last Unicorn (the character) changes others or is herself changed due to the two worlds clashing. Some are positive; one character, in particular, finds a new reason to live after seeing the Unicorn’s true form, believing beauty and wonder can exist in the world again. Other clashes are not so clear-cut. The following is a spoiler. You have been warned:
When the Unicorn is transformed into a human for her own safety, her eyes lose their otherworldly, mysterious quality, and her newfound human emotions teach her “regret”. Her connection to her forest home and the other unicorns is also forever affected.
I suppose it is subjective as to whether the Unicorn’s changes are wholly negative. That is, of course, the beauty of good literature. It leaves us with something. Something to ponder; something to discuss or debate. Does The Last Unicorn preach a message of hope and belief? Is it a cautionary tale of what happens when humans delve into and misuse magic? Or is it simply a moving story of change, love, loss, and sacrifice? As always, the answer lies with you, dear reader. As for me, I will be revisiting this classic. I wish to answer these questions for myself, and I encourage you to do so as well.