Unicorn, The

Unicorn, The
Catalog # SKU3889
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Robert Brown
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


The Unicorn

A Mythological Investigation

Robert Brown

THE science of Heraldry has faithfully preserved to modern times various phases of some of those remarkable legends, which, based upon a study of natural phenomena, exhibit the process whereby the greater part of mythology has come into existence.



There we find the solar Gryphon, the solar Phoenix, 'a demi-eagle displayed issuing from flames of fire,' the solar Lion, and the lunar Unicorn, which two latter noble creatures now harmoniously support the Royal Arms. I propose in the following pages to examine the myth of the Unicorn, the wild, white, fierce, chaste Moon, whose two horns, unlike those of mortal creatures, are indissolubly twisted into one; the creature that endlessly fights with the Lion to gain the crown or summit of heaven which neither may retain, and whose brilliant horn drives away the darkness and evil of the night, even as we find in the myth that 'venym is defended by the horn of an Vnicorne.' As the Moon rules the sea and water, so the horn of the Unicorn is said to purify the streams and pools, and we are told that other animals will not drink until this purification is made; for the Unicorn ere he slakes his thirst, like the sinking Moon, dips his horn in water. As the Moon, Artemis-Selene, is the 'queen and huntress, chaste and fair,' so is 'the maiden Unicorne' 'in the Classical and Middle Ages the emblem of chastity.' 'Their inviolable attachment to virginity, has occasioned them to become the guardian hieroglyphic of that virtue.'

Pliny observes that the Unicorn 'cannot be taken alive;' and Guillim remarks that 'some have made doubt whether there be any such beast as this or not. But the great esteem of his Home (in many places to be seen) may take away that needlesse scruple.' Horns, no doubt, can be seen in various places, and the spiral tusk of the Narwhal was accustomed to be sold as the real horn of the unicorn; and as an accredited part of that animal, forming [a supposed] direct proof of its existence, it used to fetch a very high price.' 'The heirs of the Chancellor to Christian Frisius of Denmark valued one at 8,000 imperials. In an inventory of the sixteenth century, we have, 'Item, two unicorns' bones, garnessyed with gold.' 'An unicorn horn at Somerset House, valued at 500l., occurs in the Inventory of the Plate of King Charles I.' 'When the whale fishery was established, the real owner of the horn was discovered, and the unicorn left still enveloped in mystery. The name Monodon ["One-tooth"] is not strictly correct, as the Narwhal possesses two of these tusks, one on each side of its head.' These twisted ivory tusks made excellent unicorns' horns.

The next animal in this competition is the Oryx (a name used by Aristotle, who probably refers to the Indian Nylghau), supposed by some to be the Unicorn of the Old Testament, and having long straight horns, which when seen in profile exactly cover each other, and so give a unicornic appearance. 'There is in the Museum at Bristol a stuffed antelope from Caffraria, presented in 1828. It is of the shape and size of a horse, with two straight taper horns, so nearly united, that in profile it shows only a single horn.' The Oryx, however, is no Unicorn.

Next, as to the Rhinoceros. Pausanias describes the African species, 'Aithiopian Bulls, which they call "Nose-horn", because each has a horn at the end of its nose, and another small one above it'-the Rhinoceros 'gemino cornu' of Martial- 'but on its head there are no horns.' The Keitloa, a kind of black Rhinoceros, is two-horned; as are the Muchocho and Kobaoba, the two white kinds. The Indian Rhinoceros, however, is one horned; but 'the so-called "horn" is not a true horn, being nothing but a process of the skin, and composed of a vast assemblage of hairs.' The 'Indian Ass' of Aristotle, which he describes as having but one horn, is probably the one-horned Rhinoceros, the horn of which, like that supposed to belong to the Unicorn proper, has always been highly valued, and regarded as a detectant of poison. But no kind of Rhinoceros at all resembles the various representations of the Unicorn, is an opponent of the Lion, or answers generally to the mythical character of the mysterious creature.

Aldrovandus, amongst his other monsters and curiosities, speaks of a unicornic animal called the Camphurch, which apparently not being one of the fittest, has not survived. Apropos of the lusus naturae, it may be remembered that Plutarch mentions how 'a ram's head with only one horn' was brought to Perikles from one of his farms, which occasioned a prophecy that he would attain to supreme power in the state. Here we trench on the symbolical, and so are reminded of Daniel's goat with 'a notable horn between his eyes,' namely that Alexander, who, strange to say, adopting the horns of Ammon, reappears in the Korān as Dhoulkarnain, 'the Two-horned.'

80 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 12 point font