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Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Last Unicorn

Was there ever a book or movie, perhaps just a childhood fairy tale that transported you to such depths of imagination or awe that it has stuck with you since?  Perhaps it was the first book that made you cry.  Perhaps it’s the one that sends delicious chills over your skin no matter how many times you read it.  Perhaps it was a story that changed your life.  For me, that tale is The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

I fell in love with this enchanting and tragic story long before I found the fantasy genre and dove into its spring of beguiling tales.  First, I heard The Last Unicorn on audio book then later bought a copy and have read it several times since.  Each read, the enchantment begins from the first paragraph where Mr. Beagle describes the unicorn in lovely and unique detail.  It enraptures me all the way to the exquisitely heartbreakingly, beautiful ending, which I won’t ruin for those who haven’t read it. 

Mr. Beagle paints such unique and deep characters that draw you in with their hearts that seek accomplishment and belonging and their flaws that are so very human and yet as epic as any fantasy could want.  Schmendrick the Magician, cursed with immortality until he can find the true magic within himself; Molly Grue, who possess a fondness for the legendary and all the dreams that escaped her in youth; King Haggard, who will stop at nothing to recapture the beauty of a single moment long ago; Prince Lir, the boy turned hero for love of an unlikely young woman; and of course, the unicorn, who quests for others like herself that the whole world has forgotten.  All these are so vividly drawn in my mind that they live and breathe and inspire my own forays into tale-telling and greatly influence my books.

Ever curious about how and why things work, I must ask the question: why?  Why does this tale, of all the thousands of stories out there, resonate with me so much?  Why does the tale you picked speak to you so profoundly?

Growing up, I rented Disney’s Sleeping Beauty more than any other film.  Others in my movie collection included: Beauty and the Beast, Rigaletto, and Aladdin.  Needless to say, a certain type of story appealed to me, one with a beautiful damsel, an unlikely hero, nefarious opponents usually wielding magic, and a tale that looked to the heart.  I loved the romance and the idea of a man loving a woman so deeply that he would fight to the death for her, give up his life for her, and yet she was the key to his salvation.

The idealist in me still loves these things; though, in my own creations and readings, plots containing these elements have grown more complex and harrowing.  These days, I prefer to see these elements rise from darker more desperate circumstances.  The hope, wonder, and love found in an enchanted rose and an inventor’s daughter, in a young girl who sees beyond appearances, or in the Red Bull’s terrifying presence reminds me that, even in the hardest part of my life, even in the ugliest places there is hope for goodness.  And even beyond the wonder and escape stories provide, that is the biggest reason I read.

So what is the story that has most captured your heart?  Why does it resonate with you so much?

3 comments:

  1. For me it's Lord of the Rings. It's epic and entertaining. There are themes of love and faith and consequences and friendship that transcends station and species. It's such a beautiful story with some tragic turns, but a hopeful, satisfying ending. It will always be one of my favorite works of fiction.

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  2. I remember the movie faintly . I think I watched it too young to appreciate it . Whenever I see the cover now it makes me apprehensive. I remember a scene at a carnival with creatures in cages and it creeped out the five year old Jason.

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  3. The movie is a faint memory, mostly about an inept wizard screaming "Magic do as you will!" and cruel king who is determined to take the Unicorns horn for some unknown reason. The Hobbit was the first fantasy story to really capture my imagination, and I've noticed that many fantasy stories written now a days come from a darker place.

    We live in one of the first period in human history where many people don't need to engage in dangerous tasks just to get by, and people are less likely to fall victim to violent crime than they were 20 years ago, though the reporting on violent crime has gone up at a prodigious rate. Somehow the stories people prefer to tell themselves have grown darker, almost as if people are desperate from some kind of adventure.

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