It’s Unicorn Week here at The Fable Tribe! We have a sparkly lineup of unicorn-themed posts planned for every day this week.
I’m six. I hold my mother’s hand as she walks my brother and me and my baby sister across the street–it’s a very busy street with no stoplight, so I hold her hand tightly–and to the little video rental store that’s recently opened up in our teeny tiny town.
I hurry to the children’s section right away, zoning in on the pink-and-purple-colored box covers.
There’s a pretty big selection, but I’m six and a kid of the ’80s: I only have eyes for unicorns.
“Again?” my mother sighs when I hand her “The Last Unicorn” video. “But you just watched that last week. And the week before that. And the week before that…”
I’m insistent and steadfast. I pout a little, too.
I wait for my mom to pay and then clutch the precious video to my chest as we walk back home.
I’m a freshman in college on my very first day: shy, wide-eyed and mildly terrified. My seminar teacher passes out a syllabus for the semester, and I scan it over quickly, heart beating fast. How many papers will I have to write? Will I–horror of horrors–have to give presentations in front of the class?
Will I make it out of this place alive?
But then there’s a magical moment, the kind of moment that changes everything.
One of our assigned books is The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.
Shamefully, though I know the dialogue of the movie, the musical score of the movie, every image of the movie by heart, I have never read the book. I am only vaguely aware that a book exists. (This, after all, is long, long before Wikipedia. Chat rooms are a brand-new invention!)
I hurry to the campus bookstore after class and purchase my paperback copy of The Last Unicorn, brushing my hand over the cover image reverently.
I read it–devour it, honestly–delighting over the similarities to the film and savoring the lyrical language.
When I give a presentation on the book several weeks later, I feel brave. I know this. This is my story. One little butterfly flutters in my stomach, just one, and he’s whispering nonsensical words that only I–and maybe a certain unicorn–can understand.
Magic is happening.
(Look and see her, how she sparkles…)
I’ve married the love of my life, the match to my soul, and we’re dancing after our wedding. We were meant to be: she, too, has intimate acquaintance with the butterfly, the unicorn, the castle that crumbled into the sea. We’ve faced down the Red Bull together. A whole herd of Red Bulls. The story is alive, changing. It’s our story now.
And this is our song.
The Last Unicorn, in all of its incarnations, is as intricately entwined with my being as my own name. I am, at different times of the day, Molly Grue–scrubbing at dishes and waiting, always waiting, for my unicorn to appear; Schmendrick–feeling small and inadequate but stalwartly allowing the magic to do as it will; Lir–shaken out of bored indifference by love and driven to achieve daring feats for the lady of my heart; and Amalthea–a bit lost and alien, searching for kindred spirits who understand me, every part of me, even the parts I don’t understand myself.
There will never be another story like this for me. It’s grown far beyond story; it’s mythology, a spiritual tome. It’s been with me since the beginning and will be with me until my last breath.
If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I urge you to do so at your first opportunity. The Last Unicorn is a fairy tale about fairy tales, and about transformation. It has certainly transformed my life.