Originally written on April 9, 2021 – updated 2023
What mythological creature has been more beloved over the centuries than the unicorn?
Yes, the legendary animal resembling a horse with a single horn on its forehead.
Symbols of purity and enchantment, these creatures are loved by both children and adults alike and are integral parts of many fairy tales and legends.
For all the roles they’ve played in literature, cinematography, and art, unicorns more than deserve their own day.
The best way to celebrate this day would be to find a fanciful activity to enjoy with family and friends.
You can stop a unicorn from farting rainbows, but you can’t stop us from celebrating National Unicorn Day!
Unicorns have been mentioned in literature as far back as antiquity, and they are featured in carvings already in 2000 BC.
Ancient Greek writers believed they lived in the faraway and exotic country of India, which was then largely unknown to Europeans at the time. However, at the time the unicorn was thought to be a powerful, fierce animal that was not to be meddled with. Greek historian Ctesias (c. 400 BCE) describes this Indian animal as the size of a horse with a white body, purple head, blue eyes and a cubit-long horn on its forehead (Greek monokerōs, Latin unicornis).
In the Middle Ages, the unicorn’s image was based greatly on Bible passages that were thought to speak of these animals, and they slowly came to be seen as a symbol of strength, the purest kind of love, and the pets of virgin women.
Cups reputedly made of unicorn horn—but actually made of rhinoceros horn or narwhal tusk—were highly valued by important persons in the Middle Ages as a protection against poisoned drinks.
Some poetical passages of the Bible refer to a strong and splendid horned animal called reʾem. This word was translated “unicorn” or “rhinoceros” in many versions of the Bible, but many modern translations prefer “wild ox” (aurochs), which is the correct meaning of the Hebrew reʾem.
One of the earliest such interpretations appears in the ancient Greek bestiary known as the Physiologus, which states that the unicorn is a strong, fierce animal that can be caught only if a virgin maiden is placed before it. The unicorn leaps into the virgin’s lap, and she suckles it and leads it to the king’s palace. Medieval writers thus likened the unicorn to Christ, who raised up a horn of salvation for mankind and dwelt in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Other legends tell of the unicorn’s combat with the elephant, whom it finally spears to death with its horn, and of the unicorn’s purifying of poisoned waters with its horn so that other animals may drink.
And there is even a sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding a unicorn on her lap and patting it in Warsaw’s National Museum, in the capital of Poland.
The first recorded mention of a Unicorn was from Pliny the Elder in Ancient Rome who, in 50 AD., stated “The unicorn is the fiercest animal, and it is said that it is impossible to capture one alive. It has the body of a horse, the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, and a single black horn three feet long in the middle of its forehead. Its cry is a deep bellow.”
Either way, unicorns have been appearing in works of literature for thousands of years.
The most prominent more modern examples of unicorns that can be found in fantasy literature include Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis.
Also the whole world popular My Little Pony is based on unicorns, with the series beginning in the 1980s and being revived a few decades later.
Around the same period, they craze hits pop culture. Whether on stickers, t-shirts, or lunch boxes, the rainbow unicorn quickly became a symbol beloved by little girls and not only.
Images from web – Google Research