|Merlin and the Unicorn, copyright Merlin, BBC Televsion|
What is it about Unicorns? Why are they so revered? Unicorns appear in the folktales of many human cultures. Dragons do as well, but there's a difference. Dragons are sometimes portrayed as good and often portrayed as evil while Unicorns are always presented as gentle, good and pure of heart. Have you ever heard of an evil Unicorn? What's up with that? Think about it: is it realistic to believe that there has never been a Unicorn who went bad? Really, what are the odds? Actually, I wouldn't care that humans (and my own Faerie-kind) have such a positive view of Unicorns except for the fact that Dragons don't get the same respect. Yes, there are stories about good Dragons, especially in eastern cultures, but often in western cultures Dragons are things to be fought, feared, detested and killed. It's just wrong! What have Dragons done to deserve such bad publicity? Wait. Don't answer that. Your answer will likely be based on the bias drilled into you by anti-Dragon tales. Just keep in mind that villains and heroes often are defined by who's telling the story.
Oh, before I go on, I should introduce myself. I am Siobhan Rainshee.* My aunt, Keena Mythweaver, has been writing posts for this blog for a while and she asked me to fill in for her this week. We are both Faeries, but not the kind most humans (or the humans I've met) think of when they see the word "fairy." We are human-sized and we do not have wings. Neither of us can fly (though I would love to find a way to). We do, however, have magic. My aunt uses it to heal humans in Baile Eile, but the humans don't know she uses it. They also don't know she's a Faerie; they think she's an "herbalist." I don't have healing magic. I have other gifts. My favorite is the ability to make thunderstorms whenever I want. But I'm getting way off the subject. Back to Dragons and Unicorns.
As I was saying, before I went off on the tangent, when a story paints Dragons as evil, you have to keep in mind who's telling the tale. Take The Hobbit for instance. Poor Smaug is characterized as greedy, dangerous--murderous in fact--and conniving. At the same time, he also seems to be a bit dull, which is a telling inconsistency, don't you think? Now think about who's telling the tale. I have no argument with the historian, J.R.R. Tolkien. He's relating the tale as it was passed on to him. I don't really even blame the Hobbit, Mr. Baggins (although you have to admit he can't be entirely trusted since he loves to play tricks and tell stories, stretching and twisting the truth to suit his own purposes. Oh! And he deceived the Dragon--but I suppose that doesn't count since Smaug was, after all, a Dragon). Who do I blame then for slandering Smaug's good name? I blame the Dwarves. I know they claim that Smaug killed their kin and took all their treasure, but look at it this way: they stole all his treasure. They may argue that what they did was just since the wealth was theirs to begin with, but Smaug is dead and can't tell his side. Perhaps their ancestor stole the fortune from Smaug in the first place. The Dwarves are free to tell whatever lies they choose because Smaug is dead, murdered by a glory-seeking townsman. And what was the reaction to this slaughter? Celebration!
But kill a Unicorn and find out what happens. Here are two quick examples. The Harry Potter books say that, because Unicorns are so pure, anyone who murders them will live a "half-life" and a life that is cursed. In the television series, Merlin, Prince Arthur kills a Unicorn while hunting and this action brings doom and destruction upon the whole of Camelot. To save his people, Arthur repents and undergoes tests to prove what is in his heart. When, in the final test, he chooses to drink poison rather than allow his servant, Merlin, to drink it, he is finally judged pure of heart and Camelot is restored to health and well-being--as is the Unicorn who magically returns to life. Which is fine. I have nothing against Unicorns. I just don't understand why people feel free to condemn Dragons as evil, greedy, treacherous, and so on, but refuse ever to say a bad word against the Unicorns. I am sure that Unicorns are, on the whole, good, but they are not perfect. I speak from experience. I know a Unicorn--Cay--and she certainly is not perfect. She is not bad, but she does have her faults. Primarily, she is nosy, a bit pushy and a nuisance. Maybe I'll write a blog post about her one day, just to put Unicorns in a more realistic light. In the meantime, keep this in mind: it's not that Unicorns are superior to Dragons; they just have a brilliant publicist!
Have you ever encountered a story of a bad Unicorn?
What do you think of Dragons? Why?
*Both Siobhan and Keena are characters in the forthcoming novel, Music of Dragons, by Christine Dorman