MUSIC: Grand adventure theme
NARRATOR: I am Clive Russell, and I’m here to tell you fantastic stories about medieval beasts and the grand books that revealed their powers – the medieval bestiary. Join me.
Let’s start with the unicorn.
Music: Magical, twinkly
The medieval unicorn was a far cry from the gentle, magical creature we imagine today. Wild and untamable with a tragic story, the mythical horse-creature with a single, spiral-grooved horn is so fast and fierce that no hunter can catch it. There was only one way to tame or subdue a unicorn: place a virgin maiden in the forest where it lives. In medieval images, it is often shown embracing the maiden or laying in her lap. Only then could a hunter kill it.
Of all the creatures of the bestiary, the unicorn was especially revered for its embodiment of Christian ideals. Though fierce, it was also noble and pure. The maiden represented the Virgin Mary, who immaculately gave birth to Christ. The unicorn’s single horn symbolized the unity of God and Christ. And its violent death was associated with the crucifixion.
The unicorn’s horn was sought after for its miraculous medicinal value. For example, it could detect poison. For that reason, every king wanted one. When the horn was dipped in contaminated food or drink, the poison was neutralized. Ground into a powder, the horn could also be used as an aphrodisiac or a teeth whitener.
Though the unicorn doesn’t exist (as far as we know), we still see it … everywhere. Posters, TV, and merchandise in all shapes and sizes—the legend of the medieval unicorn lives on even today.