A Mythical Motif
representing purity, rarity and wild beauty, the Unicorn
has appeared in heraldry and fairy tales for centuries. It's origins come not as a mythical creature but as a beast of natural history recorded by ancient Greek historians or as they are commonly known: liers
As the common fare of little girls' fantasies, the origin in histories becomes quite ironic. Even in stories where All Myths Are True
and obvious and are coming round for tea later, the Unicorn will still keep a mythical status, staying rare and secretive. Further irony is added by the fact that it started off as an incredible wild and violent beast that was completely untameable before evolving into one of the softest and potentially girliest motifs.
The switch is linked to one of the most common paired motifs- the Virgin and the Unicorn. Only a virgin-maiden would be able to attract the Unicorn to her. According to Terry Jones
, in his researching of medieval folklore he found that the pairing was originally just an old Stealth Pun you send a mythical creature to find a mythical creature.
Broadly, the story always goes on the lines of the maiden was duped into attracting and soothing her unicorn friend until the hunters who convinced her to do so could attack and kill the unicorn for its horn. Sometimes the maiden is just followed, sometimes knowingly involved and tricked.
The once wild, savage creature started appearing on knightly heraldry, either because knights ride on horses and are armed with long bits of wood (they carry lances too) or because they are also attrached to virgins. Then the motif began to evolve. Nowadays many parts of all the old legends can turn up in their appearances.