Created By: ElCheViva on June 27, 2012 Last Edited By: ElCheViva on July 5, 2012
Nuked

Unicorns Are Sacred

Harming a unicorn is a sign of great evil.

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Trope
Unicorns are mythical animals which often represent things such as grace, purity and light in works. Given this, anybody killing or otherwise harming a unicorn can be taken to an utterly repugnant character. This can often mean that they've crossed the Moral Event Horizon, but it doesn't have to. Often, the act of killing the unicorn will cause some curse to be placed upon the perpetrator. This is a common trope in works that feature unicorns, due to the fact that the symbolic significance of unicorns is widely understood, making it useful in establishing or reinforcing villainy in a character.

Not to be confused with Dead Unicorn Trope. See also: Moral Event Horizon.


Examples:

Film
  • In Legend, killing the last two unicorns that guard the power of light would allow the demon lord to roam the world free in darkness. Also, the Big Bad shows just how evil he is by ordering a unicorn's horn to be cut off, which causes the world to freeze over.

Literature
  • Killing a unicorn is seen as a particularly heinous thing to do in Harry Potter; Firenze refers to it as a "monsterous thing". The only person known to have done it in the series is Voldemort/Quirrel, further emphasising this. Drinking unicorn blood can prolong one's life, but the drinker will be cursed from the moment the blood touches their lips for having slain "something so pure and defenceless".
  • King Lir from The Last Unicorn captured all the unicorns (except one) with the Red Bull and drove them all into the sea, just because he could.
  • Somewhat subverted in The Siege of Wonder by Mark S. Geston, where the Scientists only see the unicorn's destruction as a bad thing because of all the knowledge and power that are destroyed with it.

Live-Action TV
  • Merlin had The Labyrinth of Gedref. Arthur killed a unicorn despite Merlin warning him not to, and Camelot was cursed. Arthur had to succeed at three tests to prove his worth in order to lift the curse. He almost failed, but passed when he attempted to drink the allegedly poisoned drink to save Merlin. In the end, he buried the unicorn horn and the unicorn came back to life.

NewspaperComics
  • in the Dilbert strip, when he is assignrd to the Marketing department as a punishment, Dilbert discovers a group of unworldly Elf-like types who boast every Friday s unicorn barbecue day. (Naturally, the eternal loser Dilbert gets the bun with the horn in). But elsewhere in the Dilbert universe we are told Marketing is a place of great and terrible primal evil... (in other strips, Marketing and Sales conspire to make life Hell for engineers by selling things they haven't designed yet. Hell: Marketing sell thingds that haven't been invented yet and which are generally scinetifically impossible...).

TabletopGames
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the Feast of the Unicorn card depicts the head of a unicorn roasted with an apple in its mouth, with the flavour text "Could there be a fouler act? No doubt the baron knows of one."
  • Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms setting. In order to create the Tome of the Unicorn (which was made of metal plates), a wizard named Shoon killed 12 unicorns and bathed the plates in their blood. This was considered an especially evil act in a world where evil deeds are quite common.

Videogames
  • Killing a unicorn of your alignment in Nethack incurs a sizable penalty to your Luck Stat. Sacrificing a unicorn of your alignment (whether or not you killed it) is generally a good way to suffer Yet Another Stupid Death, by way of invoking your god's wrath. Possibly a Zig-Zag example, in that you incur no penalty for killing cross aligned unicorns (and are in fact rewarded).
  • Justified in Overlord. The whole forest is tainted by evil and you can (and should) mercy-kill them.
  • Averted in Tales of Symphonia, where, even though you have to kill a Unicorn to get its horn to heal someone, the unicorn reveals that its death just means a new unicorn will be born elsewhere, so there is no "curse," nor is it an evil act, to kill a unicorn for a greater good.

WebOriginal

WesternAnimation
  • In this Simpsons couch gag, the workers manufacturing the Simpsons merchandise are depicted as miserable slaves made to work for cruel masters at Fox. There is a unicorn chained up in the underground sweatshop, looking malnourished and unhappy.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • June 27, 2012
    cygnavamp
    • King Lir from The Last Unicorn captured all the unicorns (except one) with the Red Bull and drove them all into the sea, just because he could.
  • June 27, 2012
    chicagomel
    Merlin had The Labyrinth of Gedref. Arthur killed a unicorn despite Merlin warning him not to, and Camelot was cursed. Arthur had to succeed at three tests to prove his worth in order to lift the curse. He almost failed, but passed when he attempted to drink the allegedly poisoned drink to save Merlin. In the end, he buried the unicorn horn and the unicorn came back to life.
  • June 27, 2012
    JonnyB
    In Legend, killing the last two unicorns that guard the power of light would allow the demon lord to roam the world free in darkness.
  • June 27, 2012
    BOFH
    Tabletop Games
    • In Magic: The Gathering, the Feast of the Unicorn card depicts the head of a unicorn roasted with an apple in its mouth, with the flavour text "Could there be a fouler act? No doubt the baron knows of one."
  • June 27, 2012
    LittleLizard
    Video Games
    • Justified in Overlord. The whole forest is tainted by evil and you can (and should) mercy-kill them.
  • June 27, 2012
    Dawnwing
    To emphasize the Harry Potter example, killing a unicorn actually puts a curse on you because you've slain such a pure thing.
  • June 27, 2012
    ElCheViva
    ^ I can't quite remember if the curse comes from killing the unicorn or from drinking its blood. Or is it both?

    Edit: I've just checked, and Firenze's exact words were: "Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips."
  • June 28, 2012
    AgProv
    Newspaper Comics: in the Dilbert strip, when he is assignrd to the Marketing department as a punishment, Dilbert discovers a group of unworldly Elf-like types who boast every Friday s unicorn barbecue day. (Naturally, the eternal loser Dilbert gets the bun with the horn in). But elsewhere in the Dilbert universe we are told Marketing is a place of great and terrible primal evil... (in other strips, Marketing and Sales conspire to make life Hell for engineers by selling things they haven't designed yet. Hell: Marketing sell thingds that haven't been invented yet and which are generally scinetifically impossible...).
  • June 28, 2012
    Arivne
    Unicorn Event Horizon is a Bad Snowclone because you have to know about our Moral Event Horizon trope in order for the title to make any sense. If you didn't you might think it was about unicorns that have so much mass that they can trap anything that gets near them, including light. :)

    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons Forgotten Realms setting. In order to create the Tome of the Unicorn (which was made of metal plates), a wizard named Shoon killed 12 unicorns and bathed the plates in their blood. This was considered an especially evil act in a world where evil deeds are quite common.
  • June 28, 2012
    henke37
    I think nethack might have something like this. Not sure about the details.
  • June 28, 2012
    ShiningArmor87
    Do Pegasi count? If so, the Sunny Muffins skit from Robot Chicken comes to mind.
  • June 28, 2012
    ElCheViva
    ^^^ You're right about it being a bad snowclone and I'm totally open to better ideas; I'm sure there are several. Anyone's welcome to make suggestions.

    ^^ A took a cursory look, but found nothing

    ^I'm not sure if pegasi do count. I don't think they represent purity etc, as unicorns do, and yet they are fairly similar creatures. Group consensus?
  • June 28, 2012
    Ryusui
    Unicorns Are Sacred?

    ...I'll admit this title only works if we accept that unicorns are generally treated as such in works where bad guys killing them is proof that they're irredeemable.
  • June 28, 2012
    ElCheViva
    ^ I like both of those. Would the second be allowed? It's a snowclone, but a perfectly indicative one. I think I prefer it to the first in any case.
  • June 28, 2012
    Reflextion
  • June 28, 2012
    ElCheViva
    I've changed the working title to Unicorns Are Sacred, as per Ryusui's suggestion. I'll change it again if there ar any objections or problems that anyone can think of.
  • June 28, 2012
    LeeM
    Literature: Somewhat subverted in The Siege of Wonder by Mark S. Geston, where the Scientists only see the unicorn's destruction as a bad thing because of all the knowledge and power that are destroyed with it.
  • June 29, 2012
    Chabal2
    Averted in Dr Mc Ninja: the doctor's motorcycle is a transformed Evil Overlord unicorn.
  • June 29, 2012
    ElCheViva
    ^ Would that not be an inversion, rather than an aversion?
  • June 30, 2012
    billybobfred
    Nethack zig-zags the trope; while there is indeed a significant penalty to your Luck Stat for killing a co-aligned unicorn, cross-aligned unicorns are hostile by default and carry no penalty. Sacrificing cross-aligned unicorns at co-aligned altars also gives a fair bonus to your alignment record on top of the usual sacrifice bonuses.

    ... Actually, that might be a straight example, depending on how you look at it: you get all those bonuses because the unicorn is sacred to your enemy.
  • June 30, 2012
    Telcontar
    I don't think this is a subtrope to Moral Event Horizon. Related, yes, and a character can cross the MEH by killing a unicorn, but killing a unicorn doesn't always make a character cross it. Just put "See also" or "Related to" rather than "A subtrope of".
  • June 30, 2012
    ElCheViva
    ^ Good point, changed it.
  • July 3, 2012
    ElCheViva
    This YKTTW has 5 hats now and I'm thinking of launching it soon; does anyone have any objections or improvements they'd like to see made before that?
  • July 3, 2012
    DarkConfidant
    Feast of the Unicorn

    I provided a link to the official card (the M:tG example), which may be nice.
  • July 3, 2012
    ElCheViva
    Thank you, I've added it into the example.
  • July 4, 2012
    MoPete
    • Averted in Talesof Symphonia, where, even though you have to kill a Unicorn to get its horn to heal someone, the unicorn reveals that its death just means a new unicorn will be born elsewhere, so there is no "curse," nor is it an evil act, to kill a unicorn for a greater good.
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