"Why did they go away, do you think? If there ever were such things."
"Who knows? Times change. Would you call this age a good one for unicorns?"
"No, but I wonder if any man before us ever thought his time a good time for unicorns."
A Mythical Motif
representing purity, rarity and wild beauty, the Unicorn has appeared in heraldry and fairy tales for centuries. Its origins come not as a mythical creature but as a beast of natural history
recorded by ancient Greek historians.
Pliny the Elder was one of the earliest writers to study unicorns and certainly one of the most influential:
"The unicorn (monocerotem) 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." We recognize this today as a very fair description of a Rhinoceros
Today's conception of a unicorn is nearer to the Medieval one: A narwhal's horn, a horse's head, a deer's body, a goat's beard and feet and a lion's tail. There also is the version of a horse with a horn and occasionally even wings
to make to look like a flying Pegasus (yet another
horse with wings).
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 incredibly wild and violent beast that was completely untameable before evolving into one of the softest and child-friendly motifs. After all, it is
the national animal of Scotland
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
, though not conventional scholarship, 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 implication is that the unicorn was so fierce and wild only an innocent girl's purity could conquer it
Either way, when they're good, the most important unicorn-association is purity
; harming one can often be a sign that a character is a villain
. Indeed, the connections with maidens is probably why the unicorn has become gentle in popular culture and myth for several centuries. In modern days, unicorns are often part of a Sugar Bowl
theme. Portraying unicorns as aggressive is one of the more common fantasy subversions - or perhaps the writers of today still haven't forgotten Pliny's vicious unicorn. The Virgin and the Unicorn pairing is also open to the same harking back to the original joke. It's a resurgance not unlike the reappearance of The Fair Folk
The ungulate-with-one-horn Unicorn is most familiar, but is certainly not the only unicorn in myth. Other variations include the Kirin, an Eastern variation that (sometimes
) looks something like a cross between a typical unicorn and a dragon, the fierce, ox-like Karkadan, and the very
different Al Mi'raj, a vicious rabbit-like unicorn
. They each have one horn, so technically...
"Alicorn" originally was the name of the horn of a unicorn. Curiously the word is still around, but there are multiple different meanings.
Overlaps with Virgin Power
and All Girls Like Ponies
of Cool Horse
A Super Trope
to Winged Unicorn
, Unicorns Are Sacred
By no means
to be confused with Unicron
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In the anime and books of The Twelve Kingdoms, Kirin resemble horned or antlered horses that can take human form, among many other magical properties. They're also so pure that they faint at the smell of blood, even their own. So they have a special servant monster who acts as a bodyguard/parent/older sibling. It's complicated since the monster in question is born literally minutes before the kirin, and yet immediately knows the name of its charge.
- In Ao No Fuuin they are called Demon Masks, but appearance-wise they seem very close to unicorns, including a very long, thin horn that they need to retain, as breaking it off is a death sentence to them. With their long mane, though, they can hide the horn and body and look like very shaggy dogs.
- In Sugar Sugar Rune, the "final exam" is to fetch a unicorn horn. The unicorn takes on the form of a white-haired boy to test Chocolat and Vanilla with trickster methodology.
- The Unicorn from the Jack Frost series is definitely not a very beautiful specimen of it‘s kind◊.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds introduced Team Unicorn, a trio of D-Wheelers who use Unicorn-motif decks to unbelievably awesome effect. To drive the point home: Their first duelist Andore not only defeated, but completely wiped the floor with, both Jack and Aki on his own, and only a last-second moment of utter stupidity cost them the match. (Namely, Jean declaring an attack on Yusei, allowing a combo that took him out, when Yusei's deck had already been depleted; simply ending his turn would have clinched the victory.) Their ace cards are Thunder Unicorn, Voltic Bicorn and Lightning Tricorn. As you have read, two of them have more than one horn.
- The symbolism of the Unicorn is milked for all its worth in Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. The eponymous Mobile Suit is white and carries possibility to right the wrongs of Universal Century. Its pilot is a naive and idealistic teenager. On the other hand, it is also vicious, being a Super Prototype which goes on automatic destroy mode when it detects a New Type pilot nearby.
- In Sailor Moon SuperS although his name is Pegasus and he IS a winged horse what everyone is after is his bright golden unicorn horn.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the Blu-Ray version of the show depicts a unicorn wind chime alongside a mermaid one in Episode 9, as Kyouko speaks with Madoka. The whole scene is very subtle symbolism, with the unicorn representing Kyouko, who was wild before she met Sayaka—the mermaid. Unicorn horns were said to clean tainted water, and since Sayaka became a Mermaid Witch, she became associated with water. What does Kyouko wish to do? Save her, or purify her. Kyouko may be further associated with the unicorn via her idealism and her use of a lance as a weapon. This is further invoked by Ophelia, Kyouko's Witch, riding a unicorn whose horn was cut, symbolizing her loss of purity.
- In Attack on Titan, the Military Police has a unicorn's head as their crest, and the branch is made up of soldiers who made it to the top 10 scores upon graduating from military training. As it turns out, the unicorn symbolizes how the Military Police's fighting prowess is just as mythical as the unicorn itself; most people only enlist for the cushy upper-class lifestyle, and many of them prove to be incompetent once they have to fight titans.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- In the director's cut of Blade Runner (also not coincidentally a Ridley Scott film), Deckard has a dream of a unicorn, then receives an origami unicorn from Edward James Olmos: Symbolism, and a hint that Deckerd is himself a replicant.
- In The Chronicles of Narnia Peter is shown riding a unicorn into battle, a detail that did not occur in the book. (Unicorn-riding comes later, see Literature below.)
- Forbidden Planet explicitly relates to Altaira and a docile tiger to the legendary virgin and unicorn.
- Ridley Scott's Legend. 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.
- In The Cabin in the Woods a Unicorn is one of the hundreds of creatures stored under the facility to potentially be set upon the heroes. It's eventually seen stabbing a man with its horn. Fridge Brilliance will remind us that it makes perfect sense since only a virgin female can tame one.
- Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series heavily features unicorns. He goes for the "horse with a horn" image, but his unicorns can shapeshift into human and other forms, play music on their horns (accompanied by hoofbeats), dissipate body heat by breathing fire, perform crazy acrobatics, and are magic-resistant to the point where if a herd of them stand in a circle, no spells can be cast within.
- Another series by Piers Anthony, Xanth, has a female character who can summon any kind of horse. However, after she gets to know her husband, she can no longer summon unicorns.
- Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. They do not really look like horned horses (they have cloven feet, lion-tails, and (possibly?) deep blue eyes), and they are immortal. One side effect of the title character's presence on her home is that it is somewhat protected from the effects of the passage of time. Their sense of right and wrong is also very different from ours.
- Also by Peter S. Beagle, "Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros" where the talking rhinoceros maintains it is a unicorn. The professor, of course, says it's merely a talking rhinoceros. This is based on how, historically, many exotic animals from Africa were likely mistaken for unicorns.
- In the third book of Holly Black's The Spiderwick Chronicles, the siblings come across a unicorn that is portrayed in the illustrations as a strange goat-like creature. It grants Mallory a vision of one of its fellows being hunted in the typical way (lured by a young girl). When animal-lover Simon acts peeved that the unicorn seems more interested in Mallory than himself, she points out that it's because she's a girl.
- Summer Knight, the fourth in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, features a creepy, almost H.R. Giger-esque entity Harry believes is a Unseelie unicorn that's so aggressive, it could give Pliny's unicorn a run for its money.
- Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series has a minor subversion: although the male unicorn character is drawn to human virgins and somewhat protective of them, he's both gay and mainly interested in other equines (although he implies that he'd make an exception for Mudge the otter), so attempting to distract him with virgin human females simply doesn't work.
- Neil Gaiman's Stardust contains a unicorn. They, like Yvaine, are the Moon's children.
- In Alan Garner's book Elidor the four children are instructed to track down the unicorn Findhorn.
- Prince Rupert's unicorn steed, Breeze, was captured when young and sold as a slave. He's freed by Rupert about halfway through Simon R. Green's Blue Moon Rising, but opts to stay with his human friend to fight the demonic invaders.
- In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, rathorns (pronounced rath-orn, not rat-horn) are somewhat unicorn-like, in that they are horned equines. However, they are carnivorous, with fangs and sharp dew-claws, and ivory armor that covers their head, neck, chest and forelegs. Their eyes are red, and they are very violent and vicious, to the degree of being notorious for man-eating.
- In Mercedes Lackey's Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, unicorns are beautiful creatures attracted to virgins of the opposite sex. They've also got the brains and personality of a rather annoying lap dog. They're also very protective of virgins. And they lisp. The fifth book gets into a little more detail about their uses, dead or alive. Also, the complete lack of brains and personality is due to being in the presence of a virgin. Otherwise, they do exhibit some sense.
- There's a funny bit in Fortune's Fool where three female unicorns come rushing to protect the virgin male hero (Don't say it so loudly!) from a female ghost — but then it turns out the ghost is a virgin, too.
"No problem.... This is a creature of darkness!"
"But..." the hesitant one said, as she dropped her head to sniff at the water. "A virgin creature of darkness..."
"I'm sure there are virgin creatures of darkness all the time," the leader retorted, stamping her forehoof.
- And then a male unicorn shows up, intent on protecting the ghost, because she's a virgin female, after all....
- In Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey's The Halfblood Chronicles series: "Alicorns" are ferocious predators that were created to be war steeds but were too stupid and aggressive to use. So of course, their creators released them into the wild. A pair of elves on the run find that the one who can make small modifications to animals can also make them rideable, but they're not to be trusted.
- Lackey co-wrote The Obsidian Trilogy with James Mallory, in which unicorns are pony-sized, cloven-hooved, silky-furred, not quite like any other animal, and almost every one of them is a Deadpan Snarker. They have to adjust themselves to be in the vicinity of nonvirgins, and demons can't abide their touch. The protagonist summons one to carry him to safety, and they're bound together for a year and a day. The unicorn will castrate him if he breaks his vow of chastity within that time, and the conditions are somewhat more stringent than merely being celibate.
- In Lackey's Elemental Masters series, Unicorns are Elementals of Spirit, and the 'physical' embodiment of Knowledge, Purity, and Wisdom. When they choose to answer a summons (which requires a virgin to carry out the request), they can take on various forms, such as how medieval artists depicted them, as a young boy or girl in white robes, as a burning bush, or as a white bird. The heroine in The Fire Rose has to summon one, and unfortunately all she sees is a white, blurry shape, since she can't wear her glasses during the ritual and she's Blind Without 'Em. The voice is described as "bell-clear, sweet, silvery, and sexless".
- In C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, unicorns are otherwise normal white horses with tricolor horns. They also speak, and it's mentioned at one point that they have slightly sloping backs, whereas horses' backs are flat, which makes them harder to sit on. They only allow people to ride them as a sign of great respect or in emergencies. King Tirian's best friend in The Last Battle is a unicorn named Jewel.
- Anne McCaffrey's Acorna Series is a sci-fi take. A trio of asteroid miners find a Petting Zoo Unicorn Person baby in an escape pod; she goes from a baby with a vocabulary of three words to an adolescent in the space of two years. Much is made of how attractive she is. Her horn purifies water and air and heals wounds, she is an obligatory vegetarian, and it turns out she's an alien. Much later, reunited with her people, it turns out that they are descended from the last unicorns from Earth and the Sufficiently Advanced Alien race that rescued them.
- There is the interesting detail that unicorn people on their replacement homeworld have patterned skins with different colors, and being born in space or spending a certain amount of time offworld leads to being bleached silver-white.
- In Diana Peterfreund's Rampant series, unicorns are stone-cold killers with poisonous horns, and only virgin descendants of Alexander the Great can kill them.
- Meredith Ann Pierce's The Firebringer Trilogy, which has unicorns as protagonists, is made of this trope. The unicorns as a species have considered themselves at war with gryphons and wyverns for the past four centuries. Their society is rigidly controlled, and it is believed that any unicorn who leaves or is exiled will turn into a horse. This turns out not to be true, of course...in fact, it's revealed that drinking from a magical pond will change a horse into a unicorn.
- On the Discworld, unicorns, like the fairies, adhere to the more classical myths of vicious supernatural creatures (though they are still subject to Virgin Power). As in Real Life, people have misremembered unicorns and fairies as cutesy magical pals for little girls.
- In Guards! Guards!, a group of professional monster hunters are conversing about their previous successes. One talks about the difficulty of capturing unicorns and the need to use virgins, followed by an old joke:
I thought they were quite rare these days
Yep and the unicorns are hard to find too
- Harry Potter unicorns are just about the least threatening thing you'll find in the Forbidden Forest. The foals are golden, but they turn silver when they're about two, and of course white as adults. They're described as being 'pure', and to kill one and drink its blood will save your life from anything, but the act is so evil that you are doomed to 'a half life... a cursed life.' Unknown what that actually meant. Unicorn parts have other uses without the drawback as they don't require killing unicorn to get them. For example, the hairs are used for wand cores, as well as rope. You can also apparently get a bit of horn without killing the unicorn, as there are no qualms about using unicorn horn in potions.
- We never get to see them, but Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe has killer unicorns.
- The most skilled of the Shang warriors take the names of magical creatures; there's a short story about the girl who eventually becomes the Shang Unicorn.
- Mary Stanton's Unicorns of Balinor. They are horses with horns, but only Celestial unicorns are immortal and only they and the Royal unicorns possess magic. They also come in literally every color of the rainbow—except shadow unicorns, which are completely black and red-eyed. Notably, the only pure white unicorn is the Old Mare of the Mountain (possibly the first unicorn in existence).
- Appear occasionally in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, where they're basically horned horses that speak and seem to be very narcissistic.
- In Dragonrouge or Kesrick (I don't recall which one) Mandicardo and Calypgia encounter a monocerous (unicorn) that adheres to Pliny the Elder's description: it's very rhinocerous-looking. It's still tameable by a virgin, though.
- In Grailblazers by Tom Holt, the heroes at one point have to find a unicorn in order to use it as bait to capture a virgin. It turns out that modern unicorns are scruffy and unpleasant feral critters.
- In the Garrett, P.I. universe unicorns are carnivorous pack hunters who are smart enough to breed and train hunting dogs.
- The Theodore Sturgeon short story The Silken-Swift plays with this: there are two women in the story — one is spiritually and physically virginal, and the other is a physical virgin but a total bitch. The total bitch torments and temporarily blinds the male protagonist. The other, nice woman comes upon him and he — thinking this is the bitch — rapes her. Guess who the unicorn approaches.
- Bruce Coville's Unicorn Chronicles series, of course. The Virgin Power part is never explicitly mentioned, but unicorns are still instinctively drawn to "maidens".
- James Thurber's The Unicorn In The Garden
- One other way to catch a unicorn is known, through The Brave Little Tailor: stand between the unicorn and a good stolid tree. When it goes to stab you through, jump aside. With its horn stuck deep in the tree, it won't be able to kill you.
- The Forestmaster in Dragonlance turns out to be a unicorn; she speaks to the party, provides them with food and instructs several pegasi to serve as temporary mounts for them, and appears to be at least somewhat aware of the ultimate fate of at least one person there.
- Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, Alice meets the Lion and the Unicorn — fighting for the crown.
"This is a child!" Haigha replied eagerly, coming in front of Alice to introduce her, and spreading out both his hands toward her in an Anglo-Saxon attitude. "We only found it to-day. It's as large as life, and twice as natural!"
"I always thought they were fabulous monsters!" said the Unicorn. "Is it alive?"
"It can talk," said Haigha, solemnly,
The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice, and said "Talk, child."
Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: "Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too! I never saw one alive before!"
"Well, now that we have seen each other," said the Unicorn, "if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a bargain?"
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, the Lady Miranda serves is a unicorn, Miranda keeps unicorn pets, and one historical band of evil-doers hunted unicorns.
- In Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots, Perkins complains of how many unicorns careless writers of fantasy produce
A unicorn isn't for page twenty-six, it's for eternity.
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. The "Hard-Boiled Wonderland" segments has the protagonist encounter a unicorn skull, while "The End of the World" segments has the protagonist read old dreams from a unicorn skull. There are also unicorn-like creatures that reside outside the Town.
- The unicorns from Return to Neverend are the guardians of Neverend. They have the ability to conjure/control fire, and one doesn't need to be a virgin in order to ride one (although Sage seemed awfully happy to meet one).
- Unicorns of A Song of Ice and Fire are not horses but goat-like. Jon has a wolf vision of Shaggydog killing a unicorn ins Skagos.
- In The Chronicles of Amber, only one unicorn appears - referred to as the Unicorn. The classical-period mystical and mysterious elements are played straight.
- In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, Alianora has tamed a unicorn for a while.
- In Sir Apropos of Nothing, Apropos and Princess Entipy come across an entire herd of unicorns. Since Apropos and Entipy are half-siblings, the unicorns don't take Entipy's sexual advances toward Apropos very well.
- Anu is a major character in Imagine Someday. He has cloven hooves and is described as more closely resembling a deer than a horse. As a matter of fact, he dislikes horses tremendously.
- They apparently exist in the world of the Mediochre Q Seth Series. In the first book, some bad guys set a trap by pretending to be unicorn hunters.
- Charlie Stross has an Eldritch Abomination interpretation of unicorns in his Laundry Series novella Equoid. A young girl is mind-controlled and used as a lure by the creature, rather than being used to lure the unicorn (virginity is apparently not a requirement).
- In T.H. White’s The One And Future King, Book 2, chapter 7, pp. 251-60, Gawaine and his brothers Agravaine, Gaheris and Gareth use the kitchen maid Meg as bait for a unicorn, tying her pigtails round a heather root. It ends … badly.
- In John C. Wright's War of the Dreaming there were only two unicorns in existence and their job was to guard the Tree of Life. The male is killed by Azrael when he steals one of the fruits. Their offspring are not other unicorns but dreamcolts
- Fluffy (it means "Immortal Shining Spear of Light that Brings Destruction Unto Her Enemies," so laugh at your own risk) in Esther Friesner's Unicorn U has a bright pink mane and is excessively cute until she's returned to her true form—less "cute" and more "so beautiful as to beggar description"—at the end. She's also temperamental, foulmouthed, and snarky.
- The Dream of Perpetual Motion. Prospero Taligent tells his daughter Miranda that she can have anything she wants for her tenth birthday. She asks for a unicorn and (as her father is an expert in building robots) asks for a flesh-and-blood "real" unicorn. She gets it. Later in the book we discover Miranda was Forced to Watch as her father punched a hole (without anesthetic) in the skull of a white horse and inserted an ivory horn, just to teach her that every miracle has its price. Prospero is also fixated on his daughter's virginity and when he realises She Is All Grown Up it doesn't end well.
- The third book of The Orphan's Tales introduces a unicorn, which tells its tale, "A Tale of Harm." The tale relates how unicorns are savage and destructive, and are only attracted to innocence because it is their opposite. This particular unicorn was lured into a trap by a virgin boy — who stole its horn with a calm smile, having now completed his collection of poisons and antidotes. Subverting Incorruptible Pure Pureness is a big part of The Orphan's Tales ' MO.
- In the Sweet Pickles series, there are 26 characters each with an Alliterative Name representing a letter of the English alphabet. One of these characters is named "Unique Unicorn".
- In BBC's Merlin, one episode, "The Labyrinth of Gedref", has Prince Arthur hunting down and killing a unicorn. Although at first praised by Camelot (where the law and common belief is that all magic is evil and dangerous), his act causes the kingdom to be cursed, unless Arthur can prove he's pure of heart. He is, of course, as he's the future King Arthur.
- In the miniseries The Voyage Of The Unicorn, the crew of The Unicorn must find the real thing, in order to use its tears to restore to life a fellow shipmate who has been turned to stone. In an interesting variation, the unicorn is portrayed as black with a gold horn, although the only two characters who ever ride it are young (and therefore presumably virgin) girls.
- Scrubs: J.D.'s girlishness is emphasized by his drawing of a unicorn on his journal in the episode "My Unicorn"
J.D.: It's not a unicorn. It's a horse with a sword on its head that protects my hopes and dreams.
Imaginary Unicorn: You know I'm a Unicorn, why can't you just say it?
- The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe encounter a unicorn in "The Mind Robber". It attacks them on sight.
- The Elders from Charmed gave Wyatt a unicorn for his first birthday. The horn is supposedly made up entirely of solid magic, which comes in very useful when the sisters lose their powers.
Phoebe: How the hell are we supposed to baby-proof that horn?
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch has to deliver a unicorn to Apollo when she has to fill in for Mercury the Messenger God. She is not pleased to find out that she must also curb it.
- In another episode we learn that Zelda uses unicorn in her Halloween candy and it serves as a Chekhov's Gun when they try to solve a murder mystery since unicorn is poisonous to mortals.
- In an episode of "Ally McBeal'' she defends a client who was fired for claiming to have seen a unicorn. During the episode it's revealed that she saw one as a child also at the end she sees one. It's implied that unlike most of her visions this one might be real.
- An episode of the original Battlestar Galactica had unicorns being used as mounts. No indication was given as to whether or not they were sapient.
- Power Rangers Mystic Force has one named Brightstar. It can cross dimensions at will and turn into a Humongous Mecha.
- Kamen Rider Fourze had a unicorn themed monster, the Monoceros Zodiarts (Greek for unicorn and the name of the constellation the particular monster was based off).
- John Oliver on Last Week Tonight brings out two guys dressed up as a unicorn (Scotland's national animal) while trying to woo Scotland back to remaining part of the United Kingdom in his segment talking about the Scottish independence referendum.
- In the video for Ke$ha's "Blow" unicorns are bipedal, wear clothes bleed rainbows when shot and, since they're hanging with Ke$ha apparently have no hangups about the state of one's virginity.
- Also apparently with no hangups about virginity is the incredibly badass-looking black unicorn ridden by Voltaire on the cover of the album "Riding a Black Unicorn Down the Side of an Erupting Volcano While Drinking from a Chalice Filled with the Laughter of Small Children" (and yes, that's the full title).
- "The Unicorn" by Shel Silverstein, sung by the Irish Rovers.
Mythology and Religion
- Alexander The Great's steed, Bucephalus, is often described as a unicorn or a 'karkadann' among other things.
- In China, the Xie Zhi, a goat-like unicorn with gold eyes and a gold horn was a symbol of law and justice, the legend goes that it can always tell the guilty from the innocent, and it would attack the guilty parties as punishment, it could also finish arguments by pointing out the person that is wrong.
- Another Chinese mythical creature, the qilin (chilin, kirin, ki-lin, ghilen, quilin), resembles a composite between a Chinese dragon and a European unicorn.
- Sometimes, anyway. It is also frequently depicted as a stockily-built creature with two antlers resembling a cross between a dragon and an ox (perhaps inspired by ceratopsians, as ancient Chinese alchemists are known to have had an interest in dinosaur fossils, believing them to be dragon bones). Another common variation which is especially popular in Japan is for them to be part giraffe, since a Chinese emperor once acquired two giraffes from Africa and told everybody they were qilins. Virtually the only thing consistent about qilins are that they're a combination of a Chinese dragon and some kind of ungulate.
- The King James version of The Bible mention the unicorn, leading some literalists to argue that they actually existed or even still do. Some people use it to mock the bible but other Biblical scholars believe it's a mistranslation of the old Hebrew word re'em, which more likely referred to the aurochs: an ancestor of domestic cattle that went extinct and was soon forgotten about, leaving translators to insert a mythological beast in its place. Indeed, in the time of King James, "unicorn" was often used as another term for one-horned rhinos.
- One appears in Mutts, to inspire a comment about you don't see those every day.
- A Far Side cartoon had the two unicorns aboard the Ark eaten by the lions, whereupon Noah decides to confine all carnivores to their own deck from now on.
- A lesser creature type in Magic: The Gathering. They're almost all white, except for one white/green, two pure green, and one Non-Elemental.
- In the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons, unicorns are intelligent, have magical powers (including the trademark ability to teleport once per day anywhere within their forest home) and the males have a goat-like beard and a very long mane. Celestial Chargers are unicorns from the Celestial Realms that have the power of clerics.
- Other unicorn-like monsters from past editions include the powerful ki-rin of Oriental legend, and the al mi'raj.
- The list of alternate mounts for Paladins in "Defenders of the Faith" says only female Paladins can ride unicorns - this doesn't turn up in later editions.
- The Healer class trades all of the armor, weapons, and combat spells of the cleric for (arguably) improved healing ability and a unicorn companion.
- If one counts the article from Dragon Magazine #190, 2nd edition D&D included fifteen kinds of Unicorns. Even if one doesn't, there are still three; the conventional or "sylvan" Unicorn (Chaotic Good), the demon-blooded, Chaotic Evil Black Unicorns of the Forgotten Realms, and the Neutral Evil Shadow Unicorns — evil hybrids of unicorn and nightmare — from Ravenloft.
- Dragon Magazine #190 introduces the Alicorn (gnarly-horned unicorns that can cast Charm Person), Pyrocorn (Neutral Evil bay-colored unicorns who can cast a number of fire spells), Black Unicorn (different to the Faerunian equivalent in that their powers focus on magically manipulating darkness), Roanicorn (desert-dwelling brown unicorns with telepathy and ESP), Cunnequine (Lawful Good counterparts to the traditional D&D unicorn), Faerie Unicorn (small, green-tinted chameleonic unicorns), Graycorn (True Neutral gray colored unicorns that reflect damage back at their attackers), Criocorn (palamino-colored Lawful Evil unicorns with ice-related magic), Chromacorn (pinto-colored Neutral Good unicorns that can cast illusions and Prismatic Sprays), Sea Unicorn (water-living unicorns that can shapeshift into narwhales), Unisus (a Winged Unicorn born from crossbreeding a unicorn and a Pegasus), and Zebracorn (zebra-striped unicorns with Voluntary Shapeshifting powers).
- In Warhammer Fantasy, the Unicorns in the Wood Elf army book are cruel forest spirits but Bretonians and High Elves have been shown using more familiar Unicorns.
- Unicorns in Earthdawn are vicious, dangerous monsters, whereas those in Shadowrun are benign Awakened horses with an extreme sensitivity to pollution. It's implied that the Horrors' influence corrupted the Fourth Age unicorns, while those of the Sixth Age are free of this taint.
- Drowtales also has odd unicorns.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! posits that cryptozoological creatures like to hang out together, so unicorns are the pets and steeds of Bigfeet. Since Bigfeet leave big obvious footprints, but unicorns leave none, they make the perfect mounts for a race that wants to remain hidden. The strip has also established that unicorns purr. The most notable unicorn in the strip is the giant mutant Kaiju unicorn Unigar.
- Belkar of The Order of the Stick once stuck a boot on his forehead and claimed to be a unicorn when he was disoriented by a spell.
- They also encountered a real unicorn in one of the book-only strips. Haley tried to pass herself off as a "maiden of virtue," and the unicorn fell over laughing.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, a unicorn has seemingly been transformed into a motorcycle with seemingly magical abilities.
- As The Perry Bible Fellowship shows us, one must never mock Unicorn Power◊.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal similarly implies unicorns are best left alone .
- Any creature can be a unicorn in the world of Axe Cop simply by obtaining a unicorn horn. Yes, that includes humans. And avocados.
- Mountain Time's unicorn runs a mystical bar that specializes in Windex-based drinks.
- Exiern: Don't summon one by accident if you are an evil sorcerer. The unicorn's purity is able to defeat evil magic, and a tiara made of it's hair will thwart any attempts at mind control. It also only allows protagonist, Tiffany, ride it and gets quite angry when Peonie tries. No one appears to have explained why this is to Tiffany, given her temper it is probably for the best.
- Dork Tower in alliance with a penumbra hulk
- A book-only expansion to Digger tells us the story of a sculptor "commissioned" by a mad emperor, who had a forehead deformity and believed himself to be a unicorn, to create statues of unicorns and nothing else. The artist came to hate unicorns, and dreamed of creating a perfect statue of the god Ganesh, which he accomplished after the emperor tried to eat poison and died. The epitaph on his tombstone reads, "No unicorns in Heaven."
- Tales of the Questor sports a rather... prosaic version.
- A unicorn is the second-most main character in the Go Comics strip Phoebe And Her Unicorn. "Medieval style" with a lion tail and cloven hooves, also capable of speech (and somewhat sarcastic), has a '''Shield of Boringness''', can send text messages with her horn, and can grant wishes, albeit only "realistic" ones like being a little girl's best friend.
- In Spare Keys For Strange Doors, there's an exotic-looking one.
- "The Adventures of Gyno-Star" features a story arc called "Factory Farms" in which the heroes discover that the Apple corporation is slaughtering unicorns, grinding their horns into powder and then using the unicorn powder to make their products so damn magical.
- My Little Pony Rock Is Magic: one third of the population is a unicorn.
- The Beauty Equals Goodness tropes that's usually associated with unicorns is completely subverted by the Bog Unicorn. Unlike the traditional beautiful unicorns, which are actually foul-tempered scavengers who lurk in dumps and cause itchy scratches with their horns, the bog unicorn is a creature pure of heart and noble in intent. It feeds only on the tenderest waterweeds while being careful not to step on anything and will go miles to cleanse fouled waters with their deformed horns. Even the accidental death of an ant or a snail will wrack it with guilt for days. The fact that their appearance makes it unlikely to attract virgins puts in practically in Woobie territory.
- Charlie The Unicorn, as well as his tormentors Pink and Blue.
- The 700 Unicorns art project.
- The Dragon Wars Saga has all sorts of mythical beasts including unicorns.
- Neopets: The Uni is based on this and a Pegasus.
- Unicorns are a prominently featured race in Roll To Dodge: Savral. While they have a typical unicorn appearance, they are anything but good or pure. Unicorns in Savral are infamous for trolling the players and mocking them at almost every opportunity. In their equestrian form, they’re capable of Teleport Spam, Mind Control, phasing through walls, and detaching their heads from the rest of their bodies. When they fuse themselves to various objects, they gain Lovecraftian Superpowers such as sprouting Combat Tentacles and launching fetuses at people, making them borderline Eldritch Abominations. All of these abilities make them nearly impossible to kill, much to the ire of the players.
- In Aelan mythology from Ustal Naror islands, unicornd will be first of defenders (greatfish and great bekas are the others).
- Unicorns are ubiquitous enough on DeviantArt that many artists use other animal templates beyond that of equine models. Behold! The unicorn antelope, yak and rhino.
- Adventure Time features the rainicorns, a race of rainbow-unicorn hybrids that fly around by refracting beams of light.
- Uni, the Team Pet from Dungeons & Dragons had the teleportation power of D&D unicorns (see above), but was too young to travel more than a few feet with it. She communicated in goat-like bleats, understood human language, and was smart enough to operate Presto's hat in a pinch.
- The Unicorn in the Garden
- On a Robot Chicken episode, The Nerd is visted by a Unicorn, who invites him on a "adventure" and makes some rather unusual requests. Of course the Nerd never suspects a thing.
- A staple pony type in the My Little Pony franchise. The exact rules for how their powers work change from one incarnation of the franchise to the next.
- In the first series, all unicorns had a special power or unique magic trick in addition to limited teleportation called "winking," which may have been a reference to Dungeons & Dragons.
- In the fourth incarnation, they have all have their unique trick in addition to some basic magic like levitation, the extent of which depends on their personal skill and dedication. Twilight Sparkle, the primary heroine, is a student of magic who's special talent is magic, allowing her to learn any unicorn magic she sees. Most unicorns have vastly less power and versatility. The third-season opener also had one of the rare cases of an evil unicorn, King Sombra, a merciless tyrant who's been described as the pony equivalent of Sauron.
- The same series also has drastically rarer Winged Unicorns who tend to be royalty and near-godlike in their power. The ones known so far are Princess Celestia (whose power is to control the sun), Princess Luna (who controls the moon), Princess Mi Amore Cadenza aka Cadence/Cadance (whose power is love) and Twilight Sparkle herself, who was transformed into an alicorn and crowned a princess at the close of the third season, and was declared Princess of Friendship at the end of the fourth season. There also exist changelings, led by Queen Chrysalis, who are not ponies but whose true forms resemble zombie/demon unicorns with insect wings.
- In Regular Show, unicorns are punky/gothy Ambiguously Gay party animals who use "bro" like punctuation and are attracted by the scent of Dude Time cologne. The only way to get rid of them when they've overstayed their welcome is to put them in a flying car and blow it up.
- Twinkles the Terrible on Jimmy Two-Shoes, who just happens to be an Omnicidal Maniac that no one takes seriously.
- Subverted in Camp Lazlo. Lazlo manages to call a llama to camp and, in an effort to get rid of it, sticks an ice cream cone on its head and calls it a unicorn. Somehow, the Squirrel Scouts believe it.
- The Smurfs episode "Smurfing For Unicorns" featured one, which the Smurfs were looking for to cure Puppy when he drank polluted water and got sick.
- Even the three guardsdogs Yippy, Yappy, and Yahooey, (known under the Peter Potamus cartoon umbrella) had a run-in with a unicorn, one with a detachable horn who skillfully fenced them all off.
- The Invisible Pink Unicorn is the goddess of a parody religion, the parody being that it is impossible to disprove her as she is invisible, and that her followers have faith that she exists and is pink. She's a parody of all religious beliefs that can't be tested, and also a parody of deities with contradictory traits (such as simultaneous invisibility and pinkness.)
- Viking traders, used to sell Narwhal tusks and call them unicorn-horns. As Narwhals could easily be presented as magic beasts themselves one wonders why they bothered with calling them unicorns.
- Considering the word Unicorn means "One Horn", they weren't really lying...
- Except narwhal tusks are teeth, not horns.
- Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus raised a stir in the 1980s by displaying "unicorns" in its shows ... in reality, white angora goats whose horn buds had been surgically repositioned in infancy. The animals' creator, a scholar and artist deeply involved in paganism and mythology, actually holds a patent on the procedure. She's also the co-founder of the real-life Church of All Worlds, a neopagan group that uses some of the concepts introduced in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.
- Ameristar casino advertisement: "Is that a unicorn?" "No, it's a quadricorn!"
- In medieval art the Unicorn was also used as a very specific representation of purity as a representation of Christ. Hence quite a few depictions of unicorns being murdered. The unicorn was also a good representation of the just, honest side of a king's reign hence its appearance in the royal coat of the Stuart kings (and thus the current British Monarch). In the Royal Arms, it was depicted in chains (because it's honest but it's still wild and likely to kill you-pretty apt for a Scottish king). In Stirling Castle, you can actually find both making it seem like the king was recording his own likelihood of being killed (again, it was a Scottish King).
- Infamously, North Korea claimed in 2012 to have discovered a unicorn lair, resulting in much Memetic Mutation. Actually, the notion that they claimed to have Western-style unicorns is based on a poor Korean-to-English translation. What they claimed to have discovered the lair of the Quilin (mentioned above) that acted as a mount for Korea's first king; right in the original announcement they stated that the stone proved Pyongyang was the historic capital city. Yes, we mangled North Korean Propaganda into something even sillier.
- In English/rhetoric/communication classes showing the limits of grammar, the sentence "The present Queen of France rides a unicorn." is given. Every rule of grammar will say that there is nothing wrong with it. But there is no such person as "the present Queen of France"; France is a republic. And there are no such things as unicorns.
- There have been Transformers dragons aplenty, the occasional unexplained griffin, and even an unreleased pegasus. It was inevitable that there would also be a unicorn.
- Also, in defiance of our page info, while you should not mistake Unicron for unicorn, the band Lion made that exact mistake with their lyrics for the theme to Transformers: The Movie.
- Aside from the (extant) narwhal, Great Indian or Javan rhinos, and a few kinds of single-horned lizards, there have been a number of one-horned animals in the distant past, including Elasmotherium, a rhino-like mammal with a single very wide horn, and Monoclonius, a ceratopsian dinosaur.