Marigold: Yes, bask in my wonderfulness.
Phoebe: This is less charming when you've heard it a couple times.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn is a newspaper comic strip by Dana Simpson, and made its debut as Heavenly Nostrils on Go Comics.com in April 2012 as a webcomic. In January 2015, the comic assumed its present title; on March 30, 2015, it was relaunched as a syndicated comic in nearly a hundred newspapers.
It begins when 9-year-old Phoebe Howell skips a rock across a pond and accidentally hits a unicorn in the face. Freed from her own reflection, the unicorn — named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils — grants Phoebe one wish. After her impractical requestsnote are denied, Phoebe wishes for Marigold to be her best friend. But can a vain mythical beast and a nine-year-old daydreamer really forge a connection? (Spoiler alert: Yes, and their Odd Friendship becomes the heart of the strip.)
The strip has been compiled in a series of collections. An original graphic novel, Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm, was published in 2017. A second, Phoebe and Her Unicorn in Unicorn Theater, followed in 2018.
In June 2020, it was announced that Nickelodeon had won a bidding war to create an Animated Adaptation of the strip. However, a couple years later, Dana announced that the show had been cancelled due to Nick believing the show couldn't be marketed to boys.
Now has a character sheet in need of work.
Phoebe, her unicorn, and their tropes:
- Acting for Two: In-universe example in the play Phoebe performs with Sue in the graphic novel Unicorn Theater, where she plays both Queen Vaccuumia and Steve the lake monster.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Marigold admits that the song Phoebe made up at the school talent show, "Unicorns are Stupidfaces", is catchy. She even hums to it later on.
- An Aesop: Never explicitly stated, but the general theme is "Appreciate your friends for who they are, not what they can do for you."
- Ain't No Rule:
- The drive-in doesn't say your vehicle can't be a unicorn.
- Marigold votes for Phoebe for Rainbow Sparkle Princess, because no rule says the princess must be a unicorn.
- Alien Sky: During the "Freaky Friday" Flip arc, Phoebe-in-Marigold's-body casts a muffin-summoning spell, but due to a "rookie mistake" it has the side effect of turning the sky plaid. Marigold fixes it after she and Phoebe return to their own bodies, then reveals that no one else noticed because she'd already turned the Shield of Boringness up to maximum.
- All Animals Are Dogs: Marigold sometimes displays catlike traits such as purring, basking in sunlight, or poofing out her tail when startled.
- Infernus's tail starts wagging when neigh sees her at a Unicorn Reunion. Neigh does however admit: "It is more of a 'me' thing."
- All There in the Manual: Phoebe's parents' names were only known from the character bio on the syndicate's website for a very long time. A strip from October 16, 2015 mentioned Ethan's name, and August 16, 2016 finally mentioned Emily's, well over four years later.
- The Anti-Nihilist: Marigold cheerfully tells Phoebe life has no purpose but that it's much easier to accept "when one also has sparkles". Phoebe's won over by the argument, saying it's much easier to accept from a unicorn than anyone else.
- She isn't consistent with this position, however. In another strip, she says the meaning of life is to be a unicorn.... or, failing that, to find a unicorn to sit on.
- Apathy Killed the Cat: What unicorns fear most is their boringness spells to avoid detection backfiring and creating the dreaded "Meh", a state of apathy where people don't care if there is or isn't a unicorn standing right in front of them.
- Argument of Contradictions: On whether Phoebe picks her nose.
- Armor-Piercing Statement: In an early strip, Marigold rather pointedly calls out Phoebe for treating her as a prop instead of a friend.
- Artistic License – Animal Care: In one strip Phoebe feeds bread to ducks while talking about how they're more interested in the bread than the rainbow she's sitting on. Readers pointed out that bread is bad for ducks, so three years later, a followup strip was made where Phoebe points this out.
- Author Appeal: If you guessed that the unicorn ends up partially shaved at some point, you'd be right. She also ends up completely hairless in a Sunday strip.
- Author Avatar: Phoebe's mom bears a resemblance to Dana minus the dyed hair.
- Awesome Mc Cool Name: Marigold Heavenly Nostrils.Phoebe: That's the best name I've ever heard.
Marigold: Yes it is!
- Background Magic Field: Comes up largely in The Magic Storm, where a dragon working a large spell nearby causes it to go out. It's treated as roughly comparable to the electrical grid; its absence means the Shield of Boringness and other passive spells stop working.
- Bag of Holding: What Phoebe gets when Marigold casts a "spell of enhanced containment" on her school backpack. While trying to investigate exactly how much room is inside, Phoebe falls in.Marigold: I will get a ladder!
Phoebe: Don't hurry! There's CANDY down here.
- Barely-Changed Dub Name: The Polish translation of the books renamed the title character to Fibi, pronounced more or less like her English name.
- The Beautiful Elite: Unicorns. Deconstructed in that unicorns are generally so caught up in themselves that they lack the skills that make a friendship work, like empathy or the ability to apologize. Phoebe is helping Marigold develop these skills.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Phoebe grouses that she thought having a unicorn best friend would make her awesome; Marigold points out that if she wanted to be awesome, she should just have wished for it.
- Be Yourself: Marigold advises Phoebe to be herself -- and more like a unicorn.
- Big "NO!": Phoebe's reaction when Lord Splendid Humility says that she and her friends may not able to save Marigold when she's Taken for Granite.
- Bland-Name Product/My Little Phony: Pastel Unicorns, a Shout-Out to My Little Pony.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Marigold frequently understands human expressions literally, much to her confusion.Phoebe: I wanna rub you in Dakota's stupid, snotty face!
Phoebe: Not literally.
- Bowdlerization: The book collection has some dialogue in the first few strips edited from the web version. Most notably, a reference Phoebe makes to Bono and a reference Marigold makes to the PATRIOT Act are removed.
- By the Lights of Their Eyes: in a night scene, where Phoebe and Marigold are otherwise silhouettes.
- The Cameo: Llewellyn from Dana Simpson's previous webcomic Ozy and Millie and Tater and Drizzle from Nicole Johnson's Meadowhawk appear here.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Marigold, through a combination of being Literal-Minded and unicorn humor being... idiosyncratic.Phoebe: All those jokes about off-brand hoof polish kinda lost me.
Marigold: But its shine is hilariously insufficient!
- Care-Bear Stare: Marigold gives Dakota a literal box of happiness for her birthday, to make up for spoiling Dakota's big entrance with the Shield of Boringness.
- Cartoon Cheese: Played with in a 2021 storyline where Phoebe is given one of these, only to discover it's cheddar, not Swiss cheese (Marigold poked holes with her horn).
- Canon Immigrant: Voltina, the electricity dragon introduced in the graphic novel The Magic Storm, appeared in a Sunday strip a year later and has made occasional cameo appearances since.
- Can't Argue with Elves: Marigold is right most the time — because she says so.
- Catchphrase: Marigold cheers "UNICORN!" whenever she does something awesome... which is fairly frequently.
- Cheated Angle: No matter which way Marigold is turned, the upper part of her mane is always behind her horn. Word of God is that it's magic.
- Chiaroscuro: At night, with Phoebe and Marigold silhouetted against city lights (for the first panel only).
- Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs: In one strip, Phoebe tells Marigold about a cereal called "Organic Kabooms", and that they were called "Sugar Kabooms" (possibly a reference to the trope namer) when her mom was a kid, but were changed to their current title to sound healthier.Marigold: "Kabooms" sounds healthy?Phoebe: One thing you'll learn about humans is, we like explosions.
- Clothing Damage: A downplayed non-fanservice example; when one arc has Marigold give Phoebe a temporary unicorn tail, the tail rips a hole in the back of her skirt when appearing. Phoebe moans a few strips later that she had really liked that skirt.
- Comic-Book Time: While seasonal events happen in 'real time' (summer strips in the summer months, Christmas strips in December, etc.), ten years of strips passed before nine-year-old Phoebe was allowed to avert an Ageless Birthday Episode and turn ten. (Marigold declared it was her tenth as well, reasoning that she must be ten of something).
- Commonality Connection: Max strikes up an unlikely friendship with Alabaster "Al" Goldenwithers-Jones, a unicorn who shuns his pretentious homelands in favor of the forests to dabble and tinker in Green energy. Both of them find they really love playing video games together.
- Costume-Test Montage: Magic Storm has several panels of Phoebe and Marigold trying on disguises in a costume shop which does nothing for the story but add pages.
- Covers Always Lie: The cover of Unicorn vs. Goblins makes it look like the goblins will be villainous characters. While they have a somewhat antagonistic role in their introductory arc (kidnapping Dakota for her magic hair), the conflict is easily resolved by Marigold, and the goblins' relationship with Phoebe and Marigold varies from outright allies to frenemies like Dakota, and even then, they are pranksters at worst.
- Creator Cameo: A variation. Dana Simpson's "ponysona", Princess Pedantia, appears in a scene from Pastel Unicorns in this strip.
- Culture Clash: Pops up every now and then.
- Damned by Faint Praise: Phoebe is incensed when Marigold dismisses her new favorite song as "fine."
- Deathbringer the Adorable: Marigold's cousin Infernus, the Unicorn of Death turns out to be a cute nonbinary foal who goes by 'Ferny'.
- Defector from Decadence: ...sort of. During a camping trip, Marigold, Phoebe and Max meet a unicorn named Al (short for Alabaster Goldenwithers-Jones), who finds the Unicorn Lands to have become "stuffy and pretentious" and has taken to "roughing it" in the woods. ("Roughing it" including sleeping on a golden bed of only the second-softest down.)
- Distracted by the Sexy: Max doesn't openly react to Phoebe grabbing his hand during a spelling bee, but he does completely lose his ability to spell.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Phoebe's dad tells her a joke about binary trees, then sees fit to explain a little. Unimpressed, Phoebe tells Marigold, "My dad speaks 'nerd.'"
- Double Standard: Among unicorns, Phoebe is considered special for having a unicorn as a friend, but Marigold is considered weird for being friends with a human.Phoebe: Life's unfair to unicorns.
Marigold: [perturbed] This is the first I am hearing of it.
- Drive-In Theater: Variation: In this strip, Marigold mentions seeing movies at a "trot-in theater".
- Drowning My Sorrows: In The Magic Storm, Phoebe admits to eating an entire tub of ice cream after losing in the spelling bee. This helps her recognize when another character is doing something similar.
- Dynamic Entry/Diving Save: Mare of Action Marigold bravely protects Phoebe... from a dodgeball.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In their first appearance, the goblins were all in shades of green (Dana likened them to the variety of human skin colors). Later, they came in other colors such as blue and orange.
- In some of her earliest appearances, Marigold would drop the occasional contraction in her speech, but this was quickly done away with. Not that it's ever stated that she can't use contractions anymore, she just chooses not to (see Spock Speak below).
- Easy Amnesia: Marigold's Spell of Forgetfulness. On the other hand, sometimes she erases more than she intended.Phoebe: Every time you cast one of those, you forget your name or you forget how to walk, or you forget what humans are and get super freaked out that I have fingers.
Marigold: I do not remember any of that.
- Embarrassing Middle Name:
- Florence Unfortunate Nostrils. So called because she sneezes spiders.
- Phoebe isn't so fond of her middle name, Grizelda.
- Eskimos Aren't Real: Some unicorns don't believe that humans exist. While Marigold knows better, she — and all unicorns — think the Earth is unicorn-shaped, because unicorn.
- E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: A Running Gag throughout the comics involves Marigold claiming how tech like Wifi and Bluetooth where actually first invented by unicorns.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: After Marigold complains of an unrealistic movie, they go outside. As they cross a stream on a rainbow, Phoebe observes that recently, outside has seemed implausible to her.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: And how! Marigold sparkles constantly. (Though the effect of coffee too many sparkles, even for her.)
- Eye of Newt: Marigold made Phoebe a tiara of morning dew and moonbeams.
- Fairest of Them All: Marigold is the non-villainous variety. She hates being ignored, quickly turning jealous and envying whoever or whatever has stolen Phoebe's attention away.
- The Faceless: Lord Splendid Humility, whose unmatched modesty requires that he never allows anyone to see anything but his horn. (He has revealed himself to human characters, but they don't count).
- Fantastic Racism: Sometimes Marigold accuses Phoebe of digitism (favoring fingers).
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Besides unicorns there's also goblins, dragons, fairies, pixies, phoenixes...
- Fictional Counterpart:
- Aside from Phoebe's "Pastel Unicorns" toys (see My Little Phony, below), there's the cartoon Robots That Are Totally Also Cars, the video games Talking Animals, Portable Hole, Irritated Birds, Dot Eating Circle Man and Cubecraft, and the fantasy TV series Thrones of Ermagard.
- The cartoon series Confetti Canyon is believed to be a mix of Steven Universe and Gravity Falls.
- Dakota posts videos on MeTube and mentions needing a Startkicker account to keep her magic hair in shampoo.
- Five Stages of Grief: Phoebe hits all five beats throughout a story arc where Marigold has to leave for a few days to take a vacation at a unicorn spa: She reassures herself that she'll be fine without Marigold (Denial), gets upset because she can't do things that Marigold helps her with (Anger), asks her parents if they can help her bring Marigold back (Bargaining), becomes sad that her best friend isn't with her (Depression), but then realizes that even without Marigold around, she can still go on and be perfectly fine (Acceptance). Of course, her overjoyed reaction when she sees Marigold again implies that she might not even have moved past Denial.
- Flaw Exploitation: Phoebe can silence Marigold at any time by holding up a mirror.
- Forced Sleep: Marigold has used her magic to make Phoebe fall asleep twice: once (for a few seconds and possibly without meaning to) by yawning ("Unicorn yawns are powerful magic"), and once by raising her Shield of Boringness and "turning it up to its highest setting". However, she has stated that sleeping spells in and of themselves are dangerous, because they may accidentally turn their targets into pillows (although she admits it's never happened before).
- Forced Transformation:
- Marigold is very much into the idea of slowly changing Phoebe into a unicorn. A magical version of a Makeover Montage, if you will. Baby steps, as Marigold's spells are usually short-lived but by encouraging her friend to identify as a unicorn, hopes this transformation will be permanent.
- To get the Unicorn Investigative Agency off their case, she and Lord Splendid Humility accidentally give the girl a temporary tail (which Phoebe likes). Marigold offers Phoebe a permanent one someday.
- That said, in a later strip Marigold tells Phoebe that she promised her parents that wouldn't give her a tail again until Phoebe was old enough to buy her own pants.
- She gives Phoebe a temporary unicorn muzzle to enable her to smell magical perfumes. Marigold seems genuinely pleased with the result.
- In trying to mend Dakota's broken friendship with the Goblin princess, Phoebe is changed into a goblin herself (Marigold claims it was faster than trying to teach Phoebe goblin language). She starts becoming goblin-like in mind as well as body, and eats her scarf before changing back.
- Combining this with "Freaky Friday" Flip, Marigold transformed Phoebe into her (and herself into Phoebe) for 24 hours, in order to see which one could handle the other's life better.
- Later, Marigold temporarily turned both Phoebe and Dakota into goblins in order to be able to read and understand a goblin novel. Phoebe takes it in stride, while Dakota doesn't take it well at first, though she heavily leans into it after reading the novel.
- For Happiness: Marigold can get a bit... unprofessional with her magic, but she's never worse than mischievous. Most of her spells are used to make someone happy, if only herself.
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: A voluntary version occurs when Phoebe and Marigold want to see who would have the harder time as the other.
- Gasp!: Played for Laughs in this strip.
- Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: How Phoebe brings Marigold out of one of her gazes in this strip.
- A Girl and Her X: The strip is centered on the Odd Friendship between Phoebe and a unicorn, and while Marigold is not a pet, she generally tolerates being called Phoebe's unicorn with amused good humor.
- Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: Phoebe is into video games like Portable Hole, and knows at least enough about The Godfather to jump at the opportunity to parody the horse head scene.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: In this comic, a devil unicorn tries to convince Phoebe to secretly take a cookie, while an angel unicorn tells her not too. Then Marigold shows up and orders both to leave, revealing they're her cousins who love to mess with human children by sowing moral confusion.
- Green-Eyed Monster: There's a lot of envy floating around. Marigold resents anything that seems to be prettier than she is (a fairly common attitude among unicorns), while Dakota has an ill-concealed envy for Phoebe because of her relationship with Marigold.
- Hand Wave: In-universe — any new ability or unexplained feat of Marigold's is brushed off with "Unicorn!"
- Handy Feet: Mentioned when Sue says she can imagine Phoebe learning to play bass:Sue: Now I'm imagining you can play bass with your feet!
- Hollywood Board Games: In Marigold's family reunion, Phoebe comments to Infernus how she can (now) play Pictionary with a unicorn anytime she wants. It's become so mundane for her that when she realizes how outlandish such a thing sounds, she cuts herself mid-sentence in quiet shock.
- Humans Are Ugly: Marigold invokes this from time to time.Marigold: What is a tiny bit of extra pink in a sea of fleshy human disgustingness?
Phoebe: Remember what I said about knowing when to stop talking?
- Humanity Is Infectious: Marigold laments that Phoebe continually exposing her to human trends, activities and cultures means she can no longer find serenity by being alone, or grazing by herself.
- Hybrid-Overkill Avoidance: Marigold can't use magic to help Phoebe speed-read her summer reading, because Reading Is Magic and mixing it with other types is dangerous.
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: Marigold's pride and ego demands that whenever Phoebe plays video games with her, her friend must always be the inferior less-attractive looking character. That said, she wouldn't choose anyone else to be her player number 2.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- I Have This Friend: Phoebe says this to Marigold when fishing for ideas of what to get her for Christmas.
- Immortal Immaturity: Most unicorns. Marigold herself admits that hanging around Phoebe makes her feel like they are growing up together.
- Inept Mage: Marigold once made Phoebe's room disappear with a cleaning spell, and cast a spell of forgetfulness much farther than she intended.
- Inhumanly Beautiful Race: Subverted. How unicorns see themselves, including Marigold. It's not so much Informed Attractiveness, though Marigold's narcissism would make you beg to differ. If she actually dropped the "shield of boringness", it's more of a case of finding her beauty literally blinding, unable to look away and shaken from the experience. They're so beautiful that a unicorn can be captivated by her own reflection.
- Innocently Insensitive: One of the few things that can make Marigold truly depressed, is when she pities all the poor creatures who are not unicorns. Phoebe takes offense, but Marigold's concern is still sincere:Phoebe: We're doing fine, thanks.
Marigold: Your courage inspires me every day
- Insane Troll Logic: Marigold is not above using this, either. Case in point...
- Insistent Terminology: Marigold is a unicorn, not a horse. To be fair, she's insistent because she's clearly not just a horse with a horn, what with the cloven hooves, the lion tail, and the ability to see color.
- Insubstantial Ingredients: Proposed rainbow gates — for a sand castle.
- Insufferable Genius: Marigold from time to time, though it seems to be a species trait.Marigold: Unicorns invented music. We decided one day that only one thing could make us even more wondrous than we were already.
Marigold: A soundtrack!
- Intergenerational Friendship: Marigold an immortal unicorn, being best friends with a 9-year old human child.
- Interspecies Friendship:
- Phoebe and Marigold the unicorn.
- Dakota and Blartholomew the goblin and Lord Splendid Humility.
- Sue and Ringo the lake monster.
- Max and Voltina the storm dragon.
- Interspecies Romance: Marigold has developed feelings for Ringo, the camp lake monster. Possibly one-sided, as he seems simply confused about the whole concept.
- According to Marigold, Infernus the Unicorn of Death has a crush on Phoebe. The latter is aware of this, but has not indicated whether she reciprocates neighir feelings.
- Intrigued by Humanity: The Unicorn Investigative Agency will place any human who befriends a unicorn under surveillance, in case the human does something magical or wondrous to be worthy of the friendship.
- Invisible Aliens: Unicorns are everywhere, hiding in plain sight, but as Marigold explains their "shields of boringness" enable them to blend in and appear ordinary and mundane to other living creatures.
- Ironic Name: Infernus, The Unicorn of Death, and neighr parents Maledicta Unavoidable Catastrophe and Oynx Darkbane, Foreteller of the World's End, are all perfectly pleasant despite their grim names. Questioning this cues the introduction of Infernus' sibling Buttercup Jeweled Delight, who is tragically Goth, implying there is a reciprocal effect.
- Irony: Phoebe is not sure if winning the spelling bee on "ironic" when she doesn't want Max to lose is ironic.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: When Phoebe expresses feeling kinship with a leaf, Marigold comments that she agrees they're both orange and flaky. Phoebe will agree to 'orange'.
- It's All About Me: Flashback Marigold's active inner life is simply a Doom-comic-esque repetition of "ME ME ME ME ME". Her outer life...isn't much different.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Despite her narcissism and ego (see above), Marigold really does care about Phoebe as a friend.
- Dakota becomes this after befriending Blartholomew and his fellow goblins.
- Kangaroo Court: Every so often the unicorns have Phoebe tried in absentia, for not being a unicorn. The verdict - sentenced to not being a unicorn.
- Large Ham: Marigold, now and again. Also when Dakota tries to out-act Phoebe in the audition for the school play:Dakota: Choke on that, Unicorn girl.
Phoebe: On what, the scenery?
- Limb-Sensation Fascination: Inverted without any body switching or shapeshifting in this strip when Marigold theorizes that having toes must be like having tarantulas on the end of one's legs.Phoebe: That's creepy, but it isn't inaccurate.
- Limited Wardrobe: Averted with Phoebe, but Marigold always seems to wear the same burgundy scarf (and matching Eighties-style leg warmers) in cold weather. She keeps herself warm with magic, anyway — the accessories are just for fashion.
- Literal Metaphor: Phoebe and Marigold give Dakota the gift of happiness for her birthday.
- Literal-Minded: Marigold, having a lack of understanding of human culture, is often subject to this.
- Little Green Unicorns: Since the point of the universe would be missing were not every planet inhabited by unicorns, Marigold pictures these galloping magnificently over other worlds.
- Little "No": Phoebe's response when Marigold suggests that both of them read "Spearhorne's 94-part epic poem Oats, Oats, How Tasty Thou Art."
- Little Professor Dialog: Not to the same extent as Calvin, but Phoebe does this from time to time.
- In this strip Phoebe uses the words "appalling" and "semiautobiographical."
- In a spelling bee, she correctly spells "appoggiatura" — but she was actually asked to spell "hat".
- Major General Song: "I am the very model of a modern magic unicorn...."
- The Masquerade: Marigold conceals her presence, yet at the same time doesn't, with a magical "shield of boringness." This makes it so people see her as a unicorn, but respond to it along the lines of, "Oh, a unicorn. Whatever."
- Master Race: Unicorns have tried to rule the world after seeing the mess humans created, but their attempts were not taken seriously, so they had to settle for merely being a Superior Species instead.
- Mathematician's Answer: The characters have done this at least three times.
- Her response when Marigold tells her that although Dakota is a goblin princess, the position is purely ceremonial.Phoebe: So Dakota is basically a glorified mascot? I have to tell her!
Marigold: Out of kindness, or to see her pained, startled expression?
- Another example:Phoebe: I never know what to do with my hands on days I forget my phone.
Marigold: Those things always seem like more trouble than they are worth.
Phoebe: Hands or phones?
- Lord Splendid Humility wants to use Marigold as a distraction while he leaves his bush.LSH: We will need to test this system before we try it out on the wider world. We will need a test subject whose memory we can erase if things go awry. There is a small chance we will scramble their brain in the process, so it should be someone you do not mind—
Marigold: Are you warning us she is nearby, or suggesting her?
- Her response when Marigold tells her that although Dakota is a goblin princess, the position is purely ceremonial.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never made clear if Phoebe simply dreamed about Glorpie after returning him to his owner of if he actually has the power to appear in the dreams of children.
- Meaningful Name: Unicorn names are their destinies, according to Marigold. This dooms her to having heavenly nostrils. It's a rough existence.
- "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: In an early strip, Phoebe claims "Danger" is her middle name. It's actually Grizelda.
- Mind-Control Eyes: Parodied in this strip. When Phoebe tries to hypnotize Marigold, it seems to work until the unicorn reveals that she's "just showing off [her] new Spell of Eye-Swirling".
- Mirror Universe: Phoebe and Marigold encounter a portal to a "dark dimension". Though Dark Marigold isn't much different from regular Marigold; she just has a monocle, while the dark version of Phoebe just yells bad things and repeatedly pokes regular Phoebe
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: When transformed into a goblin by Marigold, Phoebe goes from being a poorly disguised social misfit, to gradually enjoying the goblin Queen's company. By the time the unicorn returns to her friend she's already devouring her scarf.
- Mind over Matter: Marigold sometimes manipulates things with her horn magic to make up for her lack of fingers.
- Ms. Exposition: Lampshaded here.
- Muggle Best Friend: Phoebe to Marigold.
- Multiple Head Case: Phoebe greedily dreams of Marigold as a two-headed "double" unicorn. Dream Marigold is not immediately satisfied with this, nor do her two heads attain satisfaction at the same time.
- Mundane Utility: A characteristic of the human children who have taken up with magical friends.
- Phoebe rides Marigold to school, among other less glittering uses for a real live unicorn.
- Dakota uses the goblins for transport, especially when her status as goblin princess means she gets enough of them to carry her around.
- Voltina, introduced in The Magic Storm, is not only transportation but a handy source of electric power.
- My Little Phony: Phoebe is a fan of the cartoon Pastel Unicorns and has a bunch of the toys. In a few strips (like on March 17, 2013 and on August 11, 2013) she discusses recent plot developments from the show, and they're barely-veiled references to actual episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. And Dana is a pegasister herself.
- Narcissist: A common trait of unicorns.
- To drive the point home, Marigold was trapped by the beauty of her own reflection in the river, which is what happened to Narcissus in the Greek mythology.
- Averted by Lord Splendid Humility, who is so modest that he refuses to show any part of himself but his horn... though the implication is that he takes pride in being so humble.
- Deconstructed in the graphic novel Unicorn Theater, where it was shown through flashbacks that Marigold was much worse before she met Phoebe. It was also a source of friction between Marigold and her sister Florence when they were younger.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: UNICORN!
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Invoked Trope here, when Phoebe mentions that Confetti Canyon character Grandpa Jim is a "ninja spy ghost king".
- Noodle Incident: The Thing with the Marbles.
- No Biological Sex: Infernus, the Unicorn of Death.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Phoebe has been in the fourth grade for multiple times in a row. It's unlikely that she was held back, especially since she appears to still be nine.
- No, You: Marigold's usual knee-jerk response to being insulted, although it usually doesn't make sense.
- Oblivious to Their Own Description: Marigold, of course:Marigold: Narcissus Tremendous Pomposity is more of a ME-icorn. So self-absorbed! All day it is just "me me me me meeeeeee!"
Phoebe: *mouth hangs open*
- Oddly Common Rarity: "Unique orns" like Marigold take pride in their beauty and are the typical unicorn. "Common orns" think it's better to indulge in false modesty and are actually quite rare.
- One-Steve Limit: Defied. Lord Splendid Humility informs Phoebe that there is more than one unicorn named Steve.
- On Second Thought: Marigold's initial reaction to Phoebe wishing the unicorn would be her best friend is "Or maybe... um, some gold?"
- Otherworldly Visits Youngest First: Phoebe is the first person to meet Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, an honest to goodness Unicorn, but she quickly introduces the magnificent (ask Marigold) Unicorn to her classmates (and presumably the teacher as well, as it was during Show and Tell), and her parents (Dad wonders if Marigold is housebroken, while Mom tells Marigold she simply has to paint her, though Marigold is curious as to which color).
- Our Dragons Are Different: Besides classic fire-breathing dragons, we've encountered two special variations: candy (breathes candy, regurgitates ice cream, small, can only say "Rar") and storm (eats electricity, is a glowing blue, larger than a unicorn, speaks English).
- Our Goblins Are Different: They are basically civilized, but goblin language appears to consist only of "BLAART." Marigold still understands it from context. They also disrupt electronics by laughing.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: this comic, when Phoebe wants to believe she is unique she asks Marigold how many humans ride unicorns to school. When Marigold answers 910, Phoebe keeps narrowing it down further tills she gets to human girls with freckles who play the piano and are named Phoebe Howell, of which she is the only one.
- Painting the Frost on Windows: Marigold is in charge of quality control on rainbows.
- Painting the Medium: Marigold can tell when Phoebe's not pronouncing The Shield of Boringness with the right accent because of the font being used.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The male goblin who impersonates Dakota, both online and around the house, simply dons a wig (and eventually clothes) and holds a sign saying "Litl gerl." Evidently, Dakota's own mom falls for it (or possibly thinks it's an improvement).
- Parental Abandonment: Subverted. Marigold doesn't know her parents because unicorn vanity makes it hard to recognize anyone but herself.
- Peerless Love Interest: Lord Splendid Humility is Marigold's hopeless crush because she has never seen him — and the only thing more beautiful than a unicorn is the idea of a unicorn. When she learns that Phoebe has seen his face, she drives herself to distraction between wanting to know and wanting to keep her illusion.
- Pegasus: Subverted. According to Marigold, they're not real due to being vertebrates with six limbs (and yet, the series features other six-limbed vertebrates as dragons and possibly pixies).
- Placebo Effect: Phoebe and Marigold experience strange effects when they swipe some coffee, but it turns out to be decaf.
- Playing a Tree: Inverted. Phoebe had the lead role but felt like the tree would have been a more natural fit.
- Pocket Dimension: Marigold uses one as Hammerspace.
- Pony Tale: In universe, the book Horse Story (though apparently it ends with the central horse suffering Death by Newbery Medal). It (or at least its film equivalent) had a sequel: Horse Story 2: Additional Horses.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: During a storyline where Marigold and Phoebe work to confront the ghost that's been stealing Dakota's hot cocoa.Phoebe: Would you say the ghost will be BUSTED?Marigold: I suppose so.Phoebe: Okay then...WHO YA GONNA CALL?(beat)Marigold: I...do not get that reference.Dakota: I do, but I refuse to acknowledge it.
- Post-Modern Magik: Marigold can use unicorn magic to send and receive text messages with Phoebe's cell phone. Her horn also amplifies satellite radio signals, is a Wi-Fi hotspot, and functions as a record needle.
- Potty Failure: Implied in one strip when Phoebe is meeting her new teacher; the teacher mentions he's heard about her, and Phoebe worriedly asks if Marigold told him about "that time in the park", after which she hastily tries to assure him that her pants were wet because she spilled lemonade.
- Precocious Crush: Marigold's cousin Infernus, the Unicorn of Death (a.k.a. Ferny), develops one on Phoebe and calls her almost as radiant as a unicorn (which is very high praise).
- Pronoun Trouble: Fortunately averted with the non-binary Infernus, since all unicorn pronouns are 'neigh'. Phoebe adopts this custom to refer to Ferny, which seems to please both neigh and Marigold.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: Marigold casts her Big Puppy Dog Eyes of Persuasion spell to beg Phoebe for an apple.
- Later, Phoebe proves that she can pull the same on Marigold.
- Rapid Hair Growth: The July 16, 2012 strip shows how beholding the glory of Marigold can undo baldheadedness for Dakota.
- Really 700 Years Old: Marigold claims she's old enough to have seen "oceans become deserts become forests".
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Marigold does this in a Halloween-themed strip to prove that unicorns can be scary.
- Releasing from the Promise: When Marigold granted Phoebe one wish, she wished for Marigold to be her best friend. Phoebe released Marigold from her wish as a Christmas gift. Marigold's response:Marigold: It is all right that I still want to, though, is it not?
- The Rival: Every holiday Marigold feels the Howell family Christmas Tree is a threat and trying to best her. She insists on being decorated herself, declaring nothing will out-sparkle her.
- Rule-Breaker Rule-Namer: Several spells that Phoebe asks for are eventually restricted under the "Phoebe Howell Rule".
- Sarcasm-Blind: Lord Splendid Humility. When Dakota describes an action of his as "lit," Phoebe has to reassure him that it was not a sincere compliment and therefore not a blow to his humility.
- Marigold thinks she can detect Phoebe's sarcasm but fails with an example that is explicitly presented as an example: "You DON'T talk about yourself way too much." (Then again, she might be pretending not to know so she has an excuse to talk about herself even more.)
- Self-Deprecation: Played with in this strip. When Phoebe introduces Marigold to the concept of self-deprecating humor, the unicorn decides to give it a try:Marigold: I may be slightly less beautiful than the most beautiful being who could possibly exist! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Phoebe: Practice makes perfect, I guess.
Marigold: Are you suggesting that I am less than perfect? That is also hilarious!
- Sequelitis: Parodied in a strip where Phoebe and Marigold go to see Horse Story 2: Additional Horses.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: One story has Phoebe getting annoyed by her wobbly chair at her classroom, which lead to Dakota calling her "Wobblebutt". She gets Marigold to magically switch chairs with her...only to discover that Dakota's chair wobbles, too. (They eventually settle this by stealing two good chairs from other students.)
- Shaking the Rump: The strip where Marigold performs "The Dance of the Glittering Hindquarters".
- Phoebe's Embarrassing Middle Name Grizelda is a reference to The Monkees' song "Your Auntie Grizelda".
- To Carly Simon, in this strip.
- In this strip, from the 2014 Halloween storyline, Phoebe's parents are going to another costume party dressed as Trinity and Morpheus.
- Phoebe has an Ozy and Millie sticker on her laptop. And here Marigold wears a hat very similar to Ozy's.
- In the first Halloween arc, Phoebe is surprised to see Todd the Candy Dragon vomit a pile of candy much bigger than he is, saying that's physically impossible. Marigold replies with "Anything can happen on Halloween!"
- This strip from the 2016 Halloween arc has Dakota and a goblin dressed up as Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus.
- The last panel in this strip has Phoebe's dad reference "Jedi mind tricks".
- It's not named, but Phoebe and Marigold are playing Monopoly in this strip.
- This strip shows Phoebe and Marigold watching Disney's Funny Animal version of Robin Hood.
- This strip has Sue making an allusion to Rage Against the Machine.
- Marigold on the Unicorn Tapestry.
- "Mom, Dad's trying to make me know about Monty Python again."
- One comic has Phoebe calling her mother a sponge due to staying home and trying to make a painting career, to which she refers to her daughter as "Miss SquarePants".
- The 2022 Halloween Sunday strip has Phoebe dressed as Kiki. Dana has stated it to be her favorite Studio Ghibli film.
- Sitcom Archnemesis:
- Dakota to Phoebe.
- Marigold has a seasonal rivalry with the Howell family Christmas tree.
- Sleep Cute: Phoebe and Marigold in the last panel of this Christmas strip.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Marigold stuns everyone who sees her true beauty, even herself. When she catches sight of her own reflection, she can be trapped for days.
- So Proud of You: Played for Laughs in this strip; this is Ethan's reaction when Phoebe confesses that she's "an accessory to a minor cybercrime!"
- Something about a Rose: Marigold poses with one with her teeth.
- Spell My Name With An S: Phoebe gets this, particularly from Dakota, who either doesn't know how to spell her name or doesn't care.Phoebe: My name is spelled with a "P".
Dakota: "Feepy"? That's a stupid name.
- Spock Speak: Marigold has a semi-formal speaking style with an utter lack of contractions. When called on it, she admits she likes to talk fancy.
- Spoof Aesop:Phoebe: I now understand that hair is far more important than pencil toppers.
Dakota: That's a stupid moral.
Phoebe: At least it's not a cliche.
- Stock Ness Monster: Ringo the lake monster.
- Marigold tells Phoebe that unicorns can see magical colors that are invisible to humans, such as blurple, the color of "the songs of spring songbirds". She considers this being Blessed with Suck because blurple is "a gross color".
- Marigold feels the same way about her Super-Hearing Spell. Yes, it allows you to eavesdrop on distant conversations, but you're also forced to listen to worms crawling through dirt and squirrels chewing.
- Sweet Tooth: Marigold loves candy, ice cream, and sweets. She'll take a sugar cube, but she's dazzled by a massive sugar dodecahedron. (A taste for sugar is a trait of Real Life equines).
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: In this Sunday strip, Marigold tries to walk on two legs while Phoebe walks on all fours. She is having difficulty with it.Marigold: You do this all DAY? And without a tail for balance!
- Take a Third Option: Discussed in the Halloween 2022 strip.Phoebe: You ready to go trick-or-treating?
Marigold: In a way. I have come up in a third option. When someone says "trick or treat", you should say "neither!" Say instead, "I demand EFFUSIVE PRAISE!"
- Take That!: When Marigold says that her parents are now living in "the barren lands".Marigold: It is a place elder unicorns go. Warm, bright and empty, and from whence unicorns seldom return.
Phoebe: My grandparents live in Arizona too!
- Taken for Granite: One plot arc has Marigold winding up like this, with Phoebe and her friends trying to find out what happened to her and how to change her back.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: In one strip, Phoebe checks through her dad's browser history, and discovers that his last search was for "hello Phoebe, I know you're reading this".
- This Is My Human: While Marigold doesn't mind being called Phoebe's unicorn, she has too much ego to entirely resist this trope.Marigold: You are not riding me. I am wearing you.
- Time Abyss: Expect Marigold to lapse into this from time to time. She is an immortal unicorn who has seen the very stars themselves live and die. Yet even she agrees that an awkward snapshot of Phoebe's dad sneezing as the funny highlight.
- Time Travel: A July 2021 story arc involves Phoebe and Marigold traveling back in time so Phoebe can meet her dad when he was her age. It turns out he still remembered the incident and had been waiting for it. He even knew she was his future daughter, because she was terrible about not calling him "Dad". It winds up being a Stable Time Loop.
- Thicker Than Water: Lord Splendid Humility urged Florence to reconnect with Marigold because of this trope.
- This Is Reality: Phoebe lets her hair down, causing a younger girl not to recognize her. Phoebe explains that unlike a cartoon character, she doesn't have to look the same all the time.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Sue uses the exact phrase to describe Punk Rock to Phoebe in this strip.
- Through a Face Full of Fur: Even Marigold can get embarrassed, as when caught singing spontaneously.
- Title Confusion: Sometimes referred to as Phoebe and the Unicorn.
- Toilet Humor:
- Translation Convention: Phoebe-as-a-goblin starts off using the "Blaart" that we usually see the goblins using, but the goblins' words are now understandable, in parentheses here.
- Unicorn: Marigold's design resembles the medieval description of a unicorn (deer-like build, cloven hooves, lion's tail), rather than looking like a mere horse with a horn. She's also pretty dangerous with her horn when the situation calls for it.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Every outfit seen in this image, Phoebe has worn at some point in the strip.
- Unnamed Parent: Averted, though it takes a while before we learn their names. Phoebe's parents are named Ethan and Emily Howell.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Justified in-universe. See Weirdness Censor below for details.
- Vegetarian Vampire: Marigold's distant cousin Vlad of the Red Nostrils, who has Blank White Eyes and "sucks the juices out of poor defenseless fruit!"
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: An unusually tasteful example: Marigold barfs rainbows when nervous.
- Walking Techbane: Goblin laughter causes every app on Phoebe's phone to crash. It also curdles milk.
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: The moral of this strip.Marigold: And often, the anticipation of a thing is much sweeter than having the thing itself. The sweetest carrot is the one that is just out of reach.
- We Are as Mayflies: Implied then subverted by Marigold.
- Weirdness Censor: Dubbed the "Shield of Boringness" in-universe, a bit of magic that lets unicorns (and other magical creatures) pass below the threshold of interest. Marigold can raise or lower it (with varying results), and anything close to her tends to fall within its compass and seem mundane as well.
- According to The Magic Storm, Marigold no longer needs the "Shield of Boringness" around Phoebe's parents, Dakota, and Max, because they have been around Marigold enough times that they got used to her on their own.
- Wham Shot: When Phoebe and another Confetti Canyon fan become online friends, the last panel of this strip reveals that Phoebe's new cyberpal is her Frenemy Dakota, which neither of them realizes yet.
- What Are Records?:
- Phoebe isn't sure what "records" are. Or a "radio". "I'm old" is Marigold's reaction in both cases.
- She also doesn't recognize a corded wall mounted phone she found in the basement, thinking it's a pair of nunchucks.
- Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: Mentioned as a possibility in this strip. Marigold warns Phoebe of the consequences if she keeps "trifling in silence curses":Marigold: I advise caution! It is all fun and games until a curse goes awry, and everyone winds up without a mouth.... Everyone always thinks this time will be different, and before you know it we are plunged into a second Epoch of Mouthlessness.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: When Phoebe doesn't do her spelling homework, Marigold helps out by sealing her inside a "magic time bubble" where she can spend an hour studying while ten minutes pass in the outside world. While Phoebe mentions that "It's hard to memorize spelling words when [she's] floating in a timeless void", she gets used to it.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: In a Christmas story arc starting December 12, 2022, Phoebe gets visited by the unicorns of Christmas past, present and future after Marigold warns her they will come. However, they only visit briefly and never even try to make Phoebe change in any way since there's no need. When Phoebe questions Marigold about it the next day, she claims it is a unicorn tradition to do this to one human each Christmas. When Phoebe mentions Charles Dickens, Marigold refuses to talk about him.
- You Mean "Xmas": Marigold's typical reaction to human holidays is to explain that unicorns have a similar day with a different purpose (or the same day with a different name). New Year's Day, for example, is New Fears Day — a time for unicorns to assess their current fears, discard the ones they no longer need, and acquire some new ones.
- Phoebe: Remember that time I wrote a story about us called Phoebe and Her Unicorn?
Marigold: As if I am anyone's unicorn.