Unicorns are mythical animals which often represent things such as grace, purity and light in works of fiction. Given this, anybody killing or otherwise harming a unicorn can be taken to be an utterly repugnant character. This can often mean that they have 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, Unicorn, Nature Adores a Virgin (for when virgins are believed to be sacred, and the two are heavily associated with each other). Often leads to the Broken Angel trope. A similar role is sometimes filled by The Marvelous Deer. Contrast Hellish Horse.
- When he is assigned to the Marketing department as a punishment, Dilbert discovers a group of otherworldly Elf-like types who boast every Friday as 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 things that haven't been invented yet and which are generally scientifically impossible...).
- When Dilbert's company starts drilling for oil in Elbonia, this leads to the extinction of the Elbonian unicorn.
- In Legend, unicorns are treated as ethereal beings so holy it would upset the order of the universe for a mortal to touch one. Killing the last two unicorns that guard the power of light would allow the demon lord to roam the world freely 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.
- Killing a unicorn is seen as a particularly heinous thing to do in Harry Potter; Firenze refers to it as a "monstrous 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 his lips for having slain "something so pure and defenceless".
- The Last Unicorn:
- King Haggard captured all the unicorns (except one) with the Red Bull and drove them all into the sea, so he could always watch them. His explanation for his actions was that the sight of a unicorn was the only thing that could make him happy.
- A similar situation is going on in the nearby town of Hagsgate, which is cursed to "share [Haggard's] feast and share his fall." It is strongly implied that they never interfered with Haggard's capture of the unicorns because the Red Bull always drove them past the town so they could see them too.
- 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.
- In Voyage of the Basset, among the many nasty things the trolls do is attempting to strangle a unicorn.
- Averted in Lords and Ladies, where a unicorn is a crazed horse (even more crazed than usual) with a huge horn on its head. Not helping its temper is its mistress trying to mind-control it from another dimension, but it turns out it can still be controlled by a virgin.
- In Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber, even the royal family of Amber, with literally god-like powers, regard the unicorn as special. Oberon made the creature their crest after glimpsing one in a sacred grove.
- Merlin has The Labyrinth of Gedref. Arthur killed a unicorn despite Merlin warning him against it, 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 potion to save Merlin. In the end, he buried the unicorn horn and the unicorn came back to life.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Inverted the Trope completely with a Monster of the Week called the Polluticorn, an evil unicorn that was trying to destroy the world by despoiling it with pollution. (You'd think Rita had taken a page from a Captain Planet villain's playbook.) Ironically, this was a complete 180 from the monster's Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger equivalent, which was a Well-Intentioned Extremist who hated humans for polluting the Earth and making mythical creatures such as unicorns extinct.
- 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.
- The same setting also gave us demonically tainted Black Unicorns, created by magically corrupting unicorns to the cause of evil.
- Ravenloft includes Addar, a unicorn whose pride and hostility to the traditional act of being ridden by a virginal elven maiden led to his seduction by a female Nightmare in disguise. This eventually led to his murdering a would-be rider, a crime for which he was sentenced to the Demiplane of Dread. There, he become a foul, corrupted creature, and also gave rise to his own race of defiled unicorns, the Shadow Unicorns, by coupling with the nightmare who had led him down the path of evil.
- Forgotten Realms setting:
- If any fantasy game features some kind of unicorn, it will always be associated with good factions and/or forest-dwelling elves. If used as a mount, it will almost always be a female rider. Their purity may be reflected in a high resistance to magic (if not outright immunity to some magic), ability to undo magic and/or being strong against evil or undead opponents. Evil or corrupted counterparts may also exist, of course.
- 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) will invoke 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).
- Inverted in Overlord. The whole forest is tainted by evil, to the point the unicorns have become crazed flesh-eating killers, 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.
- While it is not specifically stated in World of Warcraft that Wild Dreamrunners (unicorn-like beasts from the Emerald Dream) are sacred, gaining one as a mount is a clear indication that the rider is a heroic Friend to All Living Things. (to specify, the mount is a possible reward from a Dreamweaver Cache, which is a weekly award you can gain if you first gain Paragon Reputation with the Dreamweavers, something that requires Exalted reputation with all the original factions of the Broken Isles.)
- In Dungeons II, Unicorns are encountered on the Overworld, and slaying them will net you a large amount of evilness to upgrade your Throne Room and Dungeon, a vile act that can only be topped by things like razing a whole Pixie Village to the ground. You have to do this twice in the campaign.
- Inverted in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: The doctor's motorcycle is a transformed Evil Overlord unicorn.
- In The Adventures of Gyno-Star, the heroes discover that unicorns are being slaughtered at a factory farm (to grind their horns into powder which is used to make iPads so magical). They then proceed to brutally dismember the slaughterhouse workers and boycott the corporation.
- In Chasing the Sunset, one character is under the Forest Spirit's eternal disapproval because he put a curse on a unicorn, in ignorance.
- The canned unicorn meat as sold by Think Geek is clearly playing with this trope.
- The Simpsons:
- In this 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.
- In another episode spoofing Adam and Eve, God is not pleased when he sees that his Unicorn has ventured outside the Garden of Eden and died as a result.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic surprisingly averts this quite a bit, as pony villains are almost always unicorns, and unicorns generally aren't any better than other types of ponies. However, the Winged Unicorn Princesses are practically gods and represent positive forces, though not immune to evil influences.
- Assumed in Gravity Falls. Ford's research indicates that only the pure of heart can get unicorn hair because they themselves are so pure. Mabel bends over backwards to become worthy and stops Wendy, Greta, and Candy from taking the hair by force under this belief. Then it turns out that the whole thing is a scam because the unicorns simply don't want to share their hair (even though, in their own words, they have more than they know what to do with). We don't actually see the fight that ensues, but the girls arrive home disheveled with not only hair, but unicorn tears and eye lashes. This is not portrayed as especially heinous.
- Implied in Archer: When Cyril ends up shooting the last few people who can fly the space shuttle back to Earth, he gets chewed out by Lana and Sterling, who cared more that he shot a black astronaut than that he got them stuck in space.
Sterling Archer: A black astronaut, Cyril, that's like killing a unicorn!
- Zig-zagged in Star vs. the Forces of Evil. The unicorn-like Flying Princess Pony Head is a rowdy, self-centered party-girl who often gets Star and herself in trouble, and the unicorns usually seen in the series are wild, hot-tempered "warnicorns". However, in "Deep Dive" Star's magical sleep-walking takes her to the Realm of Magic, which she purified way back in the episode "Toffee", and the place is populated with all sorts of adorable unicorns.