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Unicorns Are So Boring. Said Nobody, Ever.

Unicorns Are So Boring. Said Nobody, Ever.

Today unicorns are all about the glitter and farting rainbows but how did these magnificent beasts of legend become cuddly, sparkly, pastel accessories for little girls? Let’s take a quick canter through the history of the unicorn.

A Case of Mistaken Identity?
Spoiler Alert ! Sorry folks, unicorns aren’t real. So why have they continued to play such an important role in popular culture. Well, over the years there has been some definite identify theft.
The 1st Century Roman writer, Pliny the Elder, described a one-horned beast called a Monoceros, “a very fierce animal” with a horse’s body, the head of a stag, an elephant’s feet, the tail of a boar and a single black horn, projecting from the middle of its forehead. The Latin for Monoceros is Unicornis, from which the word unicorn derives.
Today, scholars believe that he was describing a rhinoceros but Pliny’s not alone in making this schoolboy error. Marco Polo also appears to have mistaken a rhino for a unicorn, describing it as having “ like that of a buffalo, feet like those of an elephant, and a horn in the middle of the forehead, which is black and very thick.” He was suitably underwhelmed, adding “Tis a passing ugly beast to look upon, and is not in the least like that which our stories tell of as being caught in the lap of a virgin.”

Horn of a Narwhal
If you were a pope or prince in medieval western Europe, you may have owned your very own unicorn horn. Except these rare, exotic, ivory spirals were actually narwhal tusks passed off as unicorn horns by enterprising Scandinavian traders. A narwhal is a type of Arctic whale with a prominent tooth growing into a sword-like, spiral tusk up to 8.8 feet long. If this is news to you, it’s hardly surprising most medieval Europeans were fooled. Highly prized for their magical, healing properties, a unicorn horn was believed to drive away demons and purify poisoned food or drink.

narwhals Swimming in the ocean


Virgin Territory
You may think that an animal defined by a huge horn may have phallic associations, however the unicorn has always been associated with female purity and chastity.

The Lady And The Unicorn Tapestry

Legend has it that it’s impossible to catch a unicorn and only a virgin maiden can lure one into captivity. In the late Middle Ages, luminous white unicorns started appearing in portraits of noble women and religious manuscripts, usually resting on the Virgin’s breast or lap.

The Maiden and the Unicorn


Rarer than Hens Teeth and Rocking Horse Shit
If a good man is hard to find, a unicorn is a real challenge. Consequently, the word unicorn has been applied to things of great rarity. In 2013 venture capitalist Aileen Lee coined the phrase ‘unicorn’ to describe the statistical rarity of a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion. A unicorn wine will excite a sommelier - a rare vintage typically with a small production volume from an obscure but trending producer, ideally deceased. It even crops up as a bit of sexual slang to describe a single, bisexual female interested in meeting other couples, a complete rarity in swingers circles (or so we're told).

Film Stars
If unicorns exist anywhere, it’s in Hollywood. The movies Legend, Stardust, Narnia and Harry Potter all go with the traditional depiction of an ivory white creature of great beauty and purity, coveted and even killed for it’s great magical powers.

blade runner origami

In Blade Runner the unicorn has many symbolic interpretations – the apartness of a replicant in human society, the female protagonist’s purity, the extinction of the Nexus-6 replicants or dreams of escape. We’ll gloss over the My Little Pony Movie.

Underneath all the glitter the unicorn has evolved into a symbol of self-belief, hope, escapism and positivity and this makes it one of vectorbomb’s best selling T-shirt collections. Remember – always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn! 

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