Tag Archives: Unicorn

Unicorn Art: The Unicorn Tapestries (Hunt of the Unicorn)

The Power of the Unicorn

Why hunt the Unicorn, you might ask? Such an unlikely creature: a symbol of purity and beauty across the ages. For this, and because the unicorn’s spiraling horn cures ailments, negates poison, and purifies water, we desire him.

When the unicorn appears, it is because the Reign has been good and has brought Peace; and for that peace to prosper it must be fecund and pass on that Peace. So lords now gather in their finest, best and latest to hunt him down: variously colorful hosiery; superbly crafted doublets with golden buttons; cocky feathers on cocky hats; and everywhere a festive air as they don practical shoes for the forest—the Hunt begins.

The Start of the Hunt

The Start of the Hunt

The Start of the Hunt

Baying and excited hounds are tightly held on leash, as they catch ahead a whiff of the exotic East—cloves, cumin and coriander—that signals the presence of the beast. But Unicornus is the swiftest of all creatures on legs so they fail to glean him, until one who has gone ahead signals—they stumble onto a strange scene—beside an unlikely fountain that feeds a stream; various other creatures: pheasants, deer and lions; have gathered there in peace, waiting, for it must be made pure before any may safely drink from it.

The Unicorn at the Fountain

The Unicorn at the Fountain

The Unicorn at the Fountain

The hunters also wait, then finally, a rustling from the foliage reveals a coat the color of purest and freshest snow, and dainty cloven hooves enter the clearing. The long white horn, poised atop a slight and gentle head, twists towards Heaven. A milk-white mane flows down an ivory neck as the beast lowers his head, until that horn touches the water, which turns suddenly as innocent as a soul at Baptism.

The Unicorn Leaps the Stream

The Unicorn Leaps the Stream

The Unicorn Leaps the Stream

The Hunters feel the moment ripe, hounds bark and are let loose, and all rush-in with spears and nets to capture him. Not for nothing is the Unicorn famously elusive, nimbly and swiftly leaping over the stream; each stabbing spear evaded, each net capturing only empty air. The Unicorn smiles knowingly at their clumsy efforts, until finally, and with a ferocity that belies his gentle appearance, his horn pierces and kills a hound in his path, as he escapes bounding into the safety of the forest.

The Unicorn Defends Itself

The Unicorn Defends Itself

The Unicorn Defends Itself

Disappointed, the lords gather together to concoct a plan, for the only way to capture the Unicorn is by guile—Innocence may only be captured by Innocence. Three maidens, all ladies of the court, are told they may be touched by something as rare and beautiful as themselves within the corruption of that court. Clapping their hands with delight at the thought of touching such a noble creature, the maidens don their finest gowns, and make their hair elaborate. And so they sit together laughing within the Rose garden, full of the red blossoms of charity and compassion mingled with the white blossoms of purity.

The Unicorn in the Garden

The Unicorn is Captured by the Maiden

The Unicorn is Captured by the Maiden

Magically, the unicorn has felt their presence there. They beam in delight at his approach, and the one in a dress the color of Love reaches out her hand—the beast comes forward and licks the sweat from it—and that horn, still stained with the blood of the hound, strokes her breast She gently strokes his mane and neck as he shivers in pleasure, and collapses onto her lap.

The Death of the Unicorn

The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle

The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle

The rough lords and the rough hounds may have him now that he is docile. Spears now meet their mark as hounds hold fast his neck. The blood of innocence flows swiftly and the ground stained dark with it. The Unicorn dies quickly without knowing what has killed him—but knowing that purity had held him fast too long.

The Captive Unicorn

The Captive Unicorn

The Captive Unicorn

For three days and nights the unicorn lay dead. On the third day, he rose again, no longer a free denizen of the forest, his magical powers now captive in a garden within a fence, tethered to a pomegranate tree. The wound on his flank refuses to heal, (some say it is but juice dripping from the fruit, but we know better). And yet, this is for the best, because now the Reign may prosper and be fecund.

Image credits:
Unicorn Tapestries on Tile at William Morris Tile

The Unicorn Tapestries are currently at the Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum in New York

Also see Unicorn art

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