Monday, February 14, 2011

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Having seen the The Last Unicorn cartoon many times as a child, I was a bit hesitant yet intrigued with this book. As a seven-year-old, many of the deeper subtexts of the plot were lost to me. My kid brain saw a creepy old dude, a gorgeous, whiny unicorn, and a riduculously terrifying Red Bull. (That bull chased me through many a nightmare through the years, most often around the time book reports and research papers were due.) Never mind the whole 'watery equine' thing. Years and years of living in the waves? I just couldn't figure out how they didn't drown!

I was excited when I heard that we would be reading this in book club. "How was the book different from the movie? Did it have a happier ending? Is that freaky vulture thing in the books? Will the magician come across as an elongated Hobbit, like he did in the movie?" These were deep questions that needed to be answered. I was excited to finally understand the work.

This book surprised me. As a grown woman with home and family I picked up on the themes of innocence lost, the burden of time, and the cost of potentials realized. They kept me looking inward throughout my time with this book. Of course, I expected and understood the theme of maidenhood , often associated with unicorns, but that was as deep as I expected to go. "Ya, ya, youth lost. OK, got it, we don't look as young, etc." But, the book went deeper than that. In her quest, the unicorn gave up a blissfully ignorant life to save her people. She carried the burden of knowledge, experience, and loss. For her family. She tried to keep the bigger picture in view, though she often lost her focus. Smendrick wanted to help her and sacrificed much for her and her quest. On the other hand he had one of his own. He sought his own magic. It seemed similar to a marriage at times. She had the big picture in mind, but struggled to keep focused. He wanted to serve her and her quest to the ends of the earth, but his ambitions came along for the ride. That isn't a bad thing necessarily, but it was always something that had to be balanced.

Molly Grue brought another facet of experience to the story. She was reconciled to who she was, but found hope of more when she saw the unicorn. As a wife and mother, one who is well along on her journey, I felt Molly's pain when she yelled "How dare you come now, when I am this." Even if you love where you are (which Molly, obviously didn't) there is always that wonder of "Did I do enough? Did I try hard enough, then? Am I as far along as I really should be?" But, she gave it all to the unicorn. She knew she would be made better, just being near her and what she represented.

All in all, I enjoyed this book so much as an adult. I can understand why it is read and loved so much. It is timeless. It is a classic, in my eyes.

No comments: