Book #39 – The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn

What could be better than wizards, unicorns, and trees with giant boobs. Not much, that’s what.

I didn’t realize this childhood classic was a book, so when I saw it in the library on the to shelf rack I couldn’t resist. My dad had been reading it out loud to my youngest sister and from he described it as being very similar to the book. I considered that a win win for both book and movie. And true to form it was. There was even a spell gone wrong that brought a tree to life as a overly possessive lovestruck entity. Though the director decided to give the tree exceptionally large breasts. That wasn’t part of the book.

In the opening scene the unicorn overhears two hunters mention that she was the last of her kind. Struck with disbelief she sets out to find the others or learn what had befallen them. Her adventure will eventually lead her to the kingdom of King Haggard. It is here that all the unicorns have been imprisoned but it is up to her to find them and rescue them with the help of a failed wizard, a forest woman, and a prince. All the while avoiding the red bull before it can use her to complete the kings collection.

I was happy to find the book so similar to the movie, but with some things that the movie left out. It’s hard to include everything in a one hour movie. I don’t remember the movie as well as I would like but I was constantly reading parts that I remembered from the movie. This was a strange sensation for me as it is usually the other way round.

Growing up with this movie has made it a part of my childhood. Now I find the book being linked back, through the movie, to connect with my childhood as well. Sometimes I wonder what happened to those simplistic plots. The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Last Unicorn are all simplistic in plots but full of everything that matters.

I’m currently reading a book by the president of Pixar, Creativity INC, (which I will blog about later) and he tells a story about the making of Toy Story 2 which I found insightful. The story had become terrible and they sent in a new staff to fix it. It had become flat and predictable and they were not willing to settle for a grade B movie. So when they started to revamp the story they added two things that changed everything: the character of Wheezy in the beginning and an expansion of the tragic backstory of Jessie. These two things, though small, created a depth to the plot that made Woody’s choice harder to make. It didn’t complicate the plot. It just created the depth it needed to be a great movie.

The books in the list above are simple. Simple but with so much more in everything else. You can read The Last Unicorn again and again because there it has something to teach you. A book with a unconsciously created moral is much easier to read than the alternative. When meaning forced it feels didactic and no one likes their fictional stories to preach to them.

Peter Beagle was a great storyteller. He knew what was needed to make a great story and how to put it all together. This book is a classic in my mind because of Beagle’s way to shape a simple journey into an adventure which has captivated children and adults both through the pages and through the screen. This is a fantasy that has helped define the genre since it was written.

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