A compact survey of single-horned beasts in legend, nature, pop culture, and business.
Laskow begins “more than 2,300 years ago” with a reference to one-horned wild asses. She then moves along with genial dispatch through versions of the creature reported from China, Chile, medieval Europe, and elsewhere—plus variations such as Rishyasringa, a horned man in the Indian epics—and how the concept of unicorns has changed from scary wild beast to rainbow-pooping white steed. She describes how they can be captured by “maidens” (euphemistically defined as “unmarried girls and young women”) and the uses to which their supposed horns can supposedly be put. Along with tallying such verifiable examples as the rhinoceros, unicorn fish, and, of course, narwhal, she also explains how goats and other animals can sometimes, through accident or human design, grow but one horn. Trotting from topic to topic in fairly arbitrary fashion, she brings her account up to the present by stringing together references to unicorn-themed weddings, My Little Pony, unicorn lattes and cupcakes, video games, “unicorn” business startups, and other current usages. Beck slips occasional cartoon-style human figures of diverse skin color into the equally casual mix of maps, beastly portraits, period images, and freely redrawn pictures of old art and artifacts.
Likely destined to be left in the dust soon but more up to date than most. (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-11)