Sunday, April 06, 2008

To See a Unicorn

In The Last Unicorn, the fable written by Peter S. Beagle: a unicorn one day discovers she is the only unicorn left in a world that has stopped believing in fairies, fantasy and unicorns. Only someone who believes, can see the unicorn. Otherwise, you just see a horse – whatever your rational mind expect to see. The last unicorn goes on a journey to find out what happened to the rest of her kind. Along the way she finds out there are still some people who believes in unicorn – though not the way we expect:

But Molly pushed him aside and went up to the unicorn, scolding her as though she were a strayed milk cow. "Where have you been?" Before the whiteness and the shining horn, Molly shrank to a shrilling beetle, but this time it was the unicorn's old dark eyes that looked down.

"I am here now," she said at last.

Molly laughed with her lips flat. "And what good is it to me that you're here now? Where were you twenty years ago, ten years ago? How dare you, how are you come to me now, when I am this?" With a flap of her hand she summed herself up: barren face, desert eyes, and yellowing heart. "I wish you had never come. Why do you come now?" The tears began to slide down the sides of her nose.

The unicorn made no reply, and Schmendrick said, "She is the last. She is the last unicorn in the world."

"She would be." Molly sniffed. "It would be the last unicorn in the world that came to Molly Grue." She reached up then to lay her hand on the unicorn's cheek; but both of them flinched a little, and the touch came to rest on the swift, shivering place under the jaw. Molly said, "It's all right. I forgive you."

The Last Unicorn was adapted into an animated film that I watched when I was very young. One of my deepest memory from the film was the scene where Molly Grue first saw the last unicorn, recognise her for what she truly is – and her outcry of regret that the unicorn came so late.

Often we desires something so powerfully – but as the years passed these wishes seemed determined to remain unfulfilled. Then one day, when we least suspect it, our wishes finally arrives – but sadly we are no longer what we used to be. Perhaps what we wanted had come too late, and we are no longer able to appreciate it as we used to.

Molly Grue's outburst is understandable: why couldn't the unicorn have come earlier, when Molly was still young – when it might have still meant something? Now, the unicorn is just a reminder of Molly Grue as she used to be – a mockery almost, of how the years have been unkind. What was once our greatest desire has become a symbol of regret, of loss.

They say: the tragedy in a failed relationship isn't that love has ended, but that love still remains. What is poignant about Molly Grue is that she still believes in spite of the world. How sad it must be, to be alone in your faith.

But then again, it is incredible – and beautiful – that Molly Grue can still believe. Faith comes in unexpected packages, often in the most humble form.

We do not have the power to will the gifts that come to us. Perhaps the only thing we can do, is to do as Molly Grue: To accept the gift as it is; to forgive. There is a soft comfort in this.

I read The Last Unicorn novel last year for the first time. I compared my memory of this scene (from the film) with what was written in the book – and there appears to be some disparity between the two. It was as though I wasn't remembering the thing itself, but my interpretation of what I saw.

I first saw The Last Unicorn animated film when I was a child. At that age, the concept of age and loss should be irrelevant. So why did I choose to remember this scene (out of so many good ones) so dearly? What was going on in my head at that time, at that age?

How curious.

10 comments:

ovidiayu said...

That's so poignant--the 'too late' unicorn as well as your comments...

If it was my story would have made Molly regain her youth once she touches the last unicorn--who at the same time gets all its former strength & glory back... & as they walk off together full of happy hope & beauty & promise you see that everyone else looking at them is seeing an sad old woman with a drab old horse... & it's up to you to decide which reality to accept...

how you feeling? today was a moon day, right? so take it easy...

Rebecca said...

The Last Unicorn is one of my 7 year old's favorite movies. I think we definitely need to read the book now,too.

Dark Orpheus said...

Ovidia But sometimes that's true in real life. You wanted something for so long. But it only arrives when it no longer matters. And it's just a question of what to do with it.

Oh, and I don't think I'm resting as well as I should. Still moving around a lot. (too much) More than I should. Oh well. Still restless.

Thanks for asking.

Dark Orpheus said...

Rebecca Hi, thanks for dropping by.

The book is definitely worth reading. One of those deceptively "simple" books but actually very self-aware.

Rhinoa said...

I love both the film and the novel. Like you I used to watch the film when I was a kid and that scene with Molly used to bring a tear to my eye for some reason. I always wondered if I would see a unicorn and now it is too late for me I think as well. I do like to think I would recognise one and not need a fake horn.

Andi said...

I saw The Last Unicorn when I was very young, and I just loved it. Thank you for a reminder that it is indeed a book!

Dark Orpheus said...

Rhinoa Don't doubt yourself yet. You might still be able to recognise a unicorn when you see one. Sometimes we can surprise ourselves, that there is a part of us that can still believe.

Andi Oh yes -- Peter S. Beagle wrote the book and the script for the film. So the story is pretty consistent between both. Do pick up the book if you have time. It's worth it.

stefanie said...

I read The Last Unicorn a very long time ago and then saw the movie. I recall I didn't like the movie very much, but I did love the book. I had forgotten how wonderful it was. Thanks for the reminder :)

Doc Martian said...

hee hee hee. that unicorn would probably be the center of attention here....

http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=events23

being a dinah virgin and all.

Cheers!
Doc

Dark Orpheus said...

Stefanie You're welcome. It is a beautiful book. Maybe the film had to be watched when you are young and more impressionable.

Doc Martian The question is: are the Dinah Shore ladies still virgins? Not necessarily. ;p