National Unicorn Day

Albrecht Dürer’s Rhinocerus (1515)

I’m sorry if you are offended by what I have to say, but I’m not a lover of kitsch. As today is apparently National Unicorn Day (at least in the UK) I thought I’d just mark it … but without the oodles of rainbow glitter that most seem now to be associating with this much maligned creature.

The celebration, we’re told, is being held this year on the 9th of April and is “dedicated to the respect and support of mythology [sic] and nonexistent creatures”. My thoughts on mythological and nonexistent creatures are briefly summed up in this review, but I’m not totally allergic to fiction featuring the one-horned creature (for example, Peter Dickinson’s The Ropemaker, reviewed here).

And of course, my own avatar is of a unicorn in a warning triangle — a tip-off that some fantasy may be met in the blog — though it’s entirely a coincidence that I currently happen to sing in a local a cappella group (specialising in medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music) called … the Unicorn Singers.

Are you celebrating this day? Or were you as unaware of it as I was until I looked at social media?

And for Scots among you, here is the Scottish version of the Royal Coat of Arms, with the Scottish unicorn prominent as heraldic supporter. As an ex-Bristolian I should also add that unicorns featured as supporters on its coat of arms too, with two giant sculptures atop its Council House.

Royal Coat of Arms (Scotland): By Sodacan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10952153
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33 thoughts on “National Unicorn Day

  1. Hadn’t heard of Unicorn Day but was just discussing the whole Rhino/unicorn (and also mermaid/dugong) connection with my mother yesterday- so nice to see your post with that coming through.

    1. Coincidences/synchronicities like that are magical, aren’t they? 🙂 And Arctic narwhal tusks, with their distinctive rope-like twists, were displayed as ‘authentic’ unicorn horns in the medieval period.

      I also remember seeing mentions of genetic abnormalities that had resulted in a single horn growing from the foreheads of the occasional goat, which may also have contributed to the unicorn myth — which is supposed to be a peculiarly European development.

      1. True 🙂 We were beginning to wonder whether the Rhino and Dugong/Manatee were the original unicorn and mermaid who er… “slimmed down” somewhere along the way 😛

  2. Love that Durer etching you’ve chosen. You have to love Albrecht! I’m rather sad the way the depiction of unicorns has changed – where has the pure, noble, strong minded beast gone? Replaced by cutesy, rainbow-coloured, glittery, doe-eyed … I’ll stop there. And yes, we have unicorns here in Bristol – big gold ones too that can be blinding on sunny days. Not sure the council would approve erecting such glorious frivolities these days . . .

    1. I heard a story many years ago about how the Council House unicorns found their way onto the roof, ordered by the architect before he went on holiday as a cheap alternative to what was planned. (Confirmed on here: https://www.bristol247.com/news-and-features/features/bristol-unicorns-you-may-not-have-known-about/). And of course there is a unicorn horn in St Mary Redcliffe! Just joking, it’s a narwhal tusk. 😁

      Those icky rainbow unicorns? I blame My Little Pony, it has a lot to answer for… I wonder how they’d look as pictured by Durer? Hmmm

      1. Thanks for the link Chris – loved the Bristol unicorns, some of which I knew about, some not. I’ve always thought the council house examples to be odd as their tails are so unlike real horse tails, more like a lions tail. Now looking at the 16th century seal, I see all the architect did was copy that design. So, was this a Tudor idea of what a unicorn looked like, part narwhal, part horse, part lion?
        And you’re right, My Little Pony has a lot to answer for – utterly revolting.

        1. They’re fascinating, all these byways, aren’t they! All these mythical creatures were, as far as I can see, composites, from the half-humans like Minotaur, satyr, centaur and mermaid to beasties like the chimaera, dragon and griffin which combined bits from animals already familiar to people of the past (or were indeed actually faked up by professional forgers). The unicorn’s tail was possibly borrowed from the griffin, which was half eagle, half lion, and I fancy its overall shagginess in medieval example came from the goat.

          1. All compounds to make them more exotic and fascinating I suppose. Though you’d think a virgin loving horse with a horn would be unusual enough without the lion’s tail! 🙂

            1. Thanks for this Chris – this is new to me too. What a fascinating unicorn/dog, a cross breed, definitely! And how irritating that a later painter decided to turn her into St Catherine. If I was Raphael, I would have come back to haunt him.

            2. I always fancied a tiny elephant, about the size of a corgi would be perfect. Ever since I read The Changeover by Margaret Mahy. Will have to get someone to work on that for me.

  3. I thought time had slipped and I was back at the first of the month, but no, it really was National Unicorn Day. This is what I love about your posts, Chris: one never knows what’s coming next. Fantastic (in every sense of the word)!

    1. Yes, my first instinct too was, ‘This must be a joke, right?’ Then I found out not! Surprised though that the Scots haven’t already claimed it for St Andrew’s Day in November… But you’re too kind about my posts, Paula, though I admit they can sometimes be rather scattergun in their topics 😁

  4. Oh gee, I missed National Unicorn Day. Drat, I will have to wait until next year. Thanks to you I am putting it on my calendar now. Must be prepared 🙂

    What did we do before the Internets regarding all these “days?” Did we have them in the numbers we have now? It seems that everyday I go on Twitter it is some day or another. For example I just found out it’s National Sibling Day and it’s too late to call my sister. I have so much guilt. I should check Twitter earlier in the day….

    Thanks for the laugh, Chris!

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