Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Lady Amalthea, The Last Unicorn

One of the best parts of writing about a different genre character each week is that it gives me both an excuse to keep reading new Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction, and it allows me to revisit some of my favourite genre books from my youth.  This week’s character comes from Peter S. Beagle’s 1968 fantasy novel The Last Unicorn, in fact the Unicornherself, sometimes called Lady Amalthea is one of my helped lead me to my later love of vampires, zombies and ghouls.

The Unicorn is first introduced to the reader from the point of view of three hunters, who after spending several days in a forest having found no game, decide that they may be in a Unicorn’s forest, which would keep all the animals safe from harm.  As they leave one of them calls out to the unseen Unicorn that she may be the last of her kind.

The Unicorn, disturbed by this information begins a quest to find where the rest of the unicorns have gone.  The story (mild 44-year-old spoiler) then involves her adventures with a magician, in a traveling circus, and eventually in the realm of King Haggard, where she finds her answers, but not in the way she expected.

Although I can recall reading a number of stories featuring magical creatures, even having them as main characters before this (The Hobbit immediately comes to mind), I can’t recall reading anything earlier with a supernatural creature as the lead.  Later on I would find many stories with sympathetic views of Vampires, Aliens, and yes even Zombies, but this was the first time I can recall reading a story where I could identify so well with a creature of legend.

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