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Guest Post: Searching for Unicorns by Lari Don

Posted on 13/02/2020 in Guest posts Lari Don

Have you ever been surprised by a unicorn? In today’s guest blog, Lari Don explains why Scotland has so many of these mythical creatures…


Unicorn statue in Falcon Square, InvernessSurprised by Unicorns

I am often surprised by unicorns. Not by unicorns on T-shirts or cuddly toy unicorns (though I see lots of those at my author events!) but by unicorns out in the real world.

Once I was walking through Inverness, on my way to an event about ‘why we love monsters’, when I looked up and saw a unicorn above my head. Not flying above my head (most story-fans with unicorn T-shirts could tell you that a flying unicorn is actually an alicorn.) No, it was a bronze unicorn on a plinth. Looking as if it could happily tackle a monster itself…

I’ve also been surprised by stone unicorns and golden unicorns and tapestry unicorns, I’ve been surprised by unicorns in the Scottish Parliament and in castles and as I’m walking along high streets in small Scottish towns…

So I started to wonder:

Why does Scotland have so many unicorns?

And I found an answer. Actually, I found two answers. The historical answer, and the story answer.

Unicorn statue at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

The historical reason for all those unicorns in market towns and royal palaces is that the unicorn is Scotland’s national animal. Hundreds of years ago, Scottish kings wanted to be associated with this strong, powerful, magical beast. At that time, people believed that unicorns were real, but that they lived a long way away, like lions and elephants.

The story reason can be found inside a wonderful book called The Coming of the Unicorn by Duncan Williamson: a Travellers’ tale which starts with magicians trying to cheer up a sad king by inventing an new animal, using aspects of a horse, a boar and a lion.

Now, inspired by that traditional tale, I’ve written The Legend of the First Unicorn, a picture book which explores the invention of the unicorn and explains all those unicorn statues. It’s illustrated by the wonderful and magical Nataša Ilinčić.

Illustration from The Legend of the First Unicorn by Natasa Ilincic

Do you have a local unicorn?

Perhaps carved on a heraldic shield, or standing on a stone plinth, or decorating an old wall? Once you start looking, you might discover a whole herd of unicorns scattered around Scotland.

Tell us about your unicorns on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram! You could even write your own story, about how a unicorn ended up as your neighbour… Don’t forget to tag @DiscoverKelpies and @LariDonWriter!


The Legend of the First Unicorn

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Scotland, a young prince lost his smile.

No one could help Prince Donald find his smile until his friend Hana, the magician’s granddaughter, had an idea. Using her grandfather’s magic, she created a majestic creature with the body of a horse and the horn of a gazelle, and called him ‘a unicorn’.

As Hana and Donald play and chase the unicorn through the forest, it seems that this magical animal might hold the key to the prince’s smile. But what is that fierce beast lurking in the trees?

The unicorn, magical and strong, is Scotland’s national animal and heraldic symbol. Inspired by local folklore, renowned author Lari Don weaves an enchanting origin tale of the first unicorn, which is brought to life by Nataša Ilinčić‘s rich illustrations.

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