Not Your Typical Unicorns…
- A group of unicorns is known as a blessing.
- There are many ancient Eastern myths about unicorns. The Japanese unicorn, the kirin, is a fierce creature who punishes criminals by piercing them through the heart with its horn. The Chinese unicorn, the qilin, is considered a good omen and never harms other creatures.
- In the fifth century BC, the ancient Greek historian Ctesias wrote about white unicorns with multicoloured horns. He thought they were animals from India.
- Viking traders used to sell unicorn horns that were really the tusks of narwhals (narwhals are a kind of whale). The traders bought the tusks from the Inuit, then took them south and sold them for vast sums of money.
- In the Middle Ages, people believed that unicorn horns could heal wounds and sickness, and neutralise poison. London pharmacies still sold powdered unicorn horn in the mid eighteenth century.
- Marco Polo thought he saw a unicorn on his famous travels. He wrote: “A passing ugly beast to look upon and is not in the least that which our stories tell of.” He was probably looking at a rhinoceros!
- Mary, Queen of Scots brought a piece of unicorn horn with her from France to Scotland when she became queen. She stuck the horn into her food before she ate, because she believed it would show if the meal had been poisoned by her enemies.
- In the twelfth century, King William I included the unicorn on the Scottish coat of arms. The unicorn has been a Scottish heraldic symbol ever since. At the end of the twelfth century, King Robert III, grandson of Robert the Bruce, used the unicorn in the royal seal of Scotland.
The Scottish Royal Arms shows two unicorns. When James VI of Scotland became James I of England too, he created a version that swaps one of the Scottish unicorns for an English lion.
- For Scottish people the unicorn represents healing, joy and harmony. It is also a symbol of power and strength. But according to folklore, a free unicorn is a dangerous beast. This is why the Scottish heraldic unicorn is in chains.
- You can see statues and heraldic images of unicorns all over Scotland, from the fountain in the courtyard at Linlithgow Palace to the mercat (market) crosses in many Scottish towns and cities.
Guardians of the Wild Unicorns
In the wild Scottish highlands, best friends Lewis and Rhona discover that the legends are true: unicorns are real creatures, darkly magical and in deadly danger.
A black-hearted gamekeeper has captured the world’s last herd of these incredible creatures. Can the friends rescue the wild unicorns before an ancient promise has unimagined consequences for them all?
The Learning Resource Pack has been created by author Lindsay Littleson (who was a primary school teacher for many years), and includes:
- Writer’s craft
- Talking and Listening activities
- Creative writing projects
- Cross-curricular links (including art, social studies, modern languages , science, rights education)
- Photocopiable activities for the classroom or library
Lindsay Littleson will be available for school visits in autumn 2019. Visit her website to find out more!
Did you know you can get funding for author visits with the Live Literature funding scheme? Find out how to apply via the Scottish Book Trust.