Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Last Unicorn most resembles a novel-length fairy tale. Even so, it is a fairy tale that knows itself to be one: Throughout the novel, author Peter S. Beagle offers a more realistic look on life that plays havoc with the conventions of the genre. The outlaws in the forest, for example, are not exactly merry—more poor and disillusioned. Moreover, the great deeds of heroism that the prince performs for his beloved do not exactly endear him to her—she does not like killing and bloodshed.

As is characteristic for fairy tales, the plot has a deceptively simple linear structure that is not interrupted by flashbacks, flashforwards, or parallel plots. Also characteristically, it is told in the third-person narrative voice. Heroes and villains can be found in this story, but, contrary to those in the polished Grimms’ fairy tales, they are not painted in black and white. As in real life, there are many shades of gray, which makes even the villains at least understandable.

The story begins when a unicorn overhears two hunters mention that she is now the last of her kind in this world. Despite misgivings about leaving her beloved forest, she finally decides to find out whether this rumor is true. Indeed, she searches far and wide without finding any other of her kind. To make matters worse, it seems that humankind has forgotten that unicorns are more than simply make-believe. When humans look at her, they see only a white horse.

Exhausted from her travels, one day the...

(The entire section is 617 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The frequent use of anachronism sends ripples across the otherwise mirror like surface of the novel's illusory world. '"Death takes what man...

(The entire section is 391 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Unlike the characters in many fantasy novels, those in The Last Unicorn are not black and white, but colored with complex hues. The...

(The entire section is 277 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Last Unicorn is a fantasy novel, set in a far away world of wizards, enchanted castles and talking cats, yet it reflects the...

(The entire section is 712 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The unicorn appears in cultures as far removed from one another as Ireland and Japan, although it probably has its origins in China, India,...

(The entire section is 443 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

After the spectacular success of The Last Unicorn Beagle felt the usual pressure to repeat himself, either by writing a sequel or by...

(The entire section is 246 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Last Unicorn was the basis for an animated film made in 1982 from a screenplay by Peter Beagle. Produced by Arthur Rankin and...

(The entire section is 266 words.)