Short Answers: Can Unicorns Fly?
With all the unicorns parading across Facebook feeds and adorning cute t-shirts, many people are considering these magical equines for the first time. Naturally, the mythical nature of the beasts leads to many questions, such as “Can unicorns fly?” The history of the unicorn has one answer, but the modern interpretation of the creature takes a decidedly different angle on the same issue.
The History of Unicorns
As a creature arising from the Middle Ages, the unicorn’s meaning was deeply entwined with purity and even the Virgin Mary. Those animals were first described as goats sporting singular horns growing out of their foreheads. As the centuries passed, the illustrations began to show the unicorn as a majestic horse with a horn instead. No matter which historical variation we are examining, they all kept their hooves firmly planted on the ground. There are no historical stories of flying unicorns, but there are vague legends that anyone who managed to steal an unicorn’s horn could use it to fly.
Many people confuse unicorns with another mythical horse from the Greek era, the Pegasus. The Pegasus has no horns or antlers, but it sports a pair of large bird-like wings. Hercules rode the Pegasus into battle and took the horse with him when he ascended Mount Olympus as a demi-god. Since the Pegasus was as real as the unicorn, they have gotten mixed together and confused for each other thousands of times in more recent centuries.
Emergence of Flying Unicorns
Aside from occasional mistakes and mix ups, it was very rare to find descriptions of flying unicorns. This changed in the 1970s when fantasy artists started producing winged unicorns and horned pegasus artwork. These flying unicorns decorated album covers, school folders, and fantasy novel books. Since the designers and artists did not need to write explanations for their art, it’s not always clear what kind of creature is depicted. The fanciful exploration of imagination developed all sorts of new designs and ideas that continued into the 80s and 90s. Some people call them unipegs or pegacorns, while games and comic books call them alicorns, an old term for the horn of the unicorn.
With and Without Wings
In modern Internet culture, not all flying unicorns have wings. The star of the viral hit Robot Unicorn Attack game doesn’t have wings but glides across the game field just the same. Multiple characters in My Little Pony either feature wings or horns, yet all the horned unicorns in the show can fly while not all flying horses sport horns. Most unicorns in the meme universe stay on the ground, but a few jump or bounce instead of flying.