The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn is a fantasy novel written by Peter S. Beagle and published in 1968, by Viking Press in the U.S. and The Bodley Head in the U.K. It follows the tale of a unicorn, who believes she is the last of her kind in the world and undertakes a quest to discover what has happened to the others. It has sold more than five million copies worldwide since its original publication, and has been translated into at least twenty languages (prior to the 2007 edition). In 1987, Locus ranked The Last Unicorn number five among the 33 “All-Time Best Fantasy Novels”, based on a poll of subscribers. The 1998 rendition of the poll considered many book series as single entries and thus ranked The Last Unicorn number 18.

The Last Unicorn Animated Film

In 1982 the book became an animated fantasy film directed and produced by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. It was produced by Rankin/Bass Productions for ITC Entertainment, and animated by Topcraft.

The film includes the voices of Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, and Christopher Lee. The musical score and the songs were composed and arranged by Jimmy Webb, and performed by the group America with additional vocals provided by Lucy Mitchell. The film earned $2,250,000 on its opening weekend and grossed $6,455,330 domestically.

The film is about a unicorn who, upon learning that she is the last of her species in the world, goes on a quest to find out what has happened to the others of her kind.

In many ways it’s an archetypal tale for kids.  It is a story about the value of experience and the importance of putting yourself out there to struggle through love, loss, and even regret. The hero learns that the other unicorns have all been driven away by a legendary Red Bull. To find them, she has to travel across the land leaving the safe haven of her enchanted forest. Soon accompanied by a young magician, Schmendrick, the unicorn encounters the Red Bull and is turned into a human woman to protect her from the animal. In human form through, she starts to forget her true nature. So she changes back, defeats the Red Bull, and frees all the other unicorns (who it turns out  had been trapped in the ocean). The unicorn returns to her homeland having experienced both love and regret, and is glad for all that she has experienced.


While the film was successful and has established a bit of a cult following today, there has been some controversy surrounding it. While many adults love the film today, it is often said that when they watched the film as children it “scared the hell out of them”. Was the movie a little too dark and scary for young children? Some people think so. While it may have been scary for children, many do agree that it is an unusually good children’s story.

Thinking of watching this with your children? Give it a watch on your own first and try to see it through the eyes of your kids. Only you know best what will be scary for them and what won’t be.