The unicorn is a mythical creature, present both in eastern and western mythology. The Roman naturalist, Plinius describes it as "a very ferocious beast, similar in the rest of its body to a horse, with the head of a deer, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, a deep, bellowing voice, and a single black horn, two cubits in length, standing out in the middle of its forehead."
For centuries, the unicorn has been the topic of amazement, excitement and speculations. In the Bible, God is said to have the strength of a unicorn. According to legend, the unicorn could only be captured if a maiden was placed near a location the animal frequented. It would sense her purity and lay its head in her lap. During the middle ages, this was taken as an allegory of Christ's reincarnation, with the unicorn representing Christ and the maiden, his mother.
The creature's horn was believed to have vast magical power including the ability to negate poisons. According to the Greek Ctesias, dust filed from the horn was supposed to protect against deadly diseases if mixed into a potion. Or, if you drank from the horn, you would be protected against any poison.
Therefore the unicorn horn was desired and searched for, for centuries. Pope Paul III is said to have paid 12,000 pieces of gold for
one, while James I of England got one for 10,000 Sterling pounds.
The decline of the unicorn began with the advance of the scientific positivism. After centuries of search quests, the failure to prove beyond any doubt the existence of the unicorn undermined fundamentally its reality. The legend of a unicorn was attributed to more believable mundane animals. Rhinos, narwhales, and horses were all considered explanations of unicorns or of the supposed alicorns. Even the Oryx, a dessert antilope is considered a potential candidate.
Even though unicorn was finally added to the list of animals considered mythical and is currently found only in fantasy books, its symbolism survived. The beast, like all mythological creatures, has been a reflection of man's hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares, and inner consciousness. According to Freud mythological beasts are representations of 'universal fears and feelings'. Specifically, Jung thought that the purity of the unicorn was of greater importance. Most mythological creatures represent man's worst traits, and are usually more evil than animals, or man. They kill for pleasure, and are often involved in unspeakable atrocities.
The unicorn is an exception to the rule, being a symbol of purity, elegance and charm, and above all of spiritual strength and natural truth.