Social Question

awomanscorned's avatar

Where did the idea of unicorns originate?

Asked by awomanscorned (11261points) May 3rd, 2011
25 responses
“Great Question” (4points)

Pegasus is from Greek mythology, correct? What about unicorns? I love those guys.

Observing members: 0
Composing members: 0


everephebe's avatar

I don’t know about originate but they are mentioned in the Bible.

“Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?” Job 39:9–12

[Edit] Ok, further research suggests a possible Greek origin. From wiki:

“Unicorns are not found in Greek mythology, but rather in accounts of natural history, for Greek writers of natural history were convinced of the reality of the unicorn, which they located in India, a distant and fabulous realm for them.” – Jimmy Wales

Response moderated (Spam)
everephebe's avatar


“The translators of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible (1611) followed the Greek Septuagint (monokeros) and the Latin Vulgate (unicornis)[14] and employed unicorn to translate re’em, providing a recognizable animal that was proverbial for its un-tamable nature. The American Standard Version translates this term “wild ox” in each case.” -Jimmy Wales

Response moderated (Spam)
anartist's avatar

For the Greeks, the unicorn was a misinterpretation of what a rhinoceros [Greek monocerous μονόκερως—one horn] was by people who had never seen one.

In the Middle Ages, the unicorn was connected to the concept of virginity. And there’s a whole lot of stuff about unicorns being tamed by virgins. See painting here

for more on both origins see Wikipedia

OOPS sorry @syz

Response moderated (Spam)
KateTheGreat's avatar

Everyone wanted to believe that narwhals had above ground counterparts.

Response moderated (Spam)
zenvelo's avatar

Y’all act like they never existed. For me they are as real as dodos! :>)

mazingerz88's avatar

@noelleptc Why would you wish for unicorns when skewering marshmallows with roasting stick works? Just in case, that Tom Cruise movie Legend has nice ones.

YoBob's avatar

Wow, two opportunities to use the term narwhal within 5 minutes.

Some believe that the unicorn rumor came from distorted descriptions of the narwhal and “rare” unicorn horns sold to the gullible which were actually narwhal tusks.

Jeruba's avatar

Lore of the Unicorn, by Odell Shepard, contains an extremely detailed history of unicorn lore from historical records and folklore. It finds real-world sources in both the narwhal and the rhinoceros, as well as the human imagination. Tales of fabulous creatures were plentiful in the early days of explorations such as those of Marco Polo.

If I recall correctly (having read this book some 30 years ago, in the 1979 paperback edition), the author attributed the perpetuation of the legend to the belief that the horn of the unicorn was proof against poison. Because poisoning was a popular political strategy in certain aristocratic circles a few centuries back, cups made of unicorn horn were especially prized by princes and nobles. If a sailor could sell a horn of twisted ivory for a small fortune, why would he want to correct anyone’s superstitious misconceptions of its origin?

The Shepard book is a good scholarly resource for the seriously interested; it isn’t light reading.

lemming's avatar

I don’t know if this was in any of the links that people left, but I heard years ago, when I was kid, that the idea of the unicorn came from people finding the bones of a sword fish inland, and they didn’t realise that that piece of land was actually under the sea years beforehand.

Response moderated (Spam)
Ladymia69's avatar

@noelleptc Here you go babe.

mrrich724's avatar

THe idea comes from the real ones that exist :)

Response moderated (Spam)
everephebe's avatar

I wouldn’t be surprised if they made unicorns a real creature in the future. Yay science!

Response moderated (Spam)
everephebe's avatar

That would be a twist.

Response moderated (Spam)
mrrich724's avatar

The black ones have horns of onyx.

Response moderated (Spam)

Answer this question




to answer.

Mobile | Desktop

Send Feedback