Immortal Unicorn edited by Peter S. Beagle and Janet Berliner (1988, 398 pages) – When I picked this up, I assumed it was a sequel to Peter S. Beagle’s famous Last Unicorn, but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered it was a unicorn anthology. And not just any unicorn anthology, but a collection of the most unique, unusual unicorns you’ll find anywhere.
For example, a unicorn of death, a unicorn of birth, a caribou unicorn, children trapped as unicorns, inner-city unicorns, how to hide unicorns in plain sight in the Wild West, King Arthur summoning a unicorn in post-apocalyptic New York, a Chinese unicorn, a unicorn angel, and a talking rhino with an identity crisis. Come on, who thinks of all these variations on a theme?
Taken He Can’t Be by Will Shetterly – Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are bounty hunters distracted by a unicorn with a message: some things should live forever, and some things should die.
What the Eyes See, What the Head Feels by Robert Deverfaux – Unicorns hide in the quiet spaces except for the Unicorn Who Eases Dying and the Unicorn Who Eases Birthing. When the Unicorn Who Eases Dying begs her fellows to ease her pain by releasing her of immortality, the Unicorn of Births must face a painful future.
Old One-Antler by Michael Armstrong – A coming of age story where the father teaches his teenage son how to hunt caribou but legendary One-Antler teaches them both a life lesson they won’t forget.
Stampede of Light by Marina Fitch – This tale has a Zenna Henderson feel about it and presents yet another twist on the tale of the unicorn. A young teacher discovers neglected children are vanishing from the schoolyard and reappearing on a mysterious woman’s embroidered unicorn skirt.
Gilgamesh Recidivus by P.D. Cacek – A clever idea of the weary immortal Gilgamesh as he searched for the only thing that may free him from everlasting life – a unicorn captured by the Soviets.
Big Dogs, Strange Days by Edward Bryant – My favorite story for a couple reasons. First, it’s a skillful presentation of an immortal reminiscing as he paints a picture of his part in rescuing the unicorns of Wyoming. The figures of a cowboy, a Chinaman, a Shishone medicine woman, and himself take form as he recalls the magical tale. Great storytelling and a clever answer to “where are unicorns now?”
The Tenth Worthy by Susan Shwartz – Where do these writers get these wonderful ideas? This is a post-apocalyptic tale of a brave band in the Cloisters battling the soulless zombies of New York. They just happen to be the reincarnations of King Arthur’s court trying to redeem their past wrongs. Their only hope is the unicorn torn from the Unicorn Tapestries.
Daughter of the Tao by Lisa Mason – A Chinese unicorn offers an immigrant girl an escape from her life as a house slave when she becomes old enough to become a pleasure girl.
The Devil on Myrtle Ave by Eric Lustbader – In the city projects, a young black man proves his manhood by murdering a trucker. The trucker’s buddy grabs a gun and hunts down the young man. In this powerful tale of inner city despair and desperation, the forces of good and evil fight for the men’s souls and reveals how unicorns are made.
Dame a La Licorne by Judith Tarr – A family strives to raise horses the old fashioned way, but the futuristic government decrees the family must remove all harmful genes from their horses. The result? All horses are born unicorns!
Convergence by Lucy Taylor – A woman is washed overboard and rides a unicorn to a rocky shore where she’s transparent. Not my favorite.
The Day of Sounding of Josh M’Bobwe: A Read Aloud Tale by Janet Berliner – The plight of an angel unicorn as he helps his Zulu/Jewist/Trumpet-Playing charge find himself on his thirteen birthday.
The Trouble With Unicorns by Nancy Willard – Is that they take ordinary, downtrodden people and transport them to a perfect fantasy land. Works for me.
Profssor Gottlesman and the Indian Rhinoceros by Peter S. Beagle – A Swiss philosophy professor is surprised when a talking Indian Rhino follows him home from the zoo. Odd as that may be, the professor is amazed that the rhino thinks he’s a unicorn, is invisible to anyone else, and is willing to debate philosophical theory. The solitary professor is perfectly content to spend the rest of his life in the creature’s interesting company, even ignoring the terrible mess it makes in the bathroom. Wonderful, wonderful tale.