“Mummy, you’re just going to have to stop worrying about unicorns.”

Alice Fisher, writing in The Observer of 15 Oct 2017:

“…One of the unicorn’s first appearances in fantasy literature was in Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking-Glass, and a quote from that has been used and abused on many cute T-shirts for girls in recent years. “Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you.”

That idea of openness to ideas, that you have to make a leap of faith in life to bond with a magical creature, is alluring. And it feels especially important now. Each era we create or revive myths to help make sense of the world. In recent times there have been vogues for aliens, zombies and vampires. But in a time of Trump and Brexit and terror, we’ve aligned ourselves with the unicorn – a symbol of hope and purity and strangeness.

Robin obviously doesn’t understand the impact of Trump – or President Trunk as she calls him – but she realises the importance of believing that things will get better and the positive power of imagination. Robin is ill, the sort of ill where people never send her get well cards because they don’t think she will. She’s often in hospital hooked up to canulas, drips and oxygen. When she is, the best way to distract her is films and books. It was in hospital that she first watched Princess Unikitty, that we read Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns and read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in which Voldemort drinks unicorn blood to keep himself alive. This sense of magic, a belief that the extraordinary can happen in bad times is important to her and it’s important to us all.

It’s a shame that modern unicorns are so sparkly and pink, but these qualities aren’t inherently bad. Just like princesses and make-up and kitchens they’re great things when enjoyed in moderation. And these qualities don’t define the unicorn either. As Juliette Wood says, it’s a complicated beast. “It can represent sacred and romantic love, it looks gentle but it’s fierce, yet the horn protects against poison. I think the unicorn has endured in culture because it’s just too lovely and rare to abandon, isn’t it?” She’s right. There aren’t many creatures that have been a representation of Christ, a panacea, a gay rights campaigner and a fashion accessory. By picking it as the creature that represents our messed-up age, we’ve actually got something right.

Robin was ill again while I was writing this so we were at home together and she got a bit bored of me asking her questions. “Mummy, you’re just going to have to stop worrying about unicorns,” she told me. I think she’s right.”

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