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  • Debra Palmen

How to Catch a Unicorn

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Here’s something I read recently: psychologists tell us that when times are happy and prosperous, stories about dark creatures such as vampires and werewolves are popular. But when the times themselves are dark, when politics are divisive and regimes around the world increasingly oppressive, critters such as unicorns become more popular.

And guess what? Unicorns are real popular right now. Even Australia’s latest mega-million dollar tourism campaign pairs a kangaroo with a unicorn. Ah yes, unicorns, those well-known Australian natives.

But it’s not the first time people have been drawn to these creatures. They were first seen in artworks from around 2000BC, and have gone in and out of popularity ever since. During the Middle Ages, stories about unicorns were hugely popular, and by 1612 Petrus Pancius even included a unicorn constellation, Monoceros, on his celestial globe. It was around this time that strategies describing how to capture a unicorn became widely known, although frankly, things got a little weird.

Put it this way, unicorns were considered extremely fierce and difficult to catch. For guaranteed success, you needed one of two things – a virgin or a tree. Either would do.

If you opted for a virgin, you would place her strategically in a unicorn’s path. As soon as it saw her, it would bound over, snuggle its head into her lap and immediately fall asleep, and so was easily captured. Alternately, it would suckle from her breasts and then fall asleep. I did say things got weird.

When no virgins were on hand, trees were usually plentiful. The strategy here involved a hunter standing in the unicorn’s path, but in front of a large tree. He would then provoke the beast by taunting it, jeering, and calling it names. Imagine a Monty Python scene along these lines, and you’re probably not far wrong. This would enrage the unicorn, which would spring forward to impale the offender with its large horn. But the sprightly hunter would leap aside and the unicorn would hit the tree at a full gallop, ramming its horn into the wood and becoming stuck. The hunter was then free to either kill or capture the creature.

From the beginning, there have been many strange stories surrounding unicorns, and that’s not even counting all the religious allegories. They’re detailed in the Unicorns chapter of my new book, Fabulous Beasts & How to Collect Them - An expert guide to buying animal-related antiques like a professional (Vol 1), and you might find these tales to be an interesting and entertaining read.

In terms of vintage unicorn-related collectables, they’re found in almost every category, from Art to Ceramics to Jewellery and more. If we briefly look at the jewellery category, the good news is that there’s no shortage of unicorn-themed pieces. The more modern pieces (from the 1980s onwards) are cuter and more ‘Disney’ than the vintage pieces. Your choices are far more limited when you’re looking for good quality older unicorn jewellery, but what you do find will often be reminiscent of the fabulous images seen in Medieval tapestries. As with all animal-related antiques and collectables, you just need to know what you’re looking at and how much you should expect to pay for it. And I can help you with that.

Fabulous Beasts & How to Collect Them (Vol 1) is now available on the website and in person from me at Peregian Beach Market. Just in time for Christmas!

Don’t forget the two benefits you receive because you’re subscribers to the Newsletter:

1. When buying direct from the author (that’s me), you receive 40% off the recommended retail price. That means it will be $20, plus $8 postage to anywhere in Australia. Just go to:

2. Because you’re a subscriber, when you buy the book you can request the image of your choice from the book, and I will email that file to you for free.

This is a gift only available to you because you're a Newsletter subscriber. As you can see, featured here is the image from the unicorn chapter. From next week, all images from the book will be available on the website to buy in print version for $15. But you can have the electronic file of your choice for free. Buy more than one book, and you can have more than one free file. When the book itself is only $20 it’s a pretty sweet deal, don’t you think?

There’s still plenty of time to get any of my books to you (or to someone you love as a gift) before the Christmas mail rush. But if you’d prefer to buy in person, you can visit me at Peregian Beach Markets on the first and third Sunday of each month.

Thanks for your support!

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