Michael Morpurgo, I Believe in Unicorns. Illustrated by Gary Blythe
First published 2005 by Walker Books. 80p
Above beauty and grace, a unicorn is a symbol of possibilities and magical perception of reality. The belief in these mythical creatures equals the faith in wisdom and renewal. Only those who have the power of rejuvenation and the innocent belief in hope will truly see a unicorn.
Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns explores the circumstances that can change a boy’s life and beliefs and the cathartic power stories can have. Eight-year-old Tomas Porec hated school, books and going to church. Living at a farm in a small town hidden in a remote valley in Europe, he preferred to wander the forests and go fishing with his father. His mother was more strict about school but Tomas could only think of the afternoons when he could be alone.
Alone I could go where I wanted. Alone my thoughts and dreams could run free. I could sing at the top of my voice. I could soar with the eagles, be wild in the woods with the deer and he boar and bears and the invisible wolves. Alone I could be myself.
One day his mother forced Tomas to visit the library. Hid behind a bookshelf he saw a unicorn, the best gift the place could have offered him:
A unicorn! A real live unicorn! He was sitting absolutely still, his feet tucked neatly underneath him, his head turned towards us. He seemed to be gazing straight at me. I swear his eyes were smiling at me too. He was pure white as unicorns are, white head, body, mane and tail, white all over except for his golden horn and his little black hooves. And his eyes were blue and shining.
Shortly Tomas realized the unicorn was carved out of wood and felt stupid but he wouldn’t leave the library. The librarian, a young lady, began to tell the unicorn story that went back in time when God wanted to punish all the wicked men and asked Noah to build his ark. The unicorns were the only animals that hadn’t been saved so the water rose around them and finding no land they slowly turned into whales.
But in all this time they never lost their magical powers, and they never lost their horns either. Which is why there really are to this very day whales in the sea with unicorn’s horns. We call them narwhals.
There were other stories and poems that made Tomas to want more; at school he told his friends about the Unicorn lady and her magical stories. He became part of the small community at the library and overcame his emotions by daring to tell stories himself.
Then the war came and the small village was bombed. Hidden in the forest, Tomas realized that he might lose his world.
The end of the story is extremely emotional and powerful. The library in flames, the whole community gathered to save the books and the unicorn. Twenty years later, the library is rebuilt and the unicorn still brings hope and inspiration.
Complement your reading with a beautiful story on post-war rebirth.
Cover illustration © 2005 Gary Blythe
From I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS by Michael Morpurgo & illustrated by Gary Blythe
Reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd, London SE11 5HJ