The Butterfly Effect

Jill Javier '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

In Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn , the magical unicorn discovers that as time passed, she is now the last of her kind. As a last hope to find the truth, she journeys in search for other unicorns. In the beginning of her quest, she encounters a butterfly in her path. She tries to find out more from the butterfly, but is disappointed, because one can not "expect a butterfly to know your name. All they know are songs and poetry, and anything else they hear." Disappointed, the unicorn attempts to travel on, yet is stopped once again by the butterfly, hearing something that caught her attention.

"They passed down all the roads long ago, and the Red Bull ran close behind them and covered their footprints. Let nothing you dismay, but don't be half-safe." His wings brushed against the unicorn's skin. [Page 10]

The unicorn is attentive and asks where she could find the Red Bull, but is disappointed when he drifts back to "nightmares about crawling around on the ground" and returns to the ramble he began with.


1. If the caterpillar speaks of nonsense and as the unicorn said, " They mean well, but they can't keep things straight", then why does the unicorn chose to believe the story of the Red Bull?

2. Does the unicorn's encounter with the butterfly resemble that of Alice's conversation with the caterpillar? How so?

3. In this novel, the main character is a magical creature. How does the unicorn compare with other lead characters in the other fantasies?

4. How does the magic portrayed in this novel compare with others we have read? How does the illusion and fact that the unicorn is not easily recognizable by others tie into Beagle's concept of magic?


Beagle, Peter S. The Last Unicorn. New York: Roc/New American Library, 1991.

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Last modified 20 April 2004