Clumsy Magicians

Michael Kern '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle, tells a story of a unicorn who leaves her home to find that she is the only one left of her kind. She resolves to find out what happened to her fellow unicorns. While on her quest, the unicorn meets some interesting people who join in her search. One of these characters is the clumsy and somewhat bungling magician, Schmendrick.

Down the length of the square sailed the black hat, as far as a horse trough, where it dipped low and scooped itself full of water. Then, almost invisible in the shadows, it came drifting back, apparently straight for the unwashed head of Jack Jingly. He covered himself with his hands, muttering, "Na, na, call it off," and even his own men snickered in anticipation. Schmendrick smiled triumphantly and snapped his fingers to hasten the hat. [51]

However, as the hat continues towards the men, Schmendrick loses control of the hat's direction, and it begins to "curve, gradually at first, then much more sharply." It becomes clear that the hat is headed for the Mayor, who barely had time to "lunge to his feet before the hat settle[s] itself comfortably on his head." Schmendrick demonstrates his lack of magical capability yet again, forcing him to flee the town.


Judging by the reactions of the men whenever Schmendrick announces he is a magician, what role do the magicians have in the land of The Last Unicorn?

How does the nature of magic in this novel compare to that which we have seen in other novels we have read?

What causes Schmendrick, who has considerable potential as a magician, to constantly make a mess of his spells?

How does Schmendrick's role as an unlikely hero compare to Frodo or Anodos?


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

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Last modified 12 April 2004