Now presenting Red Trees

Casey Lieb '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

Schmendrick, captive of Captain Cully, curses him. He attempts to escape, but "he had no more heart for tricks. What happened instead was that the tree fell in love with him and began to murmur fondly of the joy to be found in the eternal embrace of a red oak. "Always, always," it sighed, "faithfulness beyond any man's deserving. I will keep the color of your eyes when no other in the world remembers your name. There is no immortality but a tree's love"" (68). This plot twist comes with no precedence and no rhyme or reason. The rash declaration of love questions this "love" and what can be defined as love. The oak creates a perception that love is false and not to be trusted. The excuse Schmendrick comes up with brings up humor in this false declaration of love: "I'm engaged," Schmendrick excused himself. "To a western larch. Since childhood. Marriage by contract, no choice in the matter. Hopeless. Our story is never to be" (68). The choppy set up of this excuse creates a humorous and presents the thought process behind the statement as anything he could come up with to get out of this love. Love is commonly signified with the color red. In The Last Unicorn, Red, because of its use to describe oak, bull and "those six cheated red eyes"(18), exposes the negative connotation this oak brings to the story. Much like the importance of the red in the description of the oak, eye color is made important. Eyes change from red to honey colored and "are so sad" (31). The oak "keep[ing] the color of [his] eyes" expresses the power color and eyes hold within The Last Unicorn.

Questions

1. How does the "red oak" compare to the Ents in Lord of the Rings and the Ash in Phantastes?

2. Why create similarities using color within the story? What other uses of color have significance?

3. What role does humor have in The Last Unicorn when Schmendrick's answer to the Oak creates an engagement to a bird the excessively angry response, "Damned softwood, cursed conifer, deceitful evergreen, she'll never have you! We will perish together and all trees shall treasure our tragedy" (68), about the denial of his love makes what commentary about people within society?

References

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


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Last modified 12 April 2004