Sacred Touch

Dove West '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

Throughout Beagles' The Last Unicorn, the act of touching plays a prominent role. Even though Schmendrick at times wishes to touch the Unicorn, he resists the temptation tacitly knowing that it is not appropriate. Later in the novel, as Molly sits in the scullery of Haggard's castle, a cat and Lady Amalthea, the human form of the Unicorn, join her. Despite Lady Amalthea's attempts to touch the cat, he moves away from her. After Lady Amalthea leaves, the cat speaks to Molly, saying that the presence of the Lady made him feel like talking. The cat goes on to explain why he recoiled from Lady Amalthea's touch.

"If she had touched me," he said softly, "I would have been hers and not my own, not ever again. I wanted her to touch me, but I could not let her. No cat will. We let human beings caress us because it is pleasant enough and calms them but not her. The price is more than a cat can pay" [140].

Touch continues to play an important role in the rest of the novel. When the unicorn is in her human form she continues to carry with her the air of one not to be touched. Even King Haggard understands this, and when she flinches as he approaches her, he reassures her that he will not touch her.


1. What is the significance of touching a unicorn? Is it gender specific, and if it is, then why can women touch a unicorn and men can not?

2. Is there power or magic in the touch of a unicorn? Do unicorns have magical powers, and if so, what are they?

3. What does the cat mean by stating "The price is more than a cat can pay"?

4. Can this notion of the sacred touch seen in any of the other works that we have thus far read?


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

Victorian Web Overview Peter S. Beagle Fantasy

Last modified 12 April 2004