The Literary Horizon: The Last Unicorn, The Princess Bride

I have some pretty bad gaps in my education. For instance, I have never seen The Wizard of Oz or Casablanca. I like to think that my gaps don’t apply to books, since I read so much, but they do. Today, we’re looking at two children’s fantasy classics (that made for classic eighties) films that I should really feel worse about not having read as a kid.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The fantasy classic, now in beautiful new deluxe trade paperback edition.

From The Last Unicorn:
“The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam, but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea…”

via Amazon

I vaguely know of the animated feature, but having encountered Rankin/Bass’ interpretation of The Hobbit, I’m a bit wary of approaching it before reading the book. The concept of a last unicorn intrigues me, plus the film is almost universally beloved, from my own limited experience. I figure it’s worth a shot.

Bryce at Only The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy finds it pretty much flawless, along with talking about the role of hope in life, and Susan at Well-Mannered Frivolity found it just as delightful. It’s a classic for a reason, I suppose…

The Last Unicorn was published in 1968.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

William Goldman’s beloved novel has sold over one million copies. A movie, released twenty years ago, perfectly captured the spirit of the book and has introduced new fans to its pages ever since. In 1941 a young boy lies bedridden from pneumonia. His perpetually disheveled and unattractive father, an immigrant from Florin with terribly broken English, shuffles into his bedroom carrying a book. The boy wants to know if it has any sports. His father says, “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions. Miracles.” And the little boy, though he doesn’t know it, is about to change forever. As Goldman says, “What happened was just this. I got hooked on the story.” And coming generations of readers will, too.

via Amazon

I’ve seen and loved the film adaptation, of course. I do love the eighties. (Did you know the nineties are the new nostalgic generation? It feels wrong because I existed at the time.) But I also like playfully metafictional stories, and this definitely sounds like just the thing.

Stephanie at Misfit Salon finds it utterly brilliant, but Rebecca at Rebecca Reads noted that the various authors involved all sound like Goldman, rather than different authors. She still quite liked it, though!

The Princess Bride was published in 1973.

6 thoughts on “The Literary Horizon: The Last Unicorn, The Princess Bride

  1. I’ve not read the Princess Bride, but I own a copy and it is on my to-do list. The only thing holding me back is I’ve heard that it is not the easiest of reads, especially compared to the easy accessibility of the movie.

    I read Last Unicorn recently where I grew up on the movie, and the movie is amazingly wonderful even after having read the book. America does the music, and it is not at all cheesy/corny like The Hobbit, but instead powerful, slow, semi-rock ballads that somehow just mesh to the story. It also helps that Peter S Beagle was the screenwriter for the movie, so what did get cut from the book made sense, and the changes flow smoothly. The only hitch, if I had to say one, in the movie was they think Jeff Bridges (Prince Lir) and Mia Farrow (The Unicorn) can sing, which they can’t, but their songs aren’t that bad, and they are at least heart-felt. The rest of the all-star cast is great, too, from Christopher Lee as King Haggard, Angela Lansberry as the witch Mommy Fortuna, and Alan Arkin as Schmendrick. Really a delightful movie, and you should have no reservation of watching it before reading the book.

  2. I was happy to see you wondering about your read of The Last Unicorn as I have it on my TBR piile as well. However, you are the first blogger I have seen who has referenced it. Perhaps the piles of books that children like to read vary regionally or something.

    Anyhoo, thought it was kinda cool that you were thinking of reading The Last Unicorn as it’s high on the pile right now.

    Like yr blog, btw.
    liz in texas

  3. When you come back to Agnes, I will sit you down and watch The Last Unicorn with you. It is one of my favorite movies and, because the screenplay is written by Peter Beagle, it follows the story perfectly. You get more depth from the book but everything important is in the movie.

  4. I do not love either of those books. The film of The Princess Bride is better by degrees of magnitude, and Tamsin is better than The Last Unicorn. But for serious, you need to go watch The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca. They are legitimately very very very good films.

  5. LOVE The Last Unicorn. It’s essentially an extended fairy tale — dreamy and bittersweet. The film is actually pretty decent, too. I don’t care for the animation style and the singing was kind of mediocre, but the voice of Amalthea was spot-on.

    I prefer From Here to Eternity to Casablanca (both are WWII movies with tragic love stories) but you definitely need to see both Casablanca and Wizard of Oz!

  6. The Princess Bride isn’t a difficult read, but it’s a lot more sombre and cynical in tone than the film – there are some really really dark bits which are just skated over in the film.

    I’ve not read The Last Unicorn, though the blurb for it was at the back of one of my favourite books I read as a child – I’ve not seen the film, either.

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