From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In an inspired iteration of a cluttered genre-world-history-through-innocuous-topic-U.K. natural historian Lavers (Why Elephants Have Big Ears) rattles off a history of the mythical unicorn that "binds... the earth's natural history to our own." An object of fascination for at least the last 2,000 years, the unicorn was described in 398 B.C. by the Greek Ctesias as "wild asses as large as horses... white bodies, their heads dark red" with a horn that, when used as a drinking glass, protected men from epilepsy and poison. Ctesias became a source for Aristotle and Pliny, who shaped European beliefs for 1500 years. Wending its way into (and possibly out of) the Old Testament (Ctesias's ass was, "like the Hebrews' totemic reem, real strong, horned, indomitable and, crucially, not a cow."), unicorns are incorporated into Bible translations and the Physiologus bestiary (in its time, almost as big as the Bible), and one-horned creatures have even been found drawn on the walls of African caves. Laver's tongue-in-cheek delivery maintains its charm throughout while turning up a good bit of knowledge about natural history and how it's been artfully embellished by those recording it.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“In this lively survey, Lavers explores the roots and the evolution of Ctesias’ elusive beast... Lavers capably balances tales of individual enthusiasts with broader cultural considerations to show how the unicorn’s ‘connections with our myth-making reveal much about our engagement with the natural world.’” (The New Yorker)
“Lively, compelling, full of anecdote, wry scepticism and an honest humility about the things it is simply impossible for us to know for certain. . . . The book, like its subject, is not quite one thing nor another, but a fascinating hybrid.” (The Guardian)
“A vivid and highly readable trek following the trail of this elusive beast.” (Booklist)
“Lavers ingeniously tracks the myth-making of the unicorn. . . . Lavers’s enthusiasm is infectious . . . an elegant, colorful guide to the unicorn’s myth, marvel, and the ties that have bound it to human progress.” (Kirkus Reviews (Starred))
“Intriguing. …The history of a non-existent animal is, by definition, a series of diversions from actuality, and, by reversing that trajectory, Lavers’ book takes us to some fascinating places.” (Financial Times)
“The origin of the species and its later fame told in lore and legend is cleverly told.” (The Times (London))
“Whimsical, scholarly and continually absorbing.” (The Spectator)
“Chris Lavers has done it again. A fascinating, intelligent and unusual book. From the first page I was completely hooked.” (Pat Shipman, author of Femme Fatale)
“Chris Lavers traces our fascination with the idea of a one-horned horse back 2,000 years in this scholarly history of unicorns … The history of the unicorn shows human beings at our imaginative best and our manipulative worst.” (Daily Telegraph (London))
“A mind opening work of intricate scholarship. If unicorns do exist I hope they never catch one. A great read that will grace my library.” (Professor David Bellamy)