The Atlantic

One of the Best Fantasy Novels Ever Is Nothing Like The Lord of the Rings

In The Last Unicorn, there are no maps, invented languages, or epic battles. But the 1968 tale has a timely message about the importance of reality over magic.
Source: Stephanie Law / Tachyon

I encountered the cover of Peter S. Beagle’s fantasy novel The Last Unicorn years before I read the book. On the front of the Ballantine paperback edition that once sat on my parents’ shelf, there’s a white unicorn running in a forest as a small red sun sets behind the mountains. Where was this majestic creature going? I wondered.

It’s now been 50 years since the novel’s publication, and the unicorn’s journey still captures the minds and hearts of readers. This week marks the release of , a commemorative edition of Beagle’s first draft of the novel. The book’s early popularity was no doubt fueled by the Tolkien boom; J. R. R. Tolkien’s found in the United States after it appeared in a in 1965. But has since come into its own. In 1982, the novel was made into an , which has become something of a cult classic. A that Beagle published in 2005 won both the Nebula and the Hugo Awards—the fantasy genre’s two highest honors. After all these years, still feels relevant. It’s not an epic fantasy, but a softer tale at the boundaries of magic and reality, that place where one grapples with what it means to be human.

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