Medieval Killer Unicorn with Twisted Tail

KillerUnicorn

Killer Unicorn with Twisted Tail

I found this little image on Twitter via PeripheralPal.

It appears to be from an old medieval manuscript held by the British Library (f101.v) from around 1260. The manuscript contains a calendar with zodiac symbols along with prayers and devotions to various saints. Many of the pages feature small illustrations of grotesques, hybrids, demons, animals, birds, dragons, and foliage with some scenes taken from bestiaries and the Marvels of the East.

The book also contains a full-page miniature of the Anointing and Crowning of King David, with Christ above flanked by the Sun and Moon. This is interesting given King David’s encounter with the unicorn and the lion which are often represented by by the moon and the sun respectively.

I suppose that we’ll never know whether people at the time would have considered the creature above to be a unicorn or whether this is simply a grotesque hybrid devised purely to illuminate the pages of this book. The word ‘unicorn’ does simply mean ‘one horn’ and so we can consider this curly tailed hybrid to be a unicorn despite it’s appearance being rather different to the white steeds we might think of today.

Medieval Unicorn

You can view a complete digitised copy of this beautiful manuscript online here.