This week’s commercial break is running fashionably late. Catch it ordering Starbucks like the pumpkin spice ho it is.
Book and movie: The Last Unicorn
What’s better than a unicorn?
A unicorn on a quest, of course.
Ever since I was a tiny bitty baby, long before I ever knew what to call them or why they were so wonderful, I’ve always loved a quality hero’s quest. It’s hardly surprising, then, that one of my earliest movie loves was The Last Unicorn. The hero’s quest had it all: bravely setting out from the safety and security of your home for a righteous cause that only you can undertake; adventure and colorful characters along the way; setbacks; danger; perseverance; overcoming the odds. As far as I was concerned, it was a perfect story structure.
Of course, almost every hero’s quest out there was about . . . well, a hero, in a very gendered sense. Going by these stories, heroics were for boys and men. Female characters might participate, but they were rarely if ever the story’s protagonist.
Not so with The Last Unicorn.
The unicorn is not the object of a quest, she is its master. She moves the story, she commands it, she pushes the action forward. The central conceit is simple enough at the beginning: she rejects the overheard theory that she is the last unicorn in the world, learns that the others ran away with a creature known as The Red Bull at their heels, and sets out to find them.
The story itself, though, is filled with occasionally Alice in Wonderland-esque surrealism, sprinkled with enough intentional anachronisms to make it charming, and peopled with characters that exist just to the left of their traditional archetypes. The world’s greatest magician who can barely cast a spell, cursed to eternal youth until he can figure his shit out. A band of outlaws with both aspirations towards and disdain for the tales of Robin Hood. A woman who, as a consequence of age and experience, no longer qualifies for the position of damsel or ingenue. A fairy tale prince with neither the understanding nor desire to become a hero, until . . . well, that’s a bit of a spoiler.
I’ll be up front with you: the movie is weird. We’re talking 1980s what-was-the-creative-team-smoking high fantasy weird. That said, the animation is absolutely beautiful, and both the book and the script were written by Peter S. Beagle, which means that the movie stays wonderfully true to the source material. Not to mention that the soundtrack is all done by America, and if that’s not a selling point for you I honestly don’t know what else to say.
Watch the movie, then read the book. Or read the book and then watch the movie. There’s really no way to go wrong. And to tide you over, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from my favorite book:
“Real magic can never be made by offering up someone else’s liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back.”
Book: Monstrous Regiment
Monstrous Regiment is one of my favourite Discworld novels, and I don’t say that lightly. Pratchett is a master storyteller but what makes Monstrous Regiment the beauty it is are its characters.
This is the tale of Polly, a girl who cuts her hair, shoves a pair of socks down her pants, and runs off to war to find her brother. It’s a trope to be sure, but because this is Pratchett, of course, it’s flipped on its head and turned inside out.
If you’re into trope savvy writing and feminist fiction I highly recommend this book.
Monstrous Regiment is also one of the easiest gateways into the Discworld series at large. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the series without having to commit to a back catalogue of novels, give this one a go.