Unicorn Hunt

Tracing the narrative lines of a medieval tapestry.

red pomegranate

What is the meaning of this creature, beyond beautiful? Some said wisdom, others marriage. Some said a Christ-figure, others immortality. Whatever the case, it fell like a stag in the allegorical hunt. Consider the spirit’s pining against the vulnerability of the flesh.

In concert now: eternal yearning and earthly forces. These men with dogs in the first panel, they don’t look much up to the chase, more like bored heirs hanging out in a forest. Only the page in the distance seems alert: Look, look! Over here!

Now here’s the unicorn at the fountain, dipping his narwhal horn, the bitter water sweetened by its touch. Other animals gather. Witness the detail: the pheasant’s reflection in the pool. None of the hunters are looking. They stand around, talking.

Next: the creature surrounded, pierced on all sides with their spears, wearing the martyr’s expression. Notice the waiting reverence of the dogs while the men attack; the bloodlust. One of the hounds is pierced in the next panel, when the bleeding unicorn rises, kicking back.

A maiden appears by the wounded creature’s side while a dog licks its back. It is placid now. Someone in the background sounds a horn. Here comes the death blow, the body paraded into town on the back of a horse. Townspeople look ambivalent; the dogs appear nervous, alert.

Finally, the unicorn appears loosely chained to a tree. A low fence encircles him, the surrounding garden abundant, and what once appears to be blood now appears to be the juice of a pomegranate dripping from his side.

***

Inspired by The Unicorn Tapestries

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I am here to wonder out loud. The point is not to get a clear answer, a complete picture, but to remember how incomplete the picture is, to embrace the process once again, of discovery, of questions, to notice the stirrings of wonder. To leave crumbs behind, for the next traveler.

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