Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Sarah from IN. Sarah Wonders, “Are unicorns real?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Sarah!
Picture it: You’re skipping through fields of flowers on a clear day. You’re on your way to your grandmother’s house. You stop to listen to the sounds of nature all around you. The birds are singing and the bees are buzzing. In the distance, you hear an odd sound. As you move toward it, you see something white and shiny. What could it be? You reach a clearing, and you see a beautiful, horse-like creature. There’s a single horn jutting from its forehead.
You gasp. When the animal hears you, it turns to flee. It leaps into the air and away into the forest. As it leaves, its mane and tail shimmer and throw rainbow-colored glitter into the air. What is this magical creature you’ve just seen? It’s a unicorn, of course!
Does this sound like the set up of a fairy tale? It is! Unicorns don’t really exist in our world today. However, thanks to many myths and legends, they are alive in the imaginations of children all over the world.
So how exactly did such myths and legends get started? Were they based on a unicorn-like creature that lived thousands of years ago? Or are they simply stories passed down by generations?
Historians say the first written account of a unicorn comes from the fourth century B.C.E. It was written by Greek physician Ctesias, who had traveled through what is now Iran. There, he heard many tales of single-horned wild donkeys that were as large as horses. He wrote that creatures were quick and powerful. They had white bodies, red heads, blue eyes, and a long multi-colored horn.
It’s doubtful that the author ever saw one of these creatures. Instead, historians believe his writings tell the stories that were told to him. He’s not the only one to have written about unicorns, though. Others did claim to have seen the creature. Famous sightings include those by Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, and Pliny the Elder.
Descriptions of unicorns changed with every story. Most legends said that unicorns had magical powers. Some said they gave people immortality. Others claimed they had healing powers or made people able to fly.
Today, many experts say stories about unicorns could have been influenced by real animals. They point to the Indian rhinoceros, which is a powerful beast with one horn. Other possibilities include the wild ox, Arabian Oryx, and narwhal. The unicorn could be a mix of many animals.
A recent finding may offer another explanation. Scientists found an Italian deer with a single horn on its forehead. They believe this deer has a rare genetic mutation. This causes some to WONDER. Maybe unicorn myths came from an animal with a similar mutation thousands of years ago!
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2