The True Unicorn


Liz Waid and Bruce Gulland look at a magical creature – the unicorn! Did unicorns really exist?

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

Imagine a large white horse. It has a long, pointed horn coming out of the middle of its head. It is gentle, but powerful. This creature seems to be surrounded by magic. It is full of majesty, grace, and beauty. It seems to shine with a silver-colored light. You probably already know what this imaginary creature is called. This is a unicorn.

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Unicorns are the magical one-horned creatures from myths and stories. People often imagine unicorns that look like the description above. Unicorns are imaginary. But they may be based on a true animal. Today’s Spotlight is on unicorns.

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All over the world, people of all ages love to tell stories about unicorns. Unicorns have even inspired modern clothing fashion and art. But the unicorn has also become a very serious symbol. It represents hope and brightness to many people. Alice Fisher is a reporter for the Guardian Newspaper. She writes that people want to be open to new ideas. They want to believe in the possibility of a magic creature. She says that it is even more important in our modern times. She writes:

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“Every era we use myths and stories to help make sense of the world. In recent times people have used aliens, zombies and vampires. But in our uncertain times, we have chosen the unicorn - a symbol of hope and purity and strangeness.”

Voice 2  

The unicorn is a modern symbol. But this creature’s story is very old. And it is not just one story. There is no single version of the unicorn. In the Middle Ages, European people believed unicorns were real. For them, the unicorn was a holy creature with great intelligence. It could heal wounds with a touch of its horn. But the unicorn was very difficult to catch. Only a pure person could see a unicorn for more than a moment.

Voice 1  

There are stories of unicorns that come from before the Middle Ages. In fact, there is a version of the unicorn in most cultures. Pliny the Elder was a writer from ancient Greece. He wrote some of the first books on natural history. In one of them, he describes a creature called the monoceros. It was a one-horned creature that lived in modern-day India.

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The monoceros had the body of a horse, the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant, and the tail of a wild pig. It had one black horn that grew out of the middle of its forehead. Pliny the elder said that people there hunted the monoceros - but they could never capture it. This animal was not real. But some people think the story of the monoceros inspired unicorn stories.

Voice 1  

The ancient Chinese told of a creature similar to the unicorn. It was called the Qilin. Some writers say it had scales like a snake. But it walked on four legs. It had hooves, like a horse. And it had a single horn growing from its head. The Qilin was very important in Chinese culture. It was very rare, so the people believed that the Qilin was lucky. It only appeared when a great king or holy person was born. Like the Unicorn, it was a very powerful magic animal. The stories are so similar that some western people call the Qilin a “Chinese unicorn.”

Voice 2  

But scientists have found evidence of a real creature with one horn. It was called the Elasmotherium. Elasmotherium was a huge creature that lived thousands of years ago. Scientists found its bones in modern-day Russia. Elasmotherium had long hair over its whole body. And it had a horn on its head the size of a person. It was a very powerful animal. People may have hunted them for food or their skin or horn.

Voice 1  

There are many other creatures like unicorns in stories from around the world. These stories are all similar. Some people believe that the unicorn may once have been a real animal, like Elasmotherium. People may have told stories about this real animal. Then, over time, the stories changed. People described the creature in more and more amazing ways. Over time, the unicorn creature of the story became different from the real animal.

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These stories had another purpose. Storytellers used them to teach lessons. And they shaped the animal to fit those teachings. Most people had never seen an animal like a unicorn. But it became part of a tradition. In this way, people did not forget the special power of these animals. Their power simply changed.

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In the modern world, most people do not believe they will ever see a creature like a unicorn. People are moving more and more to a scientific view of the world. But stories and myths are still valuable!

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Joel Dubois is a professor at the University of California at Sacramento. He teaches mythic storytelling. He says that many people think the word myth means stories are false. But he says science cannot tell us everything. On the university website Dubois writes how life is more than just science - the things we can see:

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“People who share myths usually believe that reality is too complex to understand in one way. So they often use stories to show that complexity. For storytellers, stories about mythic worlds are more real in some ways than stories of facts we can observe with our own eyes. These storytellers know myths are about people in other worlds, living a special story. But they also point out hidden connections between myths and the normal people, places, things and events that people experience every day.”

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Myths and stories are more about people than the creature that they talk about. Myths help us understand important times in our lives. They take us through difficult journeys. Myths can connect to people of any culture, in any time and place. The myth of the unicorn is one myth that will likely continue. It is a beautiful story in a troubling world.

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Do you have any myths in your family or community? What do they mean to you? Do you like unicorns? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Dan Christmann. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘The True Unicorn’.

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Look for our free listening app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you like unicorns? Do you believe this creature exists?

Comments


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Honneur
said on September 03, 2018

I don’t believe in witches, but that they exist, exist… Men ever need to explain facts of life. When they don’t have a rational argument, they appeal to creation of the supernatural, of the mysterious and of the unbeliveable. Every culture in the world have the same behaviour…

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Mattia Pascal
said on October 28, 2018

There are a lot of myths in my country, but a few people take them seriously. Today they are just childish stories, some of them are very deep and has a piece of philosophy too. About the unicorns, I think they existed as a kind of rhinoceros, but without any magic type.