Making The Case for Unicorn Shifters By Gabriella Messina

Nothing says “fantasy story” quite like a shifter character. Whether it is a more traditional horror character like the werewolf or a spiritual/ cultural staple such as the wolf, bear, or cougar shifter, the characteristic of changing from human to animal is at the heart of so many of our favorite books and series.

There is a problem, though, and one that deserves some real consideration. Readers of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, I put this question to you:

Where are the Unicorn Shifters?

In the extensive and diverse catalogue of PNR and UF books, I have seen no sign of unicorn shifters. Unicorns are a key fantasy creature and have been for centuries. We find them in the mythology of various cultures, and they became a popular subject in art from paintings to the legendary Unicorn Tapestries.

Still… no Unicorn Shifter heroes or heroines. Should there be? Absolutely!

Equine Shifters DO Exist!

Unicorns are horses in every way and there IS precedent in mythology, specifically Celtic mythology, for horse shifters.

Meet… the Puca (also spelled Pooka). Now, if that fae creature sounds familiar, it may because you enjoy old movies. Back in 1950, Hollywood released a movie starring James Stewart called Harvey. For those who have not seen it, the basic premise is this middle-aged guy whose best friend is a six-foot tall rabbit that is a puca. The rabbit is not the most common form a puca takes, however. Usually, when a puca is not in human form, it is a black horse. So, equine shifters do exist and have for some time!

Unicorns Equal Fantasy Romance!

Nothing is more romantic than a unicorn. They are the epitome of magic and the importance of stability and balance in the world. Unicorns are portrayed as calm, stabilizing creatures whose existence maintains order, harming a unicorn results in chaos of some form, from corruption of individuals to the destruction of entire worlds. A fitting example of this balance was depicted in Ridley Scott’s epic fantasy Legend.

Unicorns also bring the romance element from their mythology. If you are familiar with their legends at all, you know that the unicorn’s “kryptonite” is a maiden, a beautiful virtuous woman who is usually enlisted or forced to lure the poor creature into the open and, too often, to its imprisonment and doom. But there is a positive, romantic element to this weakness. Nothing draws a reader in more than a strong, virile male lead who gets all squishy for his lady love, right? Hello, unicorn shifter!

Unicorns are Sexy!

Taking the romance angle even further, you can also argue that unicorns are naturally a very sensual and even sexual fantasy creature. They are drawn to beauty, to sensuality, to the mystical feminine. It is not only their doom, but their strength, for they are willing to do anything once bonded with that person.

Why Aren’t There Any Unicorn Shifters?

There are two reasons why we have not seen unicorn shifters take center stage in PNR and UF works.

One, unicorns have become very much associated with little girls and a soft, childlike kind of femininity that has stripped away much of their masculine allure. We do not see depictions of strong, mustang-like unicorns… we see lots of frilly, delicate ones.

Two, some of the subject matter with the old mythological depictions of unicorns is misinterpreted. The stories surrounding unicorns, again, often depict them as weak, and the women baiting them as manipulative and evil for trying to harm this creature. Nothing is more consistent with fantasy writing, however, then the adventure of taking old preconceptions and turning them on their ear.

To draw once again from Legend, in a world where so much darkness holds sway, it is time for a Unicorn Shifter story.

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