[Image description: “The Unicorn is Found” or “The Unicorn at the Fountain”. The second tapestry in The Hunt of the Unicorn series, from circa 1495 -1505.
A tall ornamental fountain with lion-mask spigots is spilling water into a forest stream, where animals (a lion and lioness, a leopard, a weasel, a wolf, a stag, a pair of pheasants, a pair of goldfinches, and a pair of rabbits) have gathered to drink, while a pair of ducks swim past in the stream itself.
A unicorn is kneeling on the far side of the stream from the viewer, dipping the very tip of its horn into the water (a cure for all poisons), which makes the water safe to drink.
Behind the bushes surrounding the fountain are a dozen hunters with long pikes over their shoulders, along with their hunting dogs. They are talking and gesturing to each other, discussing exactly how to kill the unicorn, so they can bring it back to the king and queen.
The towers of the royal castle can be glimpsed in through the trees in the far distance (in the upper left corner of the tapestry). Description ends.]
When I was a tiny thing (maybe I was still in kindergarten/infant school) my parents took me to see the original Unicorn tapestries in the museum, and I got to see them ultra up close (like less than a couple feet away) -- and this one is nearly 12 and a half feet (3.78 meters) tall ... almost life sized (!).
Naturally, the experience made an impression. And the tapestry I posted here made the biggest impression of all: this is what “unicorn” means to me. Throughout the rest of my childhood, I was bitter and salty about all the “rainbow-sparkle/magic glitter” unicorns with Kewpie doll eyes that were absolutely everywhere (and well-meaning friends kept giving me, "’Cause she loves unicorns!”). ...And frankly, I still am.
Why I Wish This Tapestry Were the “Famous One”:
(Rant follows -- wherein I absolutely do spoil the story [plot wise] that these tapestries tell, and where I hope to spoil [popularity-wise] the most famous medieval tapestry of them all)
(The links behind the cut lead to The Metropolitan Museum of Art's online display of each of the Tapestries)( The story of 'The Hunt of The Unicorn' narrated -- warning: there is violence, gore, and more than one animal death )
Like I said at the beginning, “The Unicorn at the Fountain” is what “unicorn” means to me. Unicorns are wild and fierce -- able to kill you as easily as slice through butter (if they must, in self-defense). But the unicorn’s first impulse is to use their magic for the good of others -- to protect all the creatures of the forest, even though doing so makes them vulnerable to attack -- even though the powers of the State polluted the stream in the first place -- even though the powers of the State wanted to steal all that magic, and keep it for itself. Unicorns still take that risk.
With great power, comes great responsibility.
And then, with great responsibility, comes great kindness.
How is that not the most radical thing of all?