Building a Unicorn

Over the past year or so I’ve bought or been given unicorns by friends.


Just writing that statement makes me laugh because it sounds so ridiculous—or would have if you and I were talking on the phone and you did not see the above photos. It sounds like, “Yes, I own some unicorns. They’re parked out back.”

Lately, I’ve been crocheting a unicorn for a little girl’s unicorn-themed birthday party. The pattern was designed by ChiWei at OneDogWoof. You can find her blog here.

First, you crochet the head, then the ears, and the alicorn (what the horn was called way back when).

Next comes the body, which takes almost twice as long as the head, then the legs and hooves (both thankfully crocheted in one piece).


Lastly, you have to crochet the tail (made of multiple curlicues) and cut strands of yarn for the mane. I chose this yarn. A unicorn must have a rainbow tail and mane.


Once all of the pieces are crocheted, I have to build the unicorn—at least that’s what I think of the assembly process, which involves a lot of whip stitching to keep the pieces together.

It’s sort of like the process of writing a story with a unicorn as a character. Okay. I see that look. You’re thinking these processes are very different. But character building of any sort involves putting pieces together: characteristics of people you know, characteristics from your imagination; quirks of your character that affect relationships with other characters; dialects shaped by the setting; etc.

I have loved unicorns since I was a kid. I wrote a fairy tale about unicorns probably twenty years ago for my own amusement. But that was then and this is now. When I made the decision to include unicorns in a more recent novel, I did some research.

Maybe you wonder why I would bother. Aren’t unicorns pretty standard? Though they come from the mythology of many countries, they all seem to heal with the horn on their head and seem ethereal. Well, the thought of writing about a “typical” unicorn, one like cream floating on a breeze, offering a healing touch without saying or doing anything else, was not very inviting. I wanted to write about unicorns that had more personality.

I read books by Diana Peterfreund who has a killer unicorn series for young adults. Not killer in the slang sense of “That dress is killer,” but in the sense of “those unicorns kill people.” You can find details about it here.

I also read this series (photos below), which has more books than just the ones shown here. I love one snippy warrior unicorn character who demanded vows of service from people in exchange for assistance. So much for giving away free stuff like healing. I love a feisty unicorn.


Well, I’d better get back to getting the mane situated on this unicorn. It’s going to take awhile. (The unicorn might look small on the photo. But it is about 15 inches tall.)

What do you think of unicorns? Do you like to read stories about them? Are you indifferent to them? Please share your thoughts below.

Rampant book cover from Goodreads. Other photos by L. Marie.

Fairy Tales: Just for Kids?

When I was little, my dad used to read fairy tales to me at bedtime. He read from a picture book of fairy tales compiled by the Brothers Grimm. I never outgrew my love for them, though I wasn’t always quick to admit that love. In fact, on one of my bookshelves, you’ll find Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales. I also have books of Irish fairy tales, Russian fairy tales, and others.

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The other day, the Brain Pickings newsletter featured an article by Maria Popova on J. R. R. Tolkien’s discussion of fairy tales. Popova included many quotes from Tolkien’s essay, “On Fairy-Stories.” Maybe you’ve read that essay. I was interested, since I recently saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (awesome) and I basically love all things Tolkien.

This quote resonated with me:

Fairy-stories have in the modern lettered world been relegated to the “nursery,” as shabby or old-fashioned furniture is relegated to the play-room, primarily because the adults do not want it, and do not mind if it is misused. It is not the choice of the children which decides this. Children as a class—except in a common lack of experience they are not one—neither like fairy-stories more, nor understand them better than adults do; and no more than they like many other things. They are young and growing, and normally have keen appetites, so the fairy-stories as a rule go down well enough. But in fact only some children, and some adults, have any special taste for them; and when they have it, it is not exclusive, nor even necessarily dominant.

“Relegated to the nursery’”? True enough. Fairy tales are shelved in the children’s section of my library—hundreds of picture books. I’ve read many of them. But you can also find fairy tales in other places in the library. Many novels for teens and adults are fairy tale retellings. Case in point: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale; Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire; The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey; Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier.

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Wikipedia defines fairy tale thusly:

A fairy tale (pronounced /ˈfeəriˌteɪl/) is a type of short story that typically features European folkloric fantasy characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants, mermaids, or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends (which generally involve belief in the veracity of the events described) and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables.

By this definition, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy fall under the fairy tale category, though they’re clearly not “short stories.” The stories in One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, however, are folk tales, rather than fairy tales, though fairy tales fall under the folklore umbrella.

For me, fairy tales are the ultimate escapist fiction. (I never miss a Disney adaptation of a fairy tale either. And I’ve enjoyed those by other studios.) The novels I write are fairy tales, though I never thought about writing them until a friend challenged me almost ten years ago. The novel I wrote at the time was going nowhere. I felt totally stuck.

“You love fairy tales, right?” she asked.
“Um, yeah” was my astute answer.
“Have you ever thought about writing them?”

Boom. It’s like the sky opened up, horns played, and a choir sang. Epiphany! But as you can see, the first step was admitting that they were my drug of choice: “I am an adult who loves fairy tales.” (I’m sure there is a support group for this.) Seriously, for years I felt a little embarrassed running down to the children’s section and carrying away a stack of fairy tale picture books. I used to bring a big tote bag in which to hide them. Now I don’t care who knows. I’ll shout it to the hills: “I READ FAIRY TALES!!!!!”


So yes, I write fairy tales. And you might even find a fairy or two in them. Although I’m writing novels for teens, I hope adults will enjoy them too, after they admit, like I did, that they might possibly love fairy tales. As Tolkien said, they’re not just for kids.

Got a favorite fairy tale or maybe two? One of my favorites is “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Another is “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” What are some of yours?


Books covers from Goodreads. Fairy image from