Font to Film: "The Last Unicorn"

When a book gets made into a movie, reviews are often mixed. You’ll find loyalists who hold tight to their favorite dog-eared copy and theatergoers who swear the film delivered in ways the printed page never could. Regardless of which camp comes out on top, Hollywood continues to look for the next best-seller or hidden gem to bring to the screen.

In these posts we’ll be looking at titles for which the Ventura County Library carries the book, the film, or both. Then we’ll offer a (spoiler free!) look at what people thought of each version when it was released.

The first title we’ll examine is The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle. Published in 1968, it is sometimes classified as a children’s book due to its subject matter, but many libraries include it in their adult fiction or fantasy collections, where it arguably belongs. The story has a broad appeal, has been widely translated, and is generally held up as an example of great fantasy literature. In it, the titular unicorn leaves the security of her forest to search for others like her when she hears that her kind is all but gone from the world. She gains some companions along the way who both direct the action of the plot and challenge the reader’s idea of what a fantasy novel ought to be. The book has a strong sense of self-awareness to it, and the characters even comment directly on their role in the quest and within the expectations of the genre.

An animated film version of The Last Unicorn was released in 1982, a star-studded affair (Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, Jeff Bridges, and Angela Lansbury are all featured) that presents itself a lot more like a straightforward fantasy story and is often marketed and classified as a children’s movie. The characters make fewer references to the fantasy tropes that surround them, and as a result some of the original story’s meta-commentary is lost. However, despite missing some of what makes the book unique, the movie manages to do a great job of being a compelling—if more conventional—story. It also boasts an impressive soundtrack performed by the folk rock band America!

Both the book and the film are available at E.P. Foster Library, and a graphic novel adaptation that came out in 2011 is also in the Ventura County Library system. If the item you’re after is not available at your local branch, hit the “Request Item” button to have a copy delivered for pickup to the branch of your choosing.

Brought to you by Ronald Martin.