The Last Unicorn is one of my favorite books.
The animated movie version came out when I was seven at the height of my unicorn/horse phase. I would have immediately read the book if any library in Omaha had carried it, or if I could have found it at any local bookstore. This was long before Amazon.com. I finally came across the book as a freshman in college. I was pleased to find, at age 18, that the book was deeper than the movie. Still a fairy tale, but with characters that I could appreciate as an adult, and it’s only in my thirties that I’ve truly begun to understand the cruelty of Schmendrick’s curse (he’ll never age…until he becomes a competent magician).
As a writer, The Lost Version is interesting. It presents Peter S. Beagle’s first go at the story. Not exactly a first draft, but a first start. There are characters and situations (even whole paragraphs) that ended up in the eventually published version, but much of it wasn’t retained. It’s a rare look at how a writer started writing a novel one way, realized that it wasn’t going work, chopped it to bits, and started again. Personally, I’d love to see the demons Azazel and Webster be given their own novel, though it would have to change and grow as much as the unicorn’s story kernel did.
Interesting note in a “me too” kind of way, Beagle writes:
No matter how snappy the dialogue, how darkly evocative the atmosphere, if you listen closely enough you can definitely make out the sound of tap-dancing. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so I was stalling, hiding in facility, using tricksy craft to cover lack of focus and uncertainty of direction.