Real Unicorns Don’t Poop Rainbows

Say “unicorn” and the image usually conjured is the epitome of delicacy and, well, girliness.

Hasbro and the irritating My Little Pony line are only partly responsible for this, but they certainly haven’t helped any: being horsy sorts of creatures, they’re in there, of course, along with pegasi, regular(ish) ponies and winged unicorns as well. It’s from here that we get the modern cliché of pooping out rainbows.

But look at almost any period European art and you’ll find its unicorns are gracile, impossibly slender beasts with long legs, spiral horns and blinding white coats. They symbolise innocence and purity, and they’re associated with virgins.

All this is largely informed by the narwhal tusks brought back by sailors and passed off as unicorn horn. Having a real bruiser of a creature with a horn like that just looks wrong.

Venture into Eastern Europe and Central Asia, though, and you may hear of a rather different single-horned beast. And this one sounds like a real creature.

The Russians call it Indrik, the Chinese qilin seems similar. It’s said to be huge, powerful, like an ox, a big bruiser of an animal. More like a rhinoceros than anything else.

As it should happen, there was an extinct rhinoceros species that might fit the bill: Elasmotherium. Native to Eurasia, it stood nearly as tall as a woolly mammoth at the shoulder, with what most scientists agree was a huge single horn, not on the tip of its nose like modern rhinoceros species but further up its face between its eyes.

It had long legs like a horse, too, and appears to have been adapted to a horselike galloping gait. African rhinoes can charge at 30mph; imagine something four times the mass with a horn almost as long as an adult man, bearing down on you on legs proportioned like those of a horse. What speeds would it be capable of, do you think?

Elasmotherium probably went extinct around the end of the last ice age, so humans definitely encountered it. And if it was going to hang on anywhere into recorded history, the wilds of north Asia is a fairly good bet for where it might, which would explain those Russian and Chinese (and Yakutian) stories.

Elasmotherium has been on my mind of late, as a story I’m writing features Central Asian Turco-Mongolian-type tribesmen riding around on them in a Russian-influenced steampunk universe. (“Why?” you ask? Because ice-age beasts are awesome, and steampunk is awesome, and Central Asia is somewhere I know a little bit about).

So anyway, I decided to build myself one.

My Little Pony this ain’t

I used a new technique for the lower legs, and I like the way it works even if the ankles are really too spindly. The thighs are suitably muscular.

The humped body form follows the French cave drawing believed to represent the creature (as the only known single-horned rhinocerotid in Europe at the time, it’s a reasonably safe bet), and the horn is up between the eyes where most scientists agree it should be.

Unfortunately even for an Elasmotherium it’s too monstrously huge to be minifig-scale, which is a pity but hardly unexpected. It’s not too far off, but it still manages to look too big against a minifigure.

I toyed with the various 1×1 tile eyes, but they all looked too cute and not fierce enough. Which again, was not unexpected. I went with trans neon orange studs to add a note of fire.

Anyway, here’s my real-life unicorn. Any mention of rainbows will result in the commentator being trampled in LEGO effigy.

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7 thoughts on “Real Unicorns Don’t Poop Rainbows

  1. Luke Skytrekker

    This. Is. Awesome.
    Never even heard of an Elasmotherium before, but it sure is amazing. Like a rhino-unicorn of death. So epic. Really excellent job building it, too. The thighs and back, and especially the head, are very well shaped.
    I feel like I’ve asked this before, but I don’t suppose there’s any place I can read this story, is there? Because you’ve already sold me on it. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. geoffhorswood Post author

      Thanks!
      Yeah, Elasmotherium’s an Old-World ice age creature. So much attention gets focused on the awesome mammoths and sabertooths and giant armadilloes and ground sloths of the Americas that a lot of the time the Eurasian fauna gets almost forgotten.
      As to the story, I’m thinking that when it’s closer to ready I’ll either create a blog for it or put it on Wattpad. So far I’ve chickened out of posting anything on Wattpad because the level of professionalism is scarily high.
      The story-world is an alternate Earth in which steampunk technology predominates and many of the Pleistocene (ice age) extinctions never happened. Combining several of my interests is making for a really fun mix.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Luke Skytrekker

        Oh, coolio. Be sure to let me know when it goes up somewhere, because I’d love to read it. It sounds epic.
        Wattpad is a bit intimidating. If it’s any comfort, from what I’ve heard, Wattpad does have a lot of spelling and grammatical errors and such, so I think the professionalism lies mostly in the presentation. Then again, that’s just hearsay, so I could be entirely wrong. I am hoping to put my story up on there, though, when and if it gets long enough.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. geoffhorswood Post author

        I’ve only read parts of a couple of stories on there so far, and I’ve spotted a couple of obvious typos but no egregious grammar errors. Yeah, it’s mostly the presentation that’s horribly intimidating – individual cover art and everything. How am I going to get appropriate cover art for something like “Wind Horse” (the story) on a level that can compete with these Wattpad people? It’s not like it’s Star Wars and I can just find a clipart of Darth Vader…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Luke Skytrekker

        Hm, I hadn’t thought about cover art myself. That’s going to prove tricky if I ever want to share my story on there, considering it involves planets the size of small elephants and flying boats. Not to mention talking snakes, flying professors, and giant spherical dungeon-planetoids made of shifting rooms. Doubt I could find clipart for that.
        I have been trying to get into digital painting, so that could come to my rescue, but I’m far from skilled with it. I would offer to draw you a cover, actually, but I really don’t know if I could churn out anything presentable. It might just be easier to make a blog, all things considered. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      4. geoffhorswood Post author

        I’m a halfway decent artist myself, but not on the calibre of most of the apparently original cover art I’ve seen. People are my downfall.
        I personally wouldn’t be satisfied with any cover art I could do for it.
        The cover art was what made Wattpad such a huge surprise. I was expecting something pretty minimalist or stock-imagey if it existed at all, but no. A lot of people seem to go really wild with it.
        It does make a story stand out and be attractive, which is harder to do with just a blurb. But Wattpad seems a pretty Darwinian environment where that’s concerned, and the results, while stunning, don’t exactly make a new writer feel like they can compete.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Luke Skytrekker

        Man, yeah, that is weird. It makes you wonder where they’re getting all their cover art.
        I just Googled, and it appears they’re either commissioning artists (assumably on DeviantArt) or just stealing cool images and photoediting them together.
        It’s sad they’re so professional, really, because I’d been kinda excited to utilize a site dedicated solely to storytelling. It seems like writing sites are either uber-professional or uber-laid-back-barebones-HTML. Doesn’t seem to be any that strike a middle ground, unfortunately.

        Liked by 1 person

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