The Wandering Unicorn By Manuel Mujica Lainez

The Wandering Unicorn


The Wandering Unicorn (El unicornio) is a 1965 fantasy novel by the Argentine author Manuel Mujica Lainez based on the legend of Melusine. Set in medieval France and Palestine of the Crusades, Mujica Lainez’s novel is a mixture of fantasy and romance which is narrated from the perspective of the shapeshifting Melusine.

The novel opens with Melusine, a fairy, being cursed by her mother to transform into a serpent from the waist down every Saturday. Melusine is forced to leave him and their children, and she wanders the world for centuries, witnessing many of the major events of the Crusades.

For centuries, the medieval fairy Melusine has been depicted in prose and art. Many stories revolve around her husband’s fateful discovery that Melusine has the lower body of a serpent. In El unicornio—titled The Wandering Unicorn in a 1982 English-language translation by Mary Fitton—Argentinean writer Manuel Mujica Lainez expands Melusine’s story. Though contemporary readers might find its approach to Islam and depiction of Asian cultures to be dated, the novel contains vivid imagery and exhaustive world-building, deftly intertwining historical and magical threads. Its epic sweep, embrace of tragedy and final twist make it worthwhile for fans of Arthurian legends and other medieval tales.

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The novel ends with Melusine returning to Lusignan Castle, where she is reunited with her children. She tells them the story of her life, and they promise to keep her memory alive.

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