The Lady and the Unicorn
“This rendition of The Lady and the Unicorn is alive and relatable, reaching out to us from 500 years ago, and the reader will want to know more, they will want the story to continue, they will want to maintain a connection.”
Not to be confused with the bestselling The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, or The Lady and the Unicorn by Rumer Godden, or The Lady and the Unicorn: A Loveswept Classic Romance by Iris Johansen, or any of the handful of The Lady and the Unicorn fine art discussion books, this version of The Lady and the Unicorn is a picture book, albeit based on the same famous tapestries hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Cluny Museum in Paris.
Fontanel and Hié have made the medieval world of the tapestries come alive. Much like Andy does with all of his toys in the Toy Story movies, the characters here take on a life of their own. They come together to tell of a grand adventure complete with villains, maidens ,and happily-ever-after endings.
The story goes like this: A war-hungry Lord will stop at nothing as he pillages the forest in his quest for capturing a unicorn. The fairies, elves, goblins, animals, and other creatures try to enchant the forest and protect the unicorn. The enchantment is unsuccessful and terror ensues. The unicorn is able to evade the huntsman but not before a devastating deception and a harrowing escape.
The hunters destroy everything they touch, but the magic of the unicorn helps heal it all. This is great, but it drains the unicorn of his strength and being. The maidens have secured a harmony zone, which the unicorn just happens to come across, where he is safe to rest and revive. A glance in a magic mirror causes the unicorn to transform into a knight, and the knight and the maiden live in harmony forever, transferring peace to all the land. The End.
Although a few loose ends are left dangling (what becomes of the Lord of the Hunt and his fellow men?) and a few setups are left unexplained (why are the maidens behind a big red wall?), the story is sweet and fantastical, generating anger as well as relief. And, much like Andy and his toys, there is no need for any further story development in order to enjoy the magic, the drama, and the warm fuzzy feelings.
Hié does an admirable job carrying through the essence of the tapestry themes on every page, scene by scene. She has maintained the attitude and allure of the artistry embedded in the fabrics, the dye, and the movement of the 500-year-old pieces. The flowers and the animals in particular are so effective at conveying mood. She even uses similar depth, dimension, and design compositions to create thoughtful and effective action. Each page spread is filled with lush and rich images, just like the tapestry series. The artwork, basically, is lovely.
Given the list of other authors who have made use of this title and these very tapestries already, one might wonder if it is really worth adding yet another unicorn/tapestry title to the mix; it seems a risky bet. The concluding opinion here is, yes, it is. For two reasons. One, this is a children’s book, not an adult novel, and the artwork is, as already stated, delightful. Two, it is a clever and imaginative use of the tapestry as a genre.
This rendition of The Lady and the Unicorn is alive and relatable, reaching out to us from 500 years ago, and the reader will want to know more, they will want the story to continue, they will want to maintain a connection. So, yes, it’s worth repeating.