Many magical creatures are introduced in the Harry Potter novels written by J.K. Rowling. A unicorn is one of the many magical beasts Harry Potter encounters while studying at the Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry. How are the unicorns in Harry Potter represented? What kind of magical powers do unicorns possess in this amazing fantasy book series?
Harry Potter’s First Encounter with a Unicorn
Harry Potter’s first encounter with a unicorn is a sad one. In the first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry follows a trail of silver-colored unicorn blood in the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid and Hermione. Then Harry finds a pure white dead unicorn and a cloaked figure drinking the unicorn’s blood.
The centaur Firenze explains to Harry, that killing a unicorn is a horrible crime. Drinking unicorn blood “will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death”. But a person who kills something as pure and innocent as a unicorn is condemned to live a cursed life.
The healing power of unicorn blood has been known for centuries. But only someone as evil as Voldemort would kill a unicorn to keep himself alive.
Unicorns on Care of Magical Creatures Classes
In the fourth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and his fellow students learn about unicorns in the care of magical creatures classes. The substitute teacher, Professor Grumbly-Plank, introduces the students to a snow-white unicorn. Professor Grumbly-Plank explains to the students, that unicorns prefer a woman’s touch. She asks the girls to approach the unicorn carefully and tells the boys to step back.
In another care of magical creatures class, Hagrid has returned to work and brought two unicorn foals. The unicorn foals are gold-colored. Hagrid explains to the class, that unicorns turn silver at the age of two, and grow their horns at four years old. Unicorns turn pure white when they are fully grown, at seven years old. According to Hagrid, baby unicorns are more trusting than fully grown unicorns, and they don’t mind boys as much.
The Precious Unicorn Hair in Harry Potter Novels
According to the unicorn myth, the unicorns’ mane and tail hair have magical properties. This is the case in the world of Harry Potter as well. In the Harry Potter novels, wizards and witches use unicorn hair in magic potions and as the core of magic wands. Each magic wand has a core of a potent magical substance, and one of those substances is unicorn hair. Every unicorn has unique magical powers, and so does every magic wand.
Before Harry Potter starts his first year in Hogwarts, he goes to purchase his magic wand at Ollivander’s. Harry Potter tries different wands, but it turns out a magic wand with unicorn hair is not the right for him. Harry ends up buying a wand with a phoenix feather inside.
In the sixth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Professor Slughorn notices unicorn hair in Hagrid’s cabin. Professor Slughorn gets excited because he sees an opportunity for financial profit.
Slughorn, however, did not seem to be listening; he was looking up at the ceiling, from which a number of brass pots hung, and also a long, silky skein of bright white hair.
´That’s never unicorn hair, Hagrid?´
´Oh yeah,´ said Hagrid indifferently. ´Gets pulled out of their tails, they catch it on branches an´ stuff in the Forest, yeh know…´
´But my dear chap, do you know how much that´s worth?´
´I use it fer bindin’ on bandages an’ stuff if a creature gets injured´, said Hagrid, shrugging. ´It’s dead useful… Very strong, see.´J.K Rowling: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
We can tell from what Hagrid says, that unicorn hair heals injuries and it’s also very strong. This is what unicorn myths have taught us for hundreds of years. However, according to unicorn mythology, unicorn hair has more powerful magic, if a unicorn has given it voluntarily. Apparently, Hagrid has found the unicorn hair accidentally in the Forbidden Forest, so we can assume it’s not as powerful as if a unicorn had given it to him.
Unicorns in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Unicorns are also introduced in J.K Rowling’s book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander. In this book, fantastic beasts are classified to 5 classes defined by the Ministry of Magic. The creatures classified in class X are merely boring, while creatures in class XXXXX are extremely dangerous. The beasts labeled with four X´s are dangerous and require special skills.
Unicorns are in class XXXX, but that doesn’t mean they are dangerous. Unicorns are classified in this group simply so that wizards would realize unicorns must be treated with respect.
According to the chapter on unicorns, unicorns are beautiful creatures that inhabit the forests of Northern Europe. It is mentioned that the unicorn horn, blood, mane, and tail hair have powerful magical properties.
In the footnote, it is added, that unicorns have gained lots of attention amongst the Muggles, and for a good reason! To better understand these magical beasts it helps to learn about where unicorns live. Muggles are also often surprised to find out what unicorns eat.