Unicorn Myth.

A Jpeg file that I have of the The Arabian Oryx or white Oryx (unfortunately I have not found the original negatives yet: I have about 20 in a folder that I have yet to scan and catalogue) this is from my files of  November 2010 when I was down in the Huquf.

The Unicorn myth: From that well know online encyclopædia.

The myth of the one-horned unicorn may be based on oryxes that have lost one horn. Aristotle and Pliny the Elder held that the oryx was the unicorn’s “prototype”. From certain angles, the oryx may seem to have one horn rather than two, and given that its horns are made from hollow bone that cannot be regrown, if an oryx were to lose one of its horns, for the rest of its life, it would have only one.

Another source for the concept may have originated from the translation of the Hebrew word re’em into Greek as μονόκερως, monokeros, in the Septuagint. In Psalm 22:21, the word karen, meaning horn, is written in singular. The Roman Catholic Vulgata and the Douay-Rheims Bible translated re’em as rhinoceros; other translations are names for a wild bull, wild oxen, buffalo, or gaur, but in some languages a word for unicorn is maintained. The Arabic translation alrim is the most correct choice etymologically, meaning ‘white oryx’.

4 thoughts on “Unicorn Myth.

  1. I searched for the Rumanian translation of the word in the Psalm.
    In the old Bucharest Bible of 1688, the word is translated as ”inorog” (=unicorn). In the Rumanian Orthodox Bible of 1988 it was replaced by ”taur” (=bull).
    In the Cornilescu version (used by the neo-Protestants) it is ”bivol” (=water buffalo).
    In the latest Orthodox version (translation by Valeriu Anania) it is again ”inorog” (unicorn).

    However, a biblical translation points to the spiritual meaning, not the etymological sense.

    1. Being rather cynical: The Unicorn seems to have had the same significance as religious relics; a lot of money could be made from them.
      A number of religious references seem to be, as you indicated; translation (errors ?) when writers interpreted the word from what they knew at the time. Some versions of the early King James Bible get in a mess with translating the Hebrew “re’em” but as you say, it being of allegorical significance, it didn’t really matter.

  2. In some medieval images, the unicorn’s horn looks spiral shaped, like some kind of screw, which might not be the case of the oryx horn; but it may be a narwhal tusk.

    1. Actually most Oryx I have seen; their horns are quite ribbed and can look screw like from a distance. But who knows what medieval minds thought, especially when looking at their maps.

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