Last night I watched the second half of The Last Unicorn, 25th anniversary edition. I HAD to buy it the moment I saw it on DVD, remembering how precious it was to me the first time I saw it. Like all cool geeks in the early 80's, we were playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (Second Edition) and were, as a group, mesmerized by the elegance and humor and beauty of Peter S. Beagle's tale. (By the way, he not only wrote the original work but also the screenplay. That's rare.)
It's a very romantic story, with the pure and untouched maiden-like unicorn being harshly contrasted with the darker world -a world that has lost the ability to see a "true immortal" like herself. They do not see her as she is, but only as a horse, a white mare.
Here's the breathtaking opening, sung by the group America:
In her quest to find if there are any other unicorns, she encounters a witch, a would-be magician, a Harpie (another "true immortal") a ragtag band of thieves who model themselves after Robin Hood, a damaged woman who's lost her youth with said band, a grim king and his heroic adopted son and lastly the demonic Red Bull, who is responsible for chasing all the other unicorns away. [Also included is a frivolous butterfly who's as A.D.D. as they come, a pirate cat and an undead skeleton guard who wants merely a drink of real wine. Of course he cannot taste it - but "he can remember!"]
Beagle writes from the heart about loss and it shows. Each character is unforgettable, and each rises from self-pity and anger to his destiny in just a few short scenes. It has a brisk pace. It has so many deeply true things in it, I have been looking for the spiritual meta-narrative to pull it together, as I have done so often in the past here. The one-to-one metaphor that reveals the truth as expressed in Christ.
It's not quite there in this case. All the ingredients are there, surely - there is an heroic death and resurrection and warfare against the demonic - but those don't quite fit together as they should.
It's as if Beagle wrote from his heart, utterly and shamelessly, but had no other goal than to speak of innocence lost and of damning corruption that is slowly taking over this world. How evil is nearly unstoppable and innocence is for the sheltered or ignorant.
In other words, it is a bit of abstract theodicy. A fantastic metaphor about how awful a world is without magic, since only magic can change people and give them hope. Like all fairy stories, it can help us see what we feel to be true. We can educate our minds after we have intuitively grasped a truth. How we process THAT truth though, varies from person to person, woundedness to woundedness, story to story.
I will tell you that I thought for a moment the unicorn could stand for the Church - the invisible and immortal bride of Christ whom He sacrificed Himself for. Her isolation and slow loss of identity as she becomes more like the world. If she refuses to give in, she will be attacked until she is run away. This isn't too bad an analogy, I guess, but that is not the heart of the film. Besides, the Hero is the immortal in Christendom, not the Beloved. Not yet, anyway.
No - the story is more about loss and learning to deal with loss and when to fight so we do not lose any more. It is more about realizing that there IS magic in the world - what C. S. Lewis would call the "Deep Magic" - and it is still at work, though we do not know it or cannot see it.
I saw a video last Sunday at Life Changers Church in south Barrington, IL. Reinhard Bonnke, a German-born evangelist of some fame, is at work bringing the continent of Africa to Jesus Christ.
"So what?" you may say. "We hear about evangelists all the time."
So do I. ;)
But he was having open air meetings with 1.4 million people coming to Christ. This number is from decision cards that have been filled out, so we do have an exact count, not just a wild guess. And even more impressive, it is those who are leaving the Muslim faith to embrace the hope that is in Jesus Christ.
This clip is from Lagos, Nigeria:
And that is merely one event. There were four others shown, each with numbers like 2.6 million, 3.1 million, 1.8 million. You can see the cameras on a crane do a slow reveal as they rise up over the crowds and you see, I kid you not, a veritable SEA of people, praising the name of Jesus.
I have met people who are 'burned out' of the ministry. I understand them.
But when you see this type of event, you realize that God is just working somewhere else. That a supernatural God is real and changing a continent even as you read my blog.
Sometimes we feel we are the last of our kind. That we are all alone. Elijah did and threw himself a nice pity party. So did Jonah, but for another reason.
The fact is, the magic of salvation is still there, "doing as it will" grabbing and transforming lives wherever there is faith.
I think that's what I learned from watching that video and The Last Unicorn this week.
On Friday, Jesus Christ was killed.
On Sunday, He rose from the dead.
That is Deep Magic indeed. World-changing, life-changing magic.
I hope you agree. I hope you want to see an innocent immortal change the world.
But first, you must see Him as He really is.