unicorn of Persia, the fierce and ferocious karkadann, was a terrible beast
that could attack and kill even an elephant! The only thing that could
tame this savage animal was the ring dove; so soothing did the karkadann
find their gentle calls, that it would lie peacefully beneath a tree where
they were singing for hours on end.
type of antelope. Its greatest enemy was the elephant, which it often
fought, and it likewise did not hesitate to attack a rhinoceros.
Its call is generally described as a deep, powerful bellow that carried
for long distances. He was active
other animals couldn't even graze in the karkadann's territory, the ring
dove was actually allowed to perch on the beast's horn. The karkadann,
(Monoceros tyrannus) now generally believed to be extinct, was the largest
of all modern unicorns. It inhabited the grassy plains and deserts
of India and Persia, perhaps even extending to northeastern Africa, and
whenever it appeared it was greatly respected for its enormous strength
and ferocity. Most reports of its appearance are garbled and exaggerated,
for it was often confused with the rhinoceros. However, the karkadann
probably most closely resembled an oryx, which is a large and
the Unicorns called The Twins and the Karkadann.
year, and was usually found near sources of water. The Karkadann's
footprints and spoor was similar to the other unicorns but larger.
The body of the karkadann was as large as that of a rhinoceros, and it
had a tail like that of a lion. Each of itsfeet had two or even three
hooves, and from its forehead a black horn emerged, which was twisted in
the form of a spiral. Its voice was so loud and bellowing that when
the karkadann called, all the birds and other animals fled. When
it ran, the earth shook. Few animals were willing to stand up to such a
creature, and normally even elephants would flee at the sight of a karkadann.
Although it was very dangerous to come close to a Karkadann, sometimes
cooing like a ring dove might make him tame enough to approach.
Shepherd recounts another tale in The Right
morning very early, Shepherd writes, a young man left his home in the desert
of northern Arabia. He took with him a camel, a bow and arrow, and
a small sack of provisions. Only his twin brother knew his intentions,
and he was sworn to secrecy, for the young hunter was planning to kill
a karkadann, a vicious brute with one black horn protruding from its forehead.
The karkadann's voice was said to be
terrible that when it bellowed, the birds flew away. No wonder this
one - horned beast was feared by all living creatures and left thoroughly
alone unless one had a very good reasons for tracking it down. If
the young man's family knew of his plans to seek the creature, they would
surely have stopped him from going on such
The twin aimed his bow and arrow at the beast but did not shoot for fear
of hitting his brother. Instead he waited until evening and hid in
the tall grass. When morning came, he crept up on the animal as it
grazed, and with his dagger, stabbed the creature between the ribs.
It fell, screeching, blew out its breath, and died.
to seek the creature, they would surely have stopped him from going on
such a dangerous mission.
When the man had been gone for three, then four days, his brother at home
began to worry. Finally he too took a camel and set out across the
sands. After a while he came upon his brother's leather sack in a
puddle of dry brown blood. He fell to his knees, praying for help.
When he arose he saw on the horizon the karkadann. This time it had the
form of a graceful antelope whose single horn curved over its back.
And there across its back was draped the young hunter. The animal
tossed its head, trying to dislodge the man, but it could not, for it had
run its sharp horn through the man's thigh. Thus impaled, the hunter
lay in pain.
The second twin helped his wounded brother. He removed the horn and
bound his bleeding leg. They cut off the beast's horn and took it
with the rest of the carcass, back to their settlement. There, amidst
joyful shouts of greeting, the fat of the karkadann was rubbed on the grandfather's
aching knuckles and hips. He felt great relief. The meat of
the animal was used to get rid of the demons that had been haunting the
Aunt of the twins' sister. And the horn was made into a
flute to charm sheep and snakes. When not used to make enchanting
music the horn. served as a talisman [good - luck charm] against the bite
of the dreaded scorpion. This was a valuable animal indeed.
known as the Empty Quarter," an area lacking in food, water, and life.
To come upon any animal there was a rare event. The oryx, a graceful
antelope when seen from the side, it sometimes appears to have a
single horn. Could the Arabian karkadann, or unicorn, really
be an oryx?
believes the unicorn of fable was actually the oryx, an antelope native
to Arabia. The adventure tale could have been based on a real story.
Shepherd says, "The bedouin [desert dweller] considered that a man who
killed an oryx some of its virtues, which were those of courage, strength,
and endurance. By eating it he became imbued with those desirable
qualities." There were other reasons for killing the beast, however,
Shepherd says a properly cured skin would bring a high price in the market.
The oryx inhabited a part of