The Unicorn, another legend
World Unicorn Day is a special day celebrated every year on April 9th to celebrate fantasy and creativity. Quite a programme!
In mythology and folk tales, the unicorn is a legendary creature depicted as a white winged horse with a single horn on its forehead. The Unicorn in The Adventures of Tintin is quite different! A long hull, a high bow, a rounded stern and three masts on its deck... Mythical too, since it is the boat of Sir Francis Haddock, the captain's brave and illustrious ancestor.
Richly decorated with wood carvings, gilding and an iconic figurehead, the three-masted sailing ship designed by Hergé impresses with its realism. Indeed, The Unicorn was inspired by several historical ships. One of them was the vessel Le Brillant, built in 1690 by the designer and engineer Salicon. However, the figurehead of The Unicorn is certainly inspired by the English frigate The Unicorn, built in 1745. A figurehead is a figure at the bow, under the bowsprit of a ship. It often represents a mythical creature or a symbol of power. In this case, we obviously find our legendary horned creature. There are other theories about the inspiration for The Unicorn. Some people think that a picture of a sailing ship that appeared on the cover of a magazine published by the Belgian Ministry of the Navy in November 1936 could have inspired Hergé.
© Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2023
In addition to its visual importance, the ship The Unicorn is also at the centre of the story's mysteries and riddles. Although the story is not exclusively centred on the sea, The Unicorn is a key part of the plot, arousing the curiosity of Tintin and his friends throughout the adventure. It was on this ship that Sir Francis Haddock sailed, hiding the treasure that would become the object of all covetousness. So what happened to the ship? What happened to the treasure it was carrying? The leads and enigmas multiply for our young reporter.
First published in colour by Casterman in the autumn of 1943, The Secret of the Unicorn celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. And it is on this magical day that we choose to celebrate creativity and this anniversary by paying tribute to our mythical ship and this adventure which continues to captivate generations of readers with its thrilling plot and unforgettable characters.
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