Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Maiden, Hunter, Beast, by Kat Howard

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(Urban Fantasy) A virgin girl thinks she sees a unicorn--and a woman hunting it. (2,460 words; Time: 08m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 68, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The story appears to be a metaphor for how the modern world has changed our idea of women's place in society. For ages, a maiden trapped the unicorn, the hunter killed it, and then the hunter became the unicorn and the maiden became the hunter. One could easily read that as symbolizing the rigid roles that women once played (e.g. virgin, wife, grandmother).

The virgin breaks the cycle by protecting the unicorn and letting her die of natural causes. Modern woman is left running into a frightening new future.

Con: Except it doesn't quite work, does it? Young women don't trap their grandmothers, and modern woman fought for her freedom--it wasn't an accident.

Ignoring the symbolism, it's a very light-weight story.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 68)
Kat Howard Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. No idea if the author intended it this way, but for me the key is that the hunter is traditionally male. I saw the hunter representing 2nd-wave feminism and the maiden 3rd-wave.

    Of course, in Christian imagery the unicorn is shown as a symbol of Christ and the maiden is Mary. Maybe ending on the church steps is a nod to that part of unicorn "history" or something more? I'm also curious what to make of the unicorn eating 3 pomegranate seeds. "Not even a winter's worth."

  2. Well, I'd say the pomegranate seeds refer to the Persephone myth, where the food she ate while a captive in Hell condemned her to return there for a time every year, during which time we have winter--one month for each seed eaten. The number three appears a few times in the story, but it's hard to say there's any significant to it here.

  3. Yes, that's what I was curious about. "Not even a winter's worth" is clearly referring to Persephone's six seeds. So why three or half "a winter's worth?" Maybe just referencing the other threes and the pomegranates on the unicorn tapestries.