Not Quite Narwhal


What does it all mean??

I feel like this book is supposed to be metaphorical for something, but I don't get what. Maybe adoption? At first it comes across as maybe being like LGBTQ, but it doesn't go in the right direction for that.

There's a unicorn named Kelp who it says "was born deep in the ocean." Kelp is born with some kind of bubble around his head that allows him to breathe underwater. But I guess if he's a unicorn and he's in a world with magic, then maybe it's magical? I don't know. He lives with narwhals, and he finds that he's different than them, but he doesn't really know why. Nobody really minds, though. They're still his friends. They love him.

Then he gets swept away by strong currents and ends up seeing a unicorn on land. He follows the unicorn, going on shore himself. I like how it isn't trivial for him to walk, since he's never done it before, but he learns quickly. He then finds a place where there are unicorns (he calls them "land narwhals"). They teach him about being a unicorn, and show him how to use the magic of his horn. They feed him unicorn food that he probably likes better than the food that the narwhals eat (it explicitly says he doesn't like the narwhal food) but he misses all his friends.

So he goes home, and hopes his friends will accept him now that he knows he's a unicorn. He's nervous about it, but when he tells everybody he's a unicorn, they basically say, 'Duh.' Then he's kind of torn between two worlds. But, deus ex machina, "maybe... he didn't have to choose." Because narwhals can come close to the shore, and the unicorns can come on the beach, and everybody can have fun together!

Really, are they gonna live perpetually like that, with the unicorns on the beach and the narwhals in the ocean next to the beach? It's kind of a sad truth, but you can't just hang out on the beach 24/7 and make all your friends of both kinds hang out on the beach with you. They're not going to abandon the lives that they had elsewhere just because you're a unicorn who grew up with narwhals. Like I said, this feels very metaphorical. It feels like it's trying to tell me something about what I should do in a certain situation, but I can't figure it out. Adoption makes a little bit of sense, like maybe he was a child of one race adopted by another, who doesn't realize until later, but it says he was born under the sea. And why would he like unicorn food better? And it's not LGBTQ, because it's not like he suddenly finds out that he likes unicorns, he IS a unicorn. Maybe it's supposed to be a metaphor for transgender people? But he's not a unicorn in a narwhal's body (or a narwhal in a unicorn's body), he's literally a unicorn. And they all know that he's a unicorn, but he doesn't realize until later.

I don't know what its message is. I am baffled by it. I mean, it's a cute story, but it's just bizarre. And it's not really applicable to the real world. That's the thing. With the whole "maybe he didn't have to choose" thing-- I really wish life was like that. It makes me think of "Grandfather's Journey' by Allen Say. His grandfather comes from Japan to the United States and falls in love with the country so he moves there, but feels homesick so he moves back to Japan, but then feels homesick for America. He just ends up torn between the two countries. It's not like he can make Japan and America be next to each other. It doesn't work that way. You just end up never really feeling at home in either world, because you're missing the other one. It's a poignant truth. And this book glosses over that like it's not even there.

It's got cute drawings. It's got a cute story. Everything about it is cute. But it's not realistic in the necessary ways. And it raises lots of questions for me. Why-- or how-- was the unicorn born underwater? (It shows him emerging from a shell. Is that how land unicorns are born?) Why did he have this magical weird helmet? Why doesn't he take it off when he's above-ground? Can he even breathe in the air?


Unicorns and narwhals are similar?

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Aubrey Thomason (not verified)

3 years 4 months ago

It’s a cute story. But I totally agree. Mostly we end up talking about fictional reasons why he would have been born in the bottom of the ocean( aliens, secret agent parents), why would his parents abandon him there. And we talk about how unfortunate it is that his friends know he’s a unicorn and never tell them. Your friends would probably like to know the truth sooner rather than later!