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What different uses does the unicorn have?

Other than the delicious taste of them coming off the grill.

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At Wit's End #221

  • 3
    Who asked for Unicorn Meat? – Xantec Jan 11 '12 at 18:22
  • @Xantec tragically out of stock. – Jack B Nimble Jan 11 '12 at 18:30
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    Its popular stuff – Xantec Jan 11 '12 at 18:30
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    Uni-corndogs. . . Breakfast of champions! ;) – Slytherincess Jan 11 '12 at 18:51
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    I had to leave this, from the HP Wikia (which presents an actually accurate page on unicorns): In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, Voldemort tries to sneak up on the unicorn with a knife and fork, but is scared off by Firenze who shows him his fist. Hagrid then proceeds to care for the sick unicorn like a child. Looks like you're not the only one firing up the grill! :P – Slytherincess Apr 18 '12 at 4:54
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According to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, unicorn horn, blood, and tail hairs have magical properties. Firenze explains to Harry the cost of slaying a unicorn: (I don't know if this means they will live half the amount of time they were meant to, or if it means they will exist in a unfulfilled, unrealised form.)

‘That is because it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn,’ said Firenze. ‘Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself and you will have but a half life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.’

Philosopher's Stone - Page 188 - British Hardcover

(Does this mean that the unicorn blood that Voldemort consumed in Philosopher's Stone affected his lifespan in any way? Perhaps it helped Harry to ultimately defeat Voldemort in some unknown way. . . ?)

Unicorn horns are silver and are used in potions (Harry notices them at the apothecary in Diagon Alley during his first visit there with Hagrid.)

As noted, the unicorn tail hair is used as a wandcore by Ollivander. Harry also mentions using unicorn tail hair as an ingredient in Potions lessons. ETA Unicorn blood is an ingredient in Voldemort's initial resurrection potion which allows him to return to the infant form that Wormtail carries around, that we see in the beginning of Goblet of Fire. I didn't mean to say that it was in the resurrection potion used in the graveyard in Little Hangleton. Unicorn blood was used for the initial potion (Goblet of Fire - Page 569, Brit version) along with Nagini's venom. Just wanted to clarify.

Strangely, Hagrid tells Harry:

Harry saw that Hagrid looked very worried.

‘Could a werewolf be killing the unicorns?’ Harry asked.

‘Not fast enough,’ said Hagrid. ‘It’s not easy ter catch a unicorn, they’re powerful magic creatures. I never knew one ter be hurt before.


Philosopher's Stone - Page 183 - British Hardcover

I wonder how Quirrell managed to even catch one unicorn, much less two. Yes, he has Voldemort inside him, but Voldemort is in a very weakened state and cannot perform magic independently yet. I digress.

Professor Grubbly-Plank in Goblet of Fire indicates that unicorns prefer a woman's touch to a man's, although I don't know to what purpose this serves. The unicorn apparently has numerous magical properties:

Professor Grubbly-Plank’s voice carried over to the boys; the girls were all clustered around the unicorn now, stroking it. [SNIP] Harry turned to stare unseeingly at the unicorn, whose many magical properties Professor Grubbly-Plank was now enumerating in a loud voice, so that the boys could hear too.

Goblet of Fire - Page 383 - British Hardcover

Hagrid uses unicorn tail hair to bind up bandages on injured creatures and mentions that unicorn tail hair is very strong (HBP - Page 455 - Brit). He collects stray hairs that he finds in the Forbidden Forest and keeps a bunch of them hanging from the rafter in his hut.

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Various bits of them can be used for magical purposes.

The tail hair can be used in wand making. For example, Ron’s first wand (formerly Charlie’s) was 12″ ash, with a unicorn hair at its core. I believe Olivander once said that they were a pain to get (presumably the unicorn has a kick like a horse), and that they were particularly good for charms work, but I can’t find or remember sources.

The horn has applications in potions making. In his first visit to Diagon Alley, Harry sees unicorn horn in the Apothecary, and I’m fairly sure it’s used at least once in his classes. (Found a reference: when Harry’s in the Forbidden Forest, he tells Firenze that “We’ve only used the horn and tail-hair in potions.”)

Most importantly, they were renowned for their healing powers. In his first year, Harry stumbles upon Voldemort!Quirrell drinking the blood of the unicorn in the Forbidden Forest. Although unicorn blood only gives you a cursed life, it still sustains your life. Better than nothing, and it allowed Voldemort to survive until he could obtain the Elixir of Life (or so he thought).

Some people think that the medicinal properties extend to the soul, as well as the body. This legend extends back to the ancient world. There was a Greek doctor, Ctesias, who was employed by the ruler of Persia in c.398 BCE. There’s a passage in his Indica, where he describes how it can be used as an antidote to poison:

There are in India certain wild asses which are as large as horses, and larger. Their bodies are white, their heads dark red, and their eyes dark blue. They have a horn on the forehead which is about a foot and a half in length. The dust filed from this horn is administered in a potion as a protection against deadly drugs. The base of this horn, for some two hands’-breadth above the brow, is pure white; the upper part is sharp and of a vivid crimson; and the remainder, or middle portion, is black. Those who drink out of these horns, made into drinking vessels, are not subject, they say, to convulsions or to the holy disease [epilepsy]. Indeed, they are immune even to poisons if, either before or after swallowing such, they drink wine, water, or anything else from these beakers.

The source is this page about Indian myths surrounding the unicorn: there are other sources, including Pliny and Aristotle. Quite interesting, and you can see where some of the modern stories about the unicorn spring from. Amusing comparison to the rhinoceros.

Finally, in accordance with the above passage, unicorn horn is cited as an ingredient in an Antidote to Common Poisons in Pottermore.


Edit. I’ve just reread the question description.

Other than the delicious taste of them coming off the grill.

Not to disappoint, but I’ve just noticed on the page about unicorns in India that Ctesias and Aelian both describe the flesh of a unicorn as very bitter, possibly making it inedible. You might not accept this as canon, but I think it’s safe to do so. JKR is drawing on lots of historical sources and stories, so why shouldn’t this bit be true in the HP universe? :-)

  • See my comment (on the question). It can't be all that bad. – Xantec Jan 11 '12 at 18:26
  • Neat find. However, I’m not sure whether to laugh and cry, now that I know it actually exists. – alexwlchan Jan 11 '12 at 18:35
  • Re: Pottermore, as not everyone has access to Pottermore because it's still in beta, do you have a screenshot or anything other than the HP Wiki that verifies unicorn horn is used in an antidote to common poisons? (It's me, not you -- I find the HP Wiki to be inconsistent in its information). Or if you didn't get the info off the Wiki, could you link to it, especially if there's a screenshot? :) – Slytherincess Jan 11 '12 at 19:10
  • Ok, first comment screwed up. Here it is again: I’m not on Pottermore either, alas :-( I first saw it on the HP Wiki, then verified it by googling the potion and finding this video walkthrough (potential game spoilers): youtu.be/eJMmngtEAfs. For those who don’t want to watch the video, here’s a hopefully non-spoilery screenshot: cl.ly/2A440A1E2p0d3E1x111x – alexwlchan Jan 11 '12 at 20:35
  • @AlexChan -- Thank you, that works perfectly for me. I do have a Pottermore account, but am too lazy to brew potions (besides, the ones I've tried to brew I suck at and have melted like 100 cauldrons >.< ) Interesting thing about HP unicorns is that they're born pure gold in colour and don't mature to their full brilliant silver colour until they're about seven years old. Apparently the foals are more trusting than the adults and will let males touch them. :) – Slytherincess Jan 12 '12 at 14:13
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The blood is used to extend life or heal wounds. Voldemort survives on Unicorn blood before the events of The Philosopher's Stone. At a terrible price.

The hair of unicorn is quite magically potent as it's used in the center of wands and and magical attire. I think Mary Cattermole's, Cedric Diggory's, Neville Longbottom's, Draco Malfoy's, Ron Weasley's first and second and Quirinus Quirrell's wand had a unicorn hair core.

Also a unicorn's horn is used in potion making.

But to obtain any of the parts of the animal, it would have to be given freely by the Unicorn, or be slain, or retrieved after the unicorn was dead. The latter two would probably be from some dark magic (or accident) as unicorns are pure animals, untainted by evil. So to slay one would be a crime against magic itself.

  • I can't find in canon where it says that seeing a unicorn is considered to be a good omen in Potterverse -- can you point me? :) – Slytherincess Jan 11 '12 at 19:03
  • I might be mixing stories lol. – OghmaOsiris Jan 11 '12 at 19:28
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  1. Various parts of the Unicorn - the horn and tail hair in particular - are used in potions and for the cores of wands, respectively.

  2. Also, the tail and mane hair and the horn can be used in various potions, as Harry tells Firenze after seeing Voldemort drink the unicorn blood in the Forbidden Forest.

  3. The tail hair can also be used as binding in bandages due to its incredible strength.[The Half Blood Prince]

  4. The blood of a Unicorn can be used to keep a person who is near death alive, but "you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips." [The Philosopher's Stone]

  5. The Unicorn's single straight horn is used, in runic, to symbolise the number one. [source]

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Their hair can be use to create Wands, and their blood can keep you alive no matter what ("at a terrible cost though, you'll be living a half life" :P).

I don't know if there are other uses for them...

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