Something you’ll know about me if you follow me anywhere or have read any other blog entries is my deep, abiding love for Peter S. Beagle and all of his creations. Yes, he is best known for his beloved masterpiece The Last Unicorn (the same story that was made into an animated film and you probably saw as a child, not grasping its full, profound meaning). The Last Unicorn deserves every bit of praise it gets and more. It’s the most incredible story, full of wonder and love and great sorrow… and joy, despite, or because of, the sorrow. What many people don’t know is that Peter is an exceptionally prolific writer, having written more books and short stories than I can count (A Fine and Private Place is a very close second favorite to The Last Unicorn). And every single one is just as brilliant of a masterpiece as The Last Unicorn.
I actually don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the story of The Last Unicorn. As in the book, “there has never been a time without unicorns,” so there was never a time for me without The Last Unicorn. It came out the year before I was born and I grew up knowing it. My brother and I both loved it, and to this day can still quote nearly the entire thing by heart. We would make a game out of it, seeing how long we could volley the script back and forth. As I got a little older, I started reading the book, and each time I did, I discovered new levels, new depths, new nuances that I hadn’t been old enough to understand before. It’s a common misconception that Unicorn is a children’s story, simply because the movie made from it was animated. There’s nothing wrong with children reading or seeing the movie, but it is a story for grown-ups. You can’t fully appreciate the skillful, deft writing, the terrible tragedy, the glorious splendor, the tear-inducing sacrifice, the depth of the characters until you’ve experienced more of life yourself.
It doesn’t surprise me now that I look back and remember that the very first self portrait I ever took, far before I was a “photographer” or a “self portrait artist” was inspired by the book. The character of the unicorn, magically transformed unwillingly into a human girl for much of the book, taken from immortality into a body she feels dying all around her, resonated so deeply with me. I probably don’t have to draw you a very detailed map of how it relates to my experience of living in a shitty body possessed by ME. And yet the unicorn gains something which sets her apart from all the other unicorns in the world by her ordeal. She learns regret. She learns to love. She is made more full for all her suffering. It’s a hope I cling to for myself, sometimes harder than others, but one I return to again and again.
About two and a half years ago, Peter magically discovered some of my work which had been inspired by his writing (both The Last Unicorn and other stories) and his business manager, Connor Cochran, reached out to me. There is still much under wraps and it will all be revealed in time, but we began working together, which was more than a dream come true for me. Bless him, Peter is the antithesis of the saying “never meet your heroes.” Meeting Peter only me love him and his writing more. There truly are few more kind, generous and relentlessly creative people on earth. And he is this generous with everyone. At The Last Unicorn Screening Tour (which I HIGHLY recommend you attend!!) he will stay until EVERY SINGLE PERSON who would like to meet him, hug him, have him sign their book or take a photo with him is seen. Despite the often very long lines, he doesn’t make you feel rushed, he takes his time and lets you say whatever you need to say. In the moment you’re with him, you are the only person in the entire world and you have his full attention. This does mean the screenings often end in the wee hours of night, and I don’t know how they all do it, those hours would kill me, but it’s just who Peter is.
A little while after I had signed my contract with Conlan Press, Peter’s publishing house run by Connor, I gathered up my nerve and asked Connor if I could borrow Peter and photograph him as DreamWorld‘s King when they were in town for the next screening. To my joy, Connor gave me the go-ahead. This led to a nightmarish few weeks when I frantically created Peter’s incredibly elaborate costume made almost entirely out of paper (fully documented here) but the results were worth every tearful, over-tired night I had getting ready for it. No one could be DreamWorld‘s King better than Peter.
Why am I telling you all this? Just to illustrate what an incredibly special and remarkable person Peter truly is, and how wonderful Connor and everyone at Conlan are. They put their all into every single screening. They are genuinely all wonderful people, and Peter is everything you would hope he would be and more. I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended two of them; the first time was the same day that I photographed Peter so I had no energy for dressing up myself for the show, but the second time I went as Amalthea, as seen below (which won the costume contest that night, probably because of my handmade Have A Taco Purse, which I can make for you too!). Seeing the movie in a theater never fails to bring tears to my eyes.]
Which, in my rambling, round-about way, leads to the main thrust of this post. The tour had planned on traveling to multiple countries in Europe this year, and while the movie will still be shown and everyone will still have a fabulous time, Peter will be unable to attend due to a non-threatening health issue. Peter is ok, there’s nothing to worry about, but still… even non-threatening health issues suck. Peter hopes to be back on the road soon, but I thought that it might cheer him up if we all rallied and showed him some love. What do you say? For our beloved author who writes the stories which make us weep simultaneously from sorrow and joy? He has given SO MUCH to the world, let’s try and give even a fraction of it back to him!
What do I mean by that? Well, feel free to leave a comment here on the blog. I’ll send them on to Connor who can forward them to Peter. Feel free to leave kind words of encouragement on his Facebook page or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m sure he will really appreciate everyone’s show of support!
And let’s face it; we owe him. For decades of wonder, joy and poignant insight. For holding up mirrors full of fantasy which still reflect ourselves back and help us make new discoveries. For every brilliant word typed, every tear shed and every heart which grew in size because of his writing. For showing us what heroes are for. For bringing us unicorns.
Get well soon, Peter. We all love you 🙂