Here’s another little tidbit from The Name of the Rose (which I am still slowly, but faithfully, reading…what a great book). This scene takes place in the vast library at the monastery, which our heroes Brothers William and Adso (the narrator) are exploring without permission. They wander across a book containing information concerning unicorns in a room whose purpose is to store books containing only falsehood. I mention it here because just last week I remember chatting with some friends at life group (read here “small group,” “Bible study,” “church group,” etc., for those unfamiliar with the term) about the existence of unicorns and I thought they might appreciate this little excerpt from Umberto Eco (on the off chance they end up wandering about here). Without further ado, the excerpt:
“But why have they also put a book with the unicorn among the falsehoods?” I [Adso] asked.
“Obviously the founders of the library had strange ideas. They must have believed that this book which speaks of fantastic animals and beasts living in distant lands was part of the catalogue of falsehoods spread by the infidels….”
“But is the unicorn a falsehood? It’s the sweetest of animals and a noble symbol. It stands for Christ, and for chastity; it can be captured only by setting a virgin in the forest, so that the animal, catching her most chaste odor, will go and lay its head in her lap, offering itself as prey to the hunters’ snares.”
“So it is said, Adso. But many tend to believe that it’s a fable, an invention of the pagans.”
“What a disappointment,” I said. “I would have liked to encounter one, crossing a wood. Otherwise what’s the pleasure of crossing a wood?”
(Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose. Translated by William Weaver; New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983: 315).
I love the fact that it isn’t seeing the unicorn that gives Adso pleasure in crossing a wood, it is simply the hope of seeing one. Amen to that.