Centered on the mythical creature with a single horn protruding from its head, the unicorn story traces a myth as unique as the animals that give it life. Artists know the narwhal for its unique association to the famous Unicorn Tapestries.
The tale of the unicorn began with the Greek physician Ctesias in the 8th century B.C. He told of a creature from India whose description inspired the image of a rhinoceros with a horn that had both magical and medicinal powers. This belief created a trade on rhinoceros horn for its qualities of healing and protecting the user from poisons. The Roman naturalist Aelian (ca. A.D. 170-ca. A.D. 235), first described the horn of the unicorn as a spiral which changed the perception of the fabled creature's protrusion from the rhinoceros horn to the narwhal tooth. Once the horn of the unicorn was described as a spiral, the rhinoceros horn was replaced by the narwhal tooth and newly sought for its medicinal and magical powers. The famous Unicorn Tapestries, six from the Lady and the Unicorn hanging at the Cluny Museum in Paris and seven from the Hunt of the Unicorn at the Cloisters Museum in New York, are among the most famous and well known works of art of all time. The Unicorn, and the narwhal tooth protruding from its head, continues as an endless source of fascination in modern culture.