Who is mad ?
The fable "The Unicorn in the Garden" written
in 1939 by James Thurber (1894 1961) is about a woman who thinks her husband is
crazy, but later on she is the one who is thought to be mad. The man wakes his wife up
because he saw an unicorn in their garden. After telling him that he is a
"booby" the woman calls the police and the psychiatrist. When the police arrive
they ask the man whether the story about the unicorn is true. He answers that the unicorn
is a mythical beast. So the police and psychiatrist think that his wife is the one who is
crazy and take her away.
What is different about this fable that it is not as fables usually are
about animals. A fable is a traditional short story that teaches a moral lesson. But the
main characters in this fable are a man and a woman. Even though it is made obvious who is
crazy, I think it is the man because mad people are often intelligent and not responsible
for their actions. At the beginning the man behaves weirdly, but in the end he denies the
story his wife told the police.
The moral of the fable is: "Dont count your boobies until they are
hatched." This means that things you do which are bad for someone else, in the end
often turn out to be bad for yourself. I think there could be a better moral for this
story, for example:" Youve got to watch you dont fall into your own
trap." I think this moral expresses more clearly what the author actually wants to
The first time I read this fable I found it quite hard to understand who is the crazy
person in this story. At the beginning of the text it is not clear who is the mad one,
because it looks as if the man is crazy, but at the end one could think it is the woman. I
like the story, because the more I thought about this story the more interesting it was to
me. (M.S. , 11d, 2004)
Thurber criticizes the matter-of-fact world
This fable written by James Thurber is about a couple and their unexpected
"meeting" with the unicorn. Sitting in the house and having breakfast a man sees
a unicorn in his garden. He wants to wake up his wife, but she is angry about disturbing
her. After talking to the unicorn the man tries to wake her up again. She does not believe
him and he leaves the house. As she has not seen a unicorn in the garden she calls the
police and a psychiatrist in order to send her husband to a mental institution. In the
presence of the police and the the doctor the husband denies having seen a unicorn. So the
wife is taken to the mental institution.
First of all this story is a fable, but it has some fairy-tale features. The first and the
last sentence are typical sentences of fairy tales. Obviously it is a fable, because the
story has a moral at the end. We can find another hint: An animal that is able to speak.
So one can say that this story is a mixture of a fable and a fairy-tale. The moral can be
seen as a criticism of Thurber`s world. The unicorn stands for something fantastic shown
by the unicorn´s colors white and gold. The man and the woman stand for two different
opinions. On the one hand we have the man who is willing to accept the unicorn and the
fantasy world, on the other hand there is the woman who represents prejudice against
anything fantastic. She believes in institutions (police and psychiatrist). This can be
seen as the author`s moral intention.
This story is also a story of a bad marriage. This can be proved by looking at their
conversation. Although they speak about the same subject they do not understand each
other. The husband sees and feeds the unicorn and she thinks it is a "mythical
beast". The man refers to the unicorn as "he" and she says "it".
He wants to share his delight and emotions but she refuses. When she wants to send him to
a mental hospital he turns the case by quoting her in an ironical way. So in the end they
I like the story because Thurber criticizes the matter-of-fact world and shows in a
humorous way how one can leave his wife. (F.P., 11d, 2004)
the husband a drug-taker?
In the fable "The Unicorn in
the Garden" written by James Thurber there is a man who sees a unicorn in his garden.
He feeds it with lilies and goes to his wife to tell her about the appearance. But she
thinks he is crazy and offends him. Then he goes back, but the unicorn is away, so sits
among the roses and goes to sleep. After her husband has gone out of the house she phones
the police and the psychiatrist. In the house she tells them what her husband has told to
her. But they do not believe her and subdue her in a strait jacket, because they think she
is crazy. When the man comes back they ask him, whether he has told his wife something
about a unicorn in a garden. Because he denies they take her away and shut her up in an
Now I have three theses about that what the author wants to tell us. The first is that
women always have to be friendly to their
husbands, else they will tell them a crazy story, so they will end up in a booby-hatch.
The second is that if a man wants his wife to be taken away, he has to be a good liar,
because in the story the man knows the truth. Therefore he must have lied, either to his
wife or to the police when they asked him.
The last thesis is that drugs are bad things. People will see crazy things, but they will
not remember them.
Maybe the man never had a wife and the whole story is his dream. I think if the story has
any sense then it is too curious that I cannot understand it or it is a joke between James
Thurber and a friend. Else there is no sense. But after all I like the story, although it
is as crazy as the person it is telling about and although the moral does not suit it. The
story is funny, because who sleeps among roses after feeding a unicorn? And what a silly
person is a wife who phones the police because of her husband´s tale about a unicorn.
Whether it is a curious and crazy story or not, we have to think about and try to
understand it. (R.M.-Z., 11d, 2004)
Does the man plan to
make his wife crazy with his absurd story ?
fable "The Unicorn in the Garden" by James Thurber is about a man who tells his
wife that a unicorn is in the garden eating roses. The woman calls the police and a
psychiatrist to send him to a booby hatch but in the end the story is different.
One sunny morning a man sees a white unicorn with a golden horn eating roses in the
garden. Positively excited he goes upstairs to tell the woman. The woman being in a very
bad mood, barks at the man being a booby and sending him to a booby hatch. The man returns
to the garden but the unicorn has gone away. After the man has gone out, the woman calls
the police and a psychiatrist. She tells them the story of the unicorn but instead of
putting the man in a booby hatch they take the woman with them. The man who alleges to
know nothing about that lives happier than before.
Maybe the man in the story is a little bit crazy because of his story with the unicorn in
the garden. It is not normal to tell everyone about your appearances of this kind. On the
other hand he could be perfidious, because he wants to make his wife crazy with his absurd
story. Perhaps he can imagine what will happen if the woman some day believes his stories
and tells them somebody else. Possibly he tells her such kind of stories every day so that
she goes nutty. But the woman is very perfidious, too, because she is only waiting for a
chance to send the man to a booby hatch.
With his fable the author of "The Unicorn in the Garden" wants to make clear the
moral "Don´t count your boobies until they are hatched!". I think the man in
the story is very clever, because the woman is an unfriendly person with bad intentions
against the man. Therefore he can imagine how the woman will react to the story about the
unicorn. I think the moral fits the woman because she counts the booby (the man) before it
I like the story because of the cleverness and the black humour of the man. (V.N.,
The fable The Unicorn in the
Garden written by James Thurber is about a woman whose husband sees a unicorn in
their garden. After waking up his wife and telling her about the unicorn she coldly
explains that a unicorn is a mythical beast and calls him a booby. As soon as her husband
has left her alone, she calls the police and a psychiatrist but they think she is the
crazy one. When her husband comes into the house again, he tells the police that a unicorn
is a mythical beast. Now it is the wife who is taken away.
The Unicorn in the Garden by
James Thurber is not a typical fable. A typical fable is a short text about animals and
they are shown as human characters, who can speak and act and who represent different
human types. Moreover there is always a moral at the end of fables, which teaches a
lesson. In this fable you can also find a moral at the end of the text: "Dont
count your boobies until they are hatched." But the big difference is that humans,
not animals, are the protagonists in the story: A woman tries to get her husband into
trouble, but has to learn that she is mistaken (see moral).
The man is the cunning person in this fable and
not the woman. At the beginning of the fable he tells his wife that he can see a unicorn
in the garden. She does not seem to be as excited as her husband and reacts quite coldly
and bored. But as soon as she is alone she calls the police and a psychiatrist to set a
trap for her husband, as it is probably not the first time that he told her something like
that and maybe she does not like him any more. When her husband comes back into the house,
the police is still there and they think the woman is crazy. They ask him if it is right
that he told his wife he saw a unicorn. He gave the police the same answer as his wife had
given him: "The unicorn is a mythical beast." He probably knew that his wife
would call the police and he left the house so that she could do it. And when he came back
into the house, he saw that everything went according to his plan. Now his wife is in an
institution and he can live his life happily.
The relationship between the woman and the
man is not working. The woman has been waiting a long time for the moment to get rid of
her husband. And when he tells her the story about the unicorn it is the right time for
her and she calls the police and a psychiatrist as soon as she is alone. The man acts
similarly but his plan is better than his wifes plan. He knows that if he tells her
a story about a unicorn and leaves her alone for a couple of minutes she will call the
police. And he is right!
I like the fable The Unicorn in the
Garden by James Thurber, because when I started to read this story I was quite sure
that the man was the crazy one. But I was astonished how his wife reacted, for instance
that she called the police and a psychiatrist, although she seemed to love her husband.
But at the end of the story I was surprised to find out that the man was not crazy. It
seems as if he clearly knew how his wife would react when he told her about the unicorn.
It is fascinating how clever the man acted to get rid of his wife. (T.S., 11d,
The fable is full of lies and intrigues
The man is a good actor, because his wife
believes that he saw a unicorn in the morning. First she does not believe him that he saw
a unicorn, which ate roses and a lily. But later on she is not really sure if her
husbands story is true or not and because of that she calls the police and the
psychiatrist. I think he is a really good actor because his wife calls the police and the
psychiatrist because of the unicorn. This means that she believed him a little bit and
that she is worried about him.
He wants to be alone. The wife is getting on his nerves with her coldness
and her very unfriendly way to talk with him. The man wants to say something to his wife
and after he wakes her up, she opens one unfriendly eye, says something and
turns her back on him (line 4 in the fable). For a long time he has been so
annoyed with his wife that he is telling her this lie. Because of this lie about the
unicorn she is taken away by the police and shut up in an institution.
I think both, the man and the woman, are wicked because the man tells his
wife a lie to confuse her hoping that she calls the police. Later he can deny the
statement of his wife and if he is lucky she is shut up in an institution.The wife is very
wicked, because after her husband has told her something about the unicorn she calls the
police and the psychiatrist behind her husband´s back. Perhaps she hopes that her husband
will be taken away into a booby hatch and then she will be alone and will no longer have
problems with him ever again.
I think that the whole fable is full of lies and intrigues of the married couple. I have
the feeling that both, the man and the woman, are tired of their relationship and try to
get rid of their partner. Maybe it is better for both if they get a divorce. Surely lies
and intrigues are the wrong way! (S.B., 11d, 2004)
The fable is full of symbols and a warning to us
I think the wife is a very disagreeable person. Of course,
her first reaction is in some kind understandable, because it is no every-day situation
that someone tells you there is a unicorn in your garden. But I think she could have
trusted her husband after his second assurance, because she knows him very well and should
be able to trust him blindly. And if she is not able to do this she should at least not
call him a booby. In my opinion, this behaviour is also forgivable. What is no
longer forgivable is the fact that she seems to be so eager to get rid of her husband and
that she calls the police and the psychiatrist. But the man is also strange. His role
seems to be clear through the whole story. He saw the unicorn and his wife does not
believe him. He even tries to talk to the unicorn. So he seems to be simple-minded in some
kind. All the more his behaviour at the end of the fable is surprising. He refuses to
admit having ever told his wife about a unicorn in their garden. I think it is really
difficult to define for what kind of people the man stands in this fable because he is not
so stereotypical. His wife is much easier to put into a category. She is selfish and not
trustworthy. I think she stands for the mass of people in our world who are only anxious
for their own success and who forgot about sympathy and consideration.
Beside these persons symbols are very
important in this fable. The most important one is, of course, the unicorn. In the western
mythology this fantastic being is a symbol for chastity and the attribute of Mary. This
coincides with the other symbols, the flowers. The first flower the unicorn eats is a rose
and roses are also an attribute of Mary. They stand for the paradise, for discretion and
mysteries and for a clear mind (only red roses are a symbol of love and affection and in
the fable nothing is said about the colour of the roses). The lily with which the man fed
the unicorn is a symbol for faith, purity and innocence. And tulips as spring flowers
stand for life. All these meanings of the flowers and the unicorn fit so well together.
The whole image seems to stand for a wonderful scene that only the credulous man can see.
It is very important that the unicorn, the white unicorn, eats the white lily, maybe the
purest of all flowers, out of the mans hand. And if you take this into consideration
the behaviour of the man is no longer confusing. He wanted to share this moment of
perfection with his wife and she refused. After the unicorn was gone he could not mention
this experience to the police or the psychiatrist without spoiling its purity. And of
course, the rose is the flower of discretion.
I think this rather amusing fable about the
unicorn in the garden is a really good one, because it makes you think about it. After all
James Thurber wants to warn us not to be to selfish because we could miss wonderful times
and will only bring damage to ourselves. (K.B., 11d, Dec 2006)