The unicorn is
a legendary animal that has been described since antiquity as a horse-like
animal with a large, pointed, spiraling horn sticking out from its forehead. It
was usually described as a very wild forest creature, a symbol of purity,
grace, and independence, which could only be captured by a virgin. It was
believed in the old times that its horn had the power to turn poisoned water
drinkable and to heal sickness. According to the legend, there were many
unicorns inhabiting the earth centuries ago, but slowly, under the advance and
pressure of the human civilization, they disappeared.

In the
mountains of Southern Portugal, somewhere in the region of Alentejo, there is a
ravine called “Amo’s gorge.” I was there some time ago and heard from the
locals the story about the last unicorn called Amo. According to the story,
there were really two unicorns. Male Amo and female Ama, but nobody could tell
me what happened to Ama. Some believe that she is still somewhere around running
through forests and over the meadows. At least, that is what the legend says.

This is how the
story goes. Some three hundred years ago, there were two last unicorns left in
the world. Male called Amo and female called Ama. They really didn’t know each
other because they inhabited different lands, but they felt each other’s
existence. Often, they would dream of each other and felt some strange longing,
like they belonged together. But, life was going on and they lived their lives
separately never expecting that they would ever meet.

Ama was a young
unicorn, happy with her being, proud of her independence and freedom. She often
looked at other animals wondering why they allowed humans to tame them and use
them. She couldn’t understand them. She enjoyed every bit of nature that
surrounded her. She loved wild flowers, cold streams, deep and mysterious
woods, sounds of wind in the trees, and the music of birds. She could only feel
complete feeling the land, roaming over mountains and through valleys. She felt
the wholeness of creation. She knew that she was one of the most majestic
living creatures still around and she was proud of it.

Once in a
while, humans would see her running over lands and they admired her beauty and
grace. Of course, they wanted to catch her and tame her, but she would never
allow that. She enjoyed their admiration and liked to play with them. She
really enjoyed the attention they were giving her. So, sometimes, Ama would
even let some humans come close and touch her, manipulating their senses, just
so they could feel that she was real and not a dream. Then she would run away,
leaving them wondering what happened, and often, leaving them sad for the
missed opportunity to catch such a precious animal.

She wasn’t sure
what she felt about people, but she was sure that she never wanted to give up
her freedom and the wholeness and happiness that she felt running aimlessly
through the wilderness. It was who she was, and she didn’t want to change, not
for anything in the world.

On the other
side, in a completely other part of the world, lived Amo. He was a different
story. Like Ama, being a unicorn, he loved all the same things and was proud of
his independence and freedom.

He was quite
older than Ama, but still a very strong male unicorn. But being male, he always
had a need to prove his strength and superiority over other animals. He always
needed a recognition for who he was. Especially from humans.

Occasionally,
he would allow them to catch him and make them believe that they tamed him. For
a while he would work on their fields, pull their carriages, run in the horse
races, and do everything they asked from him, just to show his superiority and
strength and to enjoy admiration by humans. But then, he would get bored by it
and run away always leaving damage behind him. He would knock down barns, break
fences, run over crops he was working on, pull out vines, always wanting to
show to humans that he can’t be used, wanting them to pay for the belief that
he could be tamed. Then he would run free over lands until the next time he
would allow humans to catch him.

Over time the
word spread around among humans of Amo and many very angry humans were trying
to catch him and punish him for the damage he was always leaving behind him.
Some were even claiming that he was not a real unicorn, but just a wild horse
who deserved to be put down. For them, unicorns were gracious beings, who would
never have acted like him. Amo didn’t care about their opinion. He knew who he
was and continued running through life the same way.

After many
years, he got tired of the game he played and decided to settle somewhere where
nobody knew him, in different part of the world, so he could avoid humans
forever. He came to the mountains of Alentejo, not knowing that he moved to the
lands that Ama was inhabiting.

One morning, he
was standing on a high ridge, enjoying the warmth of the early morning sun,
when suddenly in the distance he saw Ama running over the fields. He couldn’t
believe his eyes. She was the most beautiful creature he ever saw. She was the
one from his dreams. His heart started pounding fast. She saw him too. Ama was
equally excited, but cautious. On one side, she was happy to see another
unicorn. He was a bit old, but still appeared strong and handsome. She was
asking herself if it were possible that he was the one whose existence she
sensed all her life. She wasn’t sure if she should come closer. She was always
afraid of being disappointed.

Amo ran to her
direction. He was running fast, trying to impress her and show his strength.
For a while, they were running parallel, but in the distance examining each
other. By each mile, Amo was coming closer and closer. Ama was still afraid,
but she was allowing him to shorten their distance. In the evening they came to
the same meadow. They were drinking water from the same spring carefully
observing each other.

Finally, Amo
came to Ama. She wasn’t moving. She just looked at him. They could hear each
other’s heart. He touched her. They laid
next to each other with their bodies touching. It was a glorious feeling for
both of them. A sense of completion. Of dreams come true.

In the morning,
they woke up and continued running and walking through the woods enjoying the
surroundings and more than anything, enjoying each other. Ama was really happy.
At last, a real unicorn was next to her, somebody that could understand her.
Somebody that would not try to tame her. Somebody to share in the joy of
freedom and of creation without limits and without conditions. Somebody of the
same kind. She couldn’t believe that it would ever have happened, but it seemed
that it was right here, in front of her eyes. She still had her doubts, being
all her life by herself, the only unicorn. But he was here, strong and true.

Amo was also
happy. He promised never to leave her side. He thought that he would always be
there for her, but Ama didn’t want him to be there for her, but with her. She
never felt that she needed any protection or help. She was strong enough and
wise enough to care for herself. She wanted to be with Amo as two equal
independent beings, respecting and enjoying each other’s freedom. She wanted to
share the greatness of her pure love, the experiences of nature. She wanted to
be enriched by the presence of the same soul, not restricted or slowed down by
it. She wanted to share the affection for the things they both cherished.

Well, Amo knew
what Ama wanted. He wanted the same thing, but the time he spent around humans
changed him a little. On one hand, he wanted to run with Ama to the end of
time, and enjoy their togetherness in the freedom of open fields, forests and
mountains. On the other hand, he also wanted to have a place that would be
their home. Somewhere, where they could settle and feel the warmth of their
togetherness.

The home that
he was thinking about was a human category. For unicorns, home was the whole of
universe. Space without boundaries. That was what Ama called home. Anyway, Amo
was persistent. He took her to the ridge he discovered. He wanted to make a
garden for her, full of different fruits and plants. She looked at him thinking
that he was playing a childish game. Why would unicorns ever want a small
garden to work in when the world was a huge garden ready to be explored.
Nevertheless, for a while, she enjoyed in planning, even helping him make the
garden.

Yes, she was
thinking, maybe once in a while, they could stop there and rest, but for her
settling somewhere was an impossible thing—something that she thought she would
never enjoy. Amo failed to realize that she wanted an equally independent and
free unicorn. Somebody that she can admire for his freedom. She wanted to give
him her love, but she didn’t want to sacrifice her liberty. It was not the
nature of unicorns. She would be unhappy forever and she didn’t want him to
sacrifice anything for their love and togetherness either.

Amo was of a
different mind. He thought if he settled down, and built a home, that she would
join him. Too many years spent with the humans had blurred his mind. He was
thinking like the humans. So, he sacrificed his freedom and settled on the
ridge. He wanted to show Ama that he would sacrifice anything for her love,
even the freedom of a unicorn. He was waiting for her patiently.

Ama would come
once in a while and spend time with Amo. She truly loved him and she hoped that
he would realize his true nature and continue to run around with her as
unicorns should, and forget those ideas of home.

But Amo was
persistent and kept remaining on the ridge. She was getting less and less
excited to go there. It was just a ridge, one of many in the mountains of
Alentejo. She was losing her patience with Amo. She couldn’t understand how a
true unicorn could act like a human. A true unicorn would never sacrifice his
freedom, not even for love. Freedom is a part of true love. For unicorns, love
was an unconditional category. She actually saw his sacrifice as a weakness,
something that made him lose her respect and not gain her love. She heard some
of the stories that humans were spreading around about Amo, and sometimes, she
was asking herself, What kind of unicorn would ever act like that? Maybe he is
really some wild horse pretending to be a unicorn. Is it possible that she made
a mistake about him? One day, she
couldn’t look at him like that anymore. He didn’t appear as the unicorn from
her dreams. She almost felt sorry for him. That was not Amo that she first
met—the fast and strong unicorn running with her shoulder to shoulder. She told
him she would not come back anymore to the ridge and that everything was a
mistake. And she left. She was disappointed and hurt, but she knew that nothing
would lower her spirits once she was back running over open fields and through
deep woods. It was the open air of the high mountains that made her feel alive.
For her, it was better if Amo remained as he was, just in her dreams.

Amo stayed on
the ridge feeling sorry for himself and for the lost love of Ama. He couldn’t
believe that she really left him. He neglected his garden and soon he had no
food left. He didn’t eat for days. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t want to
live. He didn’t care about anything anymore. All he was thinking was how he
needed Ama. Finally, he realized what a big mistake he made. All she wanted
from him was to be who he was, a true unicorn. He was angry with himself for
acting like a human. How could he be so stupid?

As he was
laying for days on the ridge, humans from the valley who were trying to find
him and punish him, noticed him there. They started advancing up the hill,
getting more and more eager to make him pay for his bad deeds. He looked at
them approaching. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to run or stay there and wait for
his destiny, but something inside him told him that he should jump and run.
That he should try to be a true unicorn. Maybe one day, it didn’t matter when,
Ama would meet him again. He will show her that he is the one: a true unicorn.
He was the unicorn from her dreams.

He stood up
slowly. He couldn’t go down the hill. Humans were closing in on his escape
route. The only way was to jump from the ridge to another ridge over the deep
ravine. He looked at the distance. He used to jump further than that before. He
would make it, he thought. Then he jumped. But his muscles were weak and his body
wasn’t what it used to be. Days spent laying down without food and water took
their toll on him. He didn’t make it to the next ridge. He fell into a deep
ravine and died there.

Humans came to
the edge of the ridge looking down at his motionless and bloody body. One of
them said, “Well, they were right. After all, he was not a unicorn, just a wild
horse who met his deserved destiny. A
real unicorn would jump this distance.”

Years later, at
the place he fell, a spring broke out from the rock with an abundance of
extremely pure and fresh water. Local people were talking about the magical
properties of the water that was healing many illnesses. Some local people
remembered that a unicorn fell and died there and connected those two things,
so they named the spring, “ Amo’s Spring” and they named the gorge, “Amo’s
Gorge.” Some say, it was just as he would want it. He always craved human
recognition. Now, he finally had it forever.

Once in a
while, people swore that they saw Ama coming down to the gorge to drink water
from Amo’s Spring. But those were only stories. People like fairytales.