Urban Legends and the 1990s: good vs evil



Despite its short run of just twenty-six episodes, "Kleo the Misfit Unicorn" leaves a lasting impression on children living in Canada during the late 1990s and early 2000s.


The French-Canadian children’s television series became popular with children under the age of five during its original run, back in 1998.


©Stanfield Productions




The premise of the series (created by Gordon Stanfield) draws from ancient legends, but how and why?


The following statement is taken from wikipedia.org:


The only winged unicorn in existence. This is the star of the show, sent from the unicorn home world of ZaZma on a special mission: to aid the departure of those who arrive in Misfitland, but don't really belong there. She's the misfits' leader, and she becomes more assured in her role. (wikipedia.org)



Well, Kleo is considered a “misfit” because she is a unicorn possessing wings. However, the nature of this situation is more than just aesthetic and visual. From a folkloric perspective, winged unicorns are believed to be a sign of “bad omen” or “bad things to come”-and even “the end of the world”. However, winged unicorns also represent goodness and peace. Throughout this article, I will touch on why civilization has believed this to be true over time.




Photo by Catalin Pop


The mythological creature often referred to as the unicorn was first mentioned around the fifth century B.C.E., and resembles that of a domestic horse with the exception of the singular horn exceeding from its forehead:



The unicorn appeared in early Mesopotamian artworks, and it also was referred to in the ancient myths of India and China. The earliest description in Greek literature of a single-horned (Greek monokerōs, Latin unicornis) animal was by the historian Ctesias (c. 400 BCE), who related that the Indian wild ass was the size of a horse, with a white body, purple head, and blue eyes, and on its forehead was a cubit-long horn coloured red at the pointed tip, black in the middle, and white at the base. (britanica.com)




Joen Patrick Caagbay took this photo in Hong Kong. In this photo, an anthropomorphic unicorn is playing a keyboard.


Although the previous statement provides the origin story of the unicorn within the realms of mythology, 1998’s "Kleo the Misfit Unicorn" draws from darker aspects of the unicorn legend.


Keeping that in mind, alternate versions of the unicorn legend deviate from its original form through variation. Moreover, this allows the legend to continue garnering the interest of civilization throughout the centuries that followed.



©Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare/ Typical Gamer


Although similar in appearance, the traditional unicorn and the Pegasus- or Alicorn are actually separate mythological creatures. Keeping that in mind, the concept of variation remains a significant part of the folkloristic world. Moreover, the titular “Kleo” is proven to be closely-related to the Alicorn instead.



©Turnipberry


Drawing from the issue of “misfits”, Kleo is considered a misfit because she deviates from the traditional depiction of the unicorn mythos. However, the depiction of Kleo provides its own legend narrative separate from what was previously mentioned from Britannica.



More specifically, the winged unicorn or “Alicorn” is considered a possible variant of the traditional unicorn legend. Keeping that in mind, the issue of the lack of certainty as to whether the winged unicorn is a true variant of the traditional depiction is what makes it folklore. Although the 1998 children’s television series does not portray Kleo as a “bad omen”, this idea comes from legends of the past: