Unicorns in Java

Unicorns were sighted in Java by M. Paulus. His story was published in 1613 by Samuel Purchas’ in Purchas his pilgrimage.

Purchas his Pilgrimage Title Page
Title page of Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613)

Purchas his Pilgrimage covers information about the religion, geography, trade, ethnography, and biology of the known-world at the start of the seventeenth-century. The information primarily came from travel narratives written by various European travelers. Purchas tended to summarize and editorialize the works instead or reprinting entire travel narratives.

Purchas summarized the travel narrative of M. Paulus who traveled through present-day Philippines and Indonesia sometime before 1613. In his description of the kingdom of Basma on Java (now Indonesia), Paulus mentioned a type of Asian unicorn similar to the unicorns previously described in the Arabian Peninsula (see Of the Unicorns of the Temple of Mecca) and India (which typically followed the Greco-Roman tradition, see Ancient Authorities on the Unicorn).

Paulus’ Unicorns in Java

Below is Paulus’ description of unicorns in Java:

Purchas on the Asian Unicorn
Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613), 454.

Here were certaine Vnicornes, headed like a Swine, footed like an Elephant, with one horne on their forheads (with which they doe not hurt any, but to that end vse certaine prickles that grow on their tongues:) They delight also in the Myre like Swine.”

The Indonesian unicorn had one horn coming out of his pig-like head, the feet of an elephant, and would attack his enemies with his tongue. It also liked to lay in the mud like pigs.

Paulus may have described the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros. However, maybe unicorns were running around Java in the seventeenth century. One can hope.

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