The story also seems to be a metaphor of a woman's life. In the beginning, she is innocent and naive, like a child. As time passes, she asks questions and does not understand the answers she receives. The butterfly represents the gossip of others that is mostly incomprehensible to her. She decides that she must go on a journey to discover the others and in doing so, herself. She encounters men and women alike who seek to cage her and possess her and she must defend herself. Then she meets the Red Bull, an obvious representation of menstruation or menarch and thereafter she is no longer a girl, but a woman. She falls in love with a man and feels compelled to give herself over to him, forsaking herself. The release of the other unicorns, innocent girls, from the sea is a reference to child birth, as the woman becomes a mother. In the end, she feels regret for the loss of her innocence and childhood, but she revels in the innocence given to her daughters, who now fill the world.
The Last Unicorn is the last animated film in the Rankin/Bass catalog.
Producer, Arthur Rankin, said of this film, "We were looking for properties in the same genre as The Hobbit and found The Last Unicorn. Peter Beagle wrote the novel, and it's a cult book, kind of a hip Tolkien. This feature received our best critical acclaim."
The New York Times said, "The Last Unicorn is an unusual children's film in many respects, the chief one being that it is unusually good. This animated fable also features a cast that would do any live-action film proud, a visual style noticably different from that of other children's fare and a story filled with genuine sweetness and mystery."
Unicorns were particularily popular in the early 80's with young girls and this was the first time that a girl appeared as the main character in a Rankin/Bass production.
The unicorn's name is Almathea. Almathea was the name for the she-goat who nursed the baby Zeus. According to one version, he broke off one of her horns (leaving her a uni-horned goat) and the broken horn spilled forth a wealth of fruits and foods. This is the origin of Thanksgiving's "horn of plenty". This horn which spilled forth the bounty of food is connected to the idea of the unicorn's horn being a source of magical healing powers.