Peter S. Beagle is a wonderful writer. I adore him. He is of course best known for writing The Last Unicorn, which was an incredible influence on me growing up—not just artistically, but morally and ethically. The central theme of The Last Unicorn is that (goodness, true love, healing, purity, whatever unicorns mean to you) is never completely lost, no matter how hopeless life may seem. So long as there is one person willing to face (fear, despair, oppression, whatever the Red Bull means to you), there is hope.
“Unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever.”
The Last Unicorn is Beagle’s best known work, but he is a prolific author and has a number of other books, too. My favorite is Tamsin, about a thirteen-year-old New Yorker whose mother marries a man living in a haunted Eighteenth century English manor house. It has one of the best, most poignant, most deeply endearing teenage girl protagonists I’ve ever read.
Which brings me to my point: Beagle, now in mid-seventies, should be enjoying a life of ease and semi-retirement. But he’s not. He’s been forced to sue his manager/publisher/publicist Connor Cochran for fraud and elder abuse.
I’m not going to list the charges, which can easily be found in the resources I’ll link below. I will note that Cochran has launched a countersuit and has done his best to spread vitriol about Beagle all over the internet: including via a social media presence with Beagle’s name on it.
Support Peter S. Beagle: The most important site. This one is run by Beagle and his legal team, and is to date Beagle’s only official presence on the internet.
Fans Against Fraud: This site has launched an in-depth expose of Cochran, including his dealings with fans and past legal issues similar to his case with Beagle.
The Sad, Strange Legal Battles of ‘Last Unicorn’ Author Peter S. Beagle: A piece from Vice, a good example of the more mainstream press picking up the story.
The Truth about Connor Cochran and Working on the Last Unicorn Tour: This one was written by a woman who has not only met Beagle and Cochran but volunteered to work at an event to promote the movie tour.
I have no time for speculating about whether the allegations are true, and even if I did my opinion wouldn’t matter. With each new development in the case I come away feeling a deep sense of helplessness. This case strikes at the heart of the way we should be treating our storytellers, and respecting our artists, and how deeply we’re failing them. Beagle has affected so many people in such a positive way. He does not deserve to have his good name dragged through the mud by the very people who are supposed to support and protect him. And there is essentially nothing I can do to help.
I’m reminded of an exchange from The Last Unicorn:
“Then what is magic for?” Prince Lír demanded wildly. “What use is wizardry if it cannot save a unicorn?” He gripped the magician’s shoulder hard, to keep from falling.
Schmedrick did not turn his head. With a touch of sad mockery in his voice, he said, “That’s what heroes are for.”
We are none of us as heroic as Lír. But we can at least use our voices to support Beagle. We can protect his art and his reputation. To that end, Fans Against Fraud have started the hashtag #TakeBacktheUnicorn.