I am a the author of close to 200 novels, stories and screenplays, including The Last Unicorn, I See By My Outfit, the screenplay for The Lord of the Rings (1978) and the short story “The Bridge Partner,” which is my first foray into the mystery/suspense genre.

“The Bridge Partner” will become the second original work of mine to be adapted for the screen, and the filmmakers are currently raising funds via a Kickstarter campaign: http://www.thebridgepartner.com

For fans of The Last Unicorn, I am currently hosting a tour of screenings of the film adaptation: http://www.lastunicorntour.com

Ask me anything.


Thanks, everyone -- I'm afraid I've got to take off now - there's dinner to cook and Canada to prepare for. Thank you for all the interest you've shown in my work - for the originality of your questions - and for your expressed gratitude. I am at least equally grateful fo you.

Comments: 113 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

Princesszelda2444 karma

Mr. Beagle, thank you for making my childhood delightful and full of magic by allowing the release of The Last Unicorn as a movie in 1982. It Is hands down my favorite animated film and was written and animated so beautifully. I now have a DVD copy which I cherish. It still holds up after all these years. Now to my question:

I saw there is a live action adaptation that you are doing in Canada. I see the website states that through 2016 there will be screenings via movie theater available to the USA. Do you have future plans to bring the live action performance to the states?

Good luck to you in this endeavor. I hope a new generation of fans is born into this mystical world.

If you have time for an additional question: how was it that you fell in love with the unicorn? Thanks in advance!

petersbeagle18 karma

The live-action Last Unicorn is a long way from being a done deal, though I firmly believe that it will happen. What's happening in Canada is a movie theater tour in which we show a beautiful digital print of the 1982 animated film. That has been touring the States as well, and will continue to do so (see www,lastunicorntour.com for details). As for a live action version, I can't give you dates, names, locations, or anything along that line. We've had many inquiries as to its eventual availability, but until the live action rights return next year, there's really nothing more I can say about the prospect at the moment.

WhimbreI13 karma

Congratulations on The Bridge Partner film getting funded! It's one of my favorites of your short stories, in large part because of the wonderful supporting characters, Pat & Babs. Is there any chance the two of them might find their way into future stories, the way some of your Folk of the Air and Innkeeper's World characters have already done?

petersbeagle13 karma

Thank you! I'm very fond of Pat and Babs, who are based very loosely on people I knew in Seattle long ago. I don't have any particular plans for them to recur in other stories...but then I didn't have any plans to return to the Innkeeper's World, either - so, in the immortal words of Fats Waller, "one never know, do one?"

slats_grobnik10 karma


petersbeagle16 karma

That's still under negotiation, but it's a good bet that all my books will be available as e-books by the end of the year.

joelschlosberg4 karma

What's the difference between "the original text-only version of The Last Unicorn" and the version of the novel included in the Deluxe Edition? The latter was at one point available for a limited time in both Kindle and PDF formats as part of the second Humble eBook Bundle (which I was fortunate to know about and get at that time).

petersbeagle6 karma

The deluxe edition contains the sequel/coda story "Two Hearts," as well as a long interview with me, and a couple of extra introductions.

ketchup_packet7 karma

Have you used a lot of psychedelic drugs?

petersbeagle18 karma

No, not at all - unless you count the time at Stanford, more than fifty years ago, when Ken Kesey gave my Kentucky buddy Gurney Norman and me capsules of psilocybin and sent us off to have INSIGHTS. I cant speak for Gurney, but my only drug=fueled INSIGHT was that you had to be very careful how you picked your nose - because you might unravel yourself. In the morning, I figured that I could probably have come up with that one unaided by psychedelia.

OneFootInSea7 karma

Hello, Mr. Beagle! Thank you for taking the time to do this, and for writing so many of my favorite books. I have three questions:

  1. Fan question: Are there any plans for more Joe Farrell or Schmendrick stories? I've always loved Farrell's voice, and "The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon" is arguably my favorite of your straight-up fantasy tales. I was intrigued to read that it was one of three stories you know about Schmendrick's early life ... so will we ever get to see the other two?

  2. Music question: Where's the best place to hear/buy recordings of your songs? I would love to hear more of your poems set to music.

  3. Writing question, which I ask all writers--how do you know when a story is really cooking, and how do you know when it's ready to be released?

petersbeagle20 karma

Okay - first question. There will be a book - I hope this year - called GREEN-EYED BOY, which will deal with everything I know about Schmendrick's life before the events detailed in THE LAST UNICORN. As for my old fictional alter-ego Joe Farrell, there are bound to be more stories featuring him and Julie Tanikawa. For me, that's like visiting with old friends.

Second question - there are only a very few live recordings and/or You Tube clips of me performing my own songs. But other people are gradually setting the lyrics found in "The 52-50 Project" to music, so etentually a release is bound to happen. I believe firmly, with Hilaire Belloc, that "it is the best trade in the world to make songs, and the second-best to sing them."

As for the third question, I almost never know when a story's actually done as well as I can possibly do it. Connor Cochran usually has to tell me, or to nag me into trying one more draft. You never get it perfectly right, anyway: it may be a cliche to say that "stories are never finished, only abandoned," but for me that's been true enough.

Fayexsi7 karma

I will be working towards a degree in fine arts this fall. As a writer, what makes for a good collaboration with other artists? What doesn't? Thank you for taking the time, I love your work!

petersbeagle9 karma

In my limited experience of collaboration - such as writing an opera libretto for the music of the composer David Carlson - a meshing both of ideas and of personalities. David and I, for instance, are very different people, and we argued a lot over this or that turn ot the story, or simply of an aria or a quartet, but I can't recall any profound disagreement between us, or a single cross word. We were after the same goal in our individual ways, and in that sense we were never for a moment at cross-purposes. I lucked out with him, no question - I've known a lot of other people who told me horror stories about composers, directors and divas when they worked on an opera.


Thanks for the AMA. The Last Unicorn was a big part of my childhood. How did "America" doing the soundtrack come about?

petersbeagle17 karma

I had no part in that choice - and at the time, I would have been utterly infuriated! My daughters had been playing that incredibly stupif "A Horse With No NAme" around the house all one summer, until hell wouldn't have it, and I could be roused to murderous fury by a single quote from that lyric. As it happened, America did a perfectly beautiful job on those Jimmy Webb songs, and I'd love to meet them and congratulate them on that soundtrack.

joelschlosberg7 karma

Ever since reading it as a teenager in the 1990s, I have been deeply moved by your introduction to the Lord of the Rings, with its expression in so few words of the alienation from the culture of midcentury industrialism. Since then, whatever technological necessity such a system ever had has become steadily obsolete, yet across the political spectrum any move away from the mass industrial model is viewed as a problem to be solved by tinkering or greenwashing within it. Do you think we have a better prospect today of finally moving beyond “the Fifties’ foul harvest” in real life?

petersbeagle10 karma

I used to see a ubiquitous bumper sticker that read "Don't Follow Me - I'm Lost, Too!" There are days when I despair of human beings really digging out of the various tarpits we've so painstakingly dug for ourselves...and then there are times when I think, "Well - on the other hand..." Depends on the day, the daily news, and sometimes a moment of pure joy and hope that usually has nothing to do with the daily news.

Cameron746 karma


petersbeagle8 karma

I never knew the full story - nobody ever tells the writer anything. The film just didn't make enough money, I guess.

Stoooooooo6 karma

I have always been a fan! Thanks for doing this AMA!

What writers inspired you and your style of writing?

petersbeagle7 karma

As a boy, already knowing that I wanted to be a writer, I usually had a different crush every week - or even less. I can remember reading William Saroyan's story "The Pomegranate Trees" to my patient family at dinner, telling them, "This is how I want to write!" I must have been about 12 at the time. The Saroyan crush has long faded, but my old favorites and influences - T. H. White, Lord Dunsany, James Stephens, Robert Nathan, and the James Thurber of THE THIRTEEN CLOCKS and THE WHITE DEER still remain my beloved literary stuffed animals...and still on my bedside, so to speak.

housedog16 karma

hi Peter. I am living in Europe and I have to say that you are my favorite author. I follow with envy all the tour updates and would love to meet you at a convention. Since I have a family it would be unreasonable to make such a big trip and I wonder if you have any plans to visit Europe?

I would also like to know what books shaped and inspired you?

petersbeagle5 karma

I hope very much to tour in Europe - especially in Spain, where I haven't been since 1960, when I was very young, and Franco was still running things. And of course we're doing to be in the U.K., and in Germany. My German translator is an old friend from when I was writing THE LAST UNICORN in Santa Cruz, California, and I don't get much chance to hang out with him, unless I'm invited to a convention in Germany. As for the books - authors, really - inspired me, I always mention T. H. White, Lord Dunsany, James Stephens, my old mentor Robert Nathan, and the James Thurber fairytales, THE WHITE DEER and THE THIRTEEN CLOCKS.

willardwonka6 karma

Hello Mr. Beagle! As an aspiring writer-professor, I first wanted to thank you for writing "The Last Unicorn". It's one of my favorite novels and has had a profound influence on both my style and my storytelling. I have a few questions for you:

  1. Where did most of your inspiration for the story and characters "A Fine and Private Place" come from, life experience or stories heard from people you've met?

  2. Your adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" was the first to make it to the screen, a commendable feat. How difficult of a task was it for you to adapt the story? If you could go back and do it again, would you change anything?

  3. Advice: I've had a brilliant idea for a character since eighth grade, a creature who's an eccentric but insecure wanderer and magician. He, much like myself, isn't for certain where he must go with his life or what to use his talents for. Sadly, I too have no clue what story this quirky man was meant for, and I have struggled to give him one since. Should I keep him in focus or should I shelf him and give him life another time?

petersbeagle6 karma

  1. A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE comes very much out of the voices and people of the Bronx neighborhood in which I grew up. Including the fact that that growing-up took place less than two blocks from Woodlawn Cemetery, which is about half the size of Central Park, and contains such illustrious citizens as Herman Melville, Babe Ruth, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and any number of famous poets and gangsters.

  2. I wrote that bloody script something like eight times, for a consultant's fee, and while I did get to work with John Hurt, one of my favorite actors, my best memory is of a wonderful actor - and very nice man - named Peter Woodthorpe, who voiced the Definitive Gollum, unmatched since. If I could go back, it would be to make damn sure I got paid properly for my work - and to have lunch with Peter in London again. That would be a good thing.

  3. Just keep him available in your mind, and handy to your developing skills. He'll show up when he - and you - are ready, just as Joe Farrell has done for me over the years.

filmguy10135 karma

Mr. Beagle, thank you for doing this AMA. I am a very big fan of your work. I see "The Bridge Partner" is only the second work of yours to be adapted to the screen. Can you explain what it is like to have something you've written turned into a film (such as The Last Unicorn and now The Bridge Partner)?

petersbeagle6 karma

In my very limited experience, it's pretty much a distant business - the screenwriters/directors may really want the writer's approval, but they're pretty much going to make the film according to their own lights, their own dreams. I'm just grateful that The Last Unicorn was filmed pretty much the way I wrote the script. That puts me ahead of a whole lot of writers who've had their work adapted and didn't recognize it at all. I know all the stories! But I'm quite excited to see what Gabe and Sean do with "The Bridge Partner"!

AuroraLux5 karma

Hello! The Last Unicorn was my favorite movie as a small child, I must have watched it a million times! Thank you for doing this.

Looking back at it, The Last Unicorn is actually pretty scary - the creepy king guy, the crazy skeleton clock, and the old harpy witch. Does it seem to you that it's a lot more scary than children's films nowadays? Did you ever get any push back to make it less scary?

petersbeagle10 karma

There's undoubtedly a darkness in even my most beloved work that I don't usually see myself. I'm often startled when people mention it to me - thoueh I will admit that many fans tell me that as children they were always terrified by the Red Bull and the Harpy, not to mention Rene Auberjonois' magnificently loony skeleton. Yet they always came back to the movie again and again. No, there was never any attempt on the part of the producers to make the story less frightening. Me, I was so scared by the classic film "The Night of the Hunter" that I didn't watch it again for more than forty years. Speaking entirely personally, monsters never scare me. People do.

gunslinger_0065 karma

When I was about four (born 1979) I watched The Last Unicorn on VHS.

It was my first VHS tape ever, and I BAWLED MY EYES OUT for hours after it ended.

It remains one of my most vivid childhood memories, thank you for that.


petersbeagle5 karma

Thank you for your words! I never take tears for granted...

WhimbreI4 karma

Music seems to play as important a role as magic in your writing -- I was wondering what musicians are you listening to these days? Any recommendations?

petersbeagle6 karma

Growing up I listened to everything from classical music (I was taken to see Andres Segovia when I was nine) to Delta blues, with a lot of Broadway musicals and the whole spectrum of jazz in between. I think often in terms of music when I'm working; my old staples and companions - inspirations, if you like - are Bach, Lester Young, Django Reinhardt, and the great French poet/songwriter Georges Brassens.

WhimbreI4 karma

A general question first: how do you come up with your characters' names? Does the name generally come to you before the personality, or the other way around?

And a very specific question I've been wondering for the better part of fifteen years: how do you pronounce Nyateneri?

petersbeagle9 karma

Depending on the world I'm working in, I mostly wander around in circles, talking to myself, until something sounds right. I don't know how to describe "sounding right" - it's just something that eventually clicks into place, after much mumbling and cursing.

Oh - Nyateneri? The accent is on the first and fourth syllables. NI-a-tuh-NAIR-ee.

cowboyjohnsontime4 karma

When you adapt something with such a huge following like Lord of The Rings, how do you make sure to capture the tone or mood of the source material, is it a clinical method where you break the material up and rebuild it from scratch or do you subtract from the source material whatever can be deleted? Or is it some other way entirely?

petersbeagle5 karma

Well, it varies a good deal. What's on the screen in the Bakshi LOTR is pretty much Tolkien and me - mostly Tolkien, except where I had to condense miles of historical backstory. On the other hand, adapting a novel called THE GREATEST THING THAT ALMOST HAPPENED for a TV movie (starring James Earl Jones and Debbie Allen), I stuck close to the original family story, except for rewriting the father - Jones's character - just about 100%. Which won me an incredibly gracious letter from Don Robertson, the original author, saying, "You kept everything that was good in my book, and cut out all the cant and all the crap. Thank you." The letter's one of my proudest possessions.

forathirdtime4 karma

Hello Mr. Beagle, I just wanted to thank you for your stories. I've been a fan of yours since I first read the Last Unicorn almost twenty years ago, and the worlds you've created have been a great comfort at both my brightest and darkest times. I know you don't know me and I will most likely never get the chance to meet you, but I just wanted you to know what a tremendous impact your stories have had on my life and how much I appreciate the fact that you exist. Thank you!

petersbeagle3 karma

All I know to do at my end is to say my own "Thank You," which I hope can mean as much to you as yours does to me. I never got a chance to thank most of the writers who changed my live in their own separate ways, and it moves me deeply when anyone makes the effort o greet and thank me. I appreciate it more than you can know.

Rabbithen4 karma

I assume most of the attention you get is over The Last Unicorn. I am a huge fan of the book and movie, but I've been meaning to read your other works. Which of your other books do you wish would get more attention from fans?

petersbeagle9 karma

My favorite of my novels, to this day, remains THE INNKEEPER'S SONG, which is currently out of print. A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, my first novel, was always my mother's favorite, and has its own following - including, as I just learned this morning - William Least Heat Moon, the author of BLUE HIGHWAYS, among other books. And I'm very proud of my four short story collections - I never imagined that I'd ever write that many!

filmguy10134 karma

Any plans for The Innkeeper's Song to return to print?

petersbeagle7 karma

Yes - in a slightly revised version, sometime this year or next! I'm very excited about the prospect.

HappinessLaughs3 karma

Thank you for taking the time to do an AMA. I am really excited about The Bridge Partner movie. Do you plan to spend time on the set? Are you going to do a cameo role? Hide in a crowd scene in the back? I cannot be the only one who would love to see you in lurking in the back ground of the film!

petersbeagle2 karma

I love acting (and singing), and I'd certainly love to have even a tiny role in "The Bridge Partner," but since I'm about to be touring in Canada for six weeks, it doesn't seem likely. If Gabriel and Sean are still shooting after I get back, at the end of May, I'd be perfectly delighted to be involved.

OffensiveTackle3 karma

"We don't want to go to war today but the lord of the whip says nay nay nay"

Is that yours? It is a regular part of my life now.

petersbeagle2 karma

No, that's none of mine, thank goodness. Sounds vaguely as though it might be a lyric from the Rankin&Bass "Return of the King."

JamesRenner3 karma

I had my Fiction Appreciation class at UAkron read "Great Grandmother in the Cellar" this year. I showed them some clips from Lord of the Rings, as well. Looking back on The Last Unicorn, as an author, what do you think you do right with that novel? Did you have an inkling as you were writing that it would have such impact or was that a surprise that you tried to understand in the years since?

petersbeagle3 karma

Thank you for mentioning "Great-Grandmother"! I'm particularly fond of that story! Regarding "The Last Unicorn," the only person who foresaw the future life of that book was the old novelist to whom it's dedicated, Robert Nathan. Over the years I've gradually come to understand the fact of the story's effect, if not always the exact reasons for it. What does move me a great deal is that so many people tell me that they grew up feeling like misfits, lost of exiled from their own people, and that The Last Unicorn" helped them to deal creatively with that feeling. It's one that I know in my deepest bones, even now.

TheJamesMcardle3 karma

thanks for taking the time Mr. Beagle. What inaccuracies or shortcomings did you see in the hollywood re-make of LOTR? (just to be fair) what did you see that they portrayed exceptionally well?

Edit: im not telling you what i edited mwahahaha haha ha

petersbeagle3 karma

The Peter Jackson LOTR is as good as a film of that epic is likely to be. My main objection has to do with the desperate attempt to do SOMETHING with the Aragorn/Arwen romance; for me, those attempts generally failed. But the truth is that every lover of Tolkien has his or her own LOTR movie running in their heads. And that, of course, is the best LOTR ever made.

OriginalWin3 karma

I just want to say thanks, I loved the animated version as a kid, it actually made me want to read the book, so you helped make my world a richer one and started a lifelong love. No question, other than, how does that make you feel? :)

petersbeagle11 karma

Thank you! The animated "Last Unicorn" has led a lot of people to the original book, and I've always been very grateful for that. As I meet more and more people whose lives were genuinely affected by a story I began making up over fifty years ago, it makes me increasingly - for lack of a better word - wondering and humble.

I_am_again3 karma

I have difficulties ending my stories. Do you know how your stories end when you gegin writing, or does it happen organically as the story progresses? What's the best way to go about this? Thank you!

petersbeagle3 karma

I wish I could give you some practical advice! I have a regrettable tendency to make things up as I go along, letting the stories tell themselves to me, so to speak. I don't recommend this to ANYONE: it's the main reason why so many of my stories have undergone double-digit numbers of drafts before publication. What I do recommend is going straight through, not trying to write the third or fourth draft while you're writing the first. Charge through that first draft! - then put it away for a couple of weeks, and look at it again with a colder eye. Sometimes that does help. But it's very much an individual matter.

Ted_lives3 karma

I love your work. In the last unicorn is the red bull a figure from your life?

petersbeagle7 karma

The Red Bull comes - at least primarily - out of a painting by a Spanish artist named Marcial Rodriguez, who gave it to me when I was 17, after I spent the summer helping him put a fashion show together. It's a painting of unicorns fighting bulls - and one of the bulls is red!

Of course, the Bull could also have been inspired by a memory of my kindergarten teacher - but that's another story...

joelschlosberg2 karma

Is there a 35mm print of The Last Unicorn available for revival theater screenings?

petersbeagle3 karma

No, we're showing a digital version in DCP format. There are precious view 1982 35mm prints still out there, and in any case, those were shorter by 6-7 minutes than the version people have grown familiar with through home video.

joelschlosberg1 karma

What is the current status of "Writing Sarek"?

petersbeagle2 karma

It's held up by some matters at the publishing house that 'm not really connected to. But I do know it will come out someday.