“The Faerie Queene” is an allegorical narrative of adventure and chivalry. The characters in this poem as well as the situations in which they find themselves bear symbolic significance. The Red Cross Knight who typifies the virtue of holiness engages himself in a fight against Monster Error and ultimately defeats it. This encounter is the first in a series of fights that the Knight has to fight in course of his journey.
The Red Cross Knight accompanied by Una or truth embarks on a journey towards the land of her parents who have been imprisoned by a dead Dragon. The Knight will have to destroy the dragon and free Una`s parents. This is actually a symbolization of a man`s journey to his spiritual goal.
An ethical man, like The Red Cross Knight, has to encounter many temptations and many evil forces. One who can successfully complete one’s course through the innumerable danger can surely fulfill the ultimate goal. The first challenge comes from Error. If a man can subdue all the errors that beset his path, he is able to continue on his spiritual journey. Accordingly, The Red Cross Knight has to fight his first battle against the monster of Errors.
Biblical Significance of the fight
In canto I, we first see that the Red Cross Knight and Una coming to a labyrinth when they are quite lost have to decide which path to choose. They decide to choose the path which looks well-trodden and ultimately come to the den of the monster of Error. The Monster is a horrible creature that is half-woman and half-serpent.
This reminds us of the biblical story of Satan and Eve that the original sin of misjudgment committed by Adam was due to the guiles of Satan who approached Eden as a serpent and also due to the persuasion of Eve, the woman.
The combination of the serpent and the woman in the Monster Error is thus a significant thing to be considered. The Monster lives in the darkness of the cave which means the fear of the light of truth. People who are ignorant and erroneous in their religious views are afraid of truth which is light and sunshine.
The Significance of the Vomit
When the Red Cross Knight approaches the cave, the light emanating from his dazzling shield startles and enrages the Monster. It comes to attack him and binds him with his serpentine coils. The Red Cross Knight is nearly overpowered by the Monster, but being strengthened by the encouragement of Una he takes hold of the throat of the Monster. The Monster vomits filthy and horrible stinking black poison from her mouth. The vomit was full of big lumps of undigested flesh that stunk so horribly that the Knight was forced to slacken his grip.
Her Vomit full of Books and Papers was,
With loathly Frogs and Toads, which Eyes did lack,
And creeping, sought way in the weedy Grass:
Her filthy Parbreake all the Place defiled has.
This incident carries a very important significance. The Monster Error vomits books and papers with which she daily feeds herself. These books are the numerous pamphlets and books that are published by the advocates of false faith and false religion. These books and pamphlets create and multiply the errors in religion and mislead many simple-minded Christians. The Monster Error has got thousands of offspring who drink the poisonous blood of their mother. They signify the innumerable small errors that live on the big error, that is, the false religion.
Significance of the Monster’s Offspring
The Red Cross Knight strikes with his full force ad cuts off the head of the Monster. Her coal-black blood gushes forth and her offspring gather round her body and suck up their dying mother’s blood.
They flocked all about her bleeding Wound
And sucked up their dying Mother’s Blood,
Making her Death their Life, and eke her Hurt their Good.
These creatures drink the blood of the Monster; as a result, their bellies burst and they also die. This episode signifies the self-defeating nature of Evil. The smaller errors try to live on the blood of the great error, but it only causes their destruction. When a big falsehood is defeated and overcome, the smaller falsehood does not survive long.
The fight with Monster Error epitomizes the whole Book I of “The Faerie Queene.” It shows how dangerous the enemy of truth and goodness can be. It also shows that when Holiness is supported by Truth, it can vanquish the enemy quite easily. It is the Red Cross Knight’s first fight and the first test of his strength. Following this fight, he fights different other manifestations of Evil coming to him in different disguises. The encounter of the Monster Error suggests the type of trial constantly faced by the man who aspires to get brightened but is strained in many ways.