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Just your typical collection of tales about a Magical Land full of Knights In Shining Armor, the evil knights and monsters they fight, and the beautiful maidens they love. Except half the knights are total newbies who have no idea what they're doing, the monsters are personifications of sins (mostly Lust and Rape), and the maiden is just as likely as her boyfriend to be a warrior who has to bail him out of trouble.

Maybe it's not so typical after all...

The Faerie Queene is a collection of 6 epic poems (and the few incomplete Mutabilitie Cantos) written by Edmund Spenser as a gift for Queen Elizabeth. The first three books were published in 1590 and the next 3 in 1596. As outlined in a letter to his friend Sir Walter Raleigh, Spenser's plan was to write 24 books — the first 12 each starring a knight who personifies one of the 12 Private Virtues, and the rest starring the Public Domain Character Prince Arthur, who personifies the 12 Public Virtues — ending with an epic battle against the Faerie Queene's Arch Enemy the Paynim King and her marriage to Arthur. Unfortunately, Author Existence Failure got in the way; thus, we never meet the Faerie Queene in person, and Prince Arthur is never united with his True Love.

Gloriana, the Queen of Faerieland, an obvious and flattering Expy of Queen Elizabeth, dwells in the magnificent royal city of Cleopolis where she runs the local Heroes-R-Us, the Knights of Maidenhead. The Knights are human beings who were Switched At Birth with Changelings (a supposedly favorite prank of The Fair Folk in those days) and serve the Faerie Queene in hopes of attaining honor and glory. The pattern of most of the stories is: a nearby kingdom is being terrorized by some threat, someone comes to Cleopolis to plead for aid, the queen sends a Knight to help them, the Knight and his companion go on a journey full of obstacles relevant to the virtue the Knight represents, the Knight defeats the villain. On the way, they eventually run into Prince Arthur, who fell in love with the Faerie Queene after seeing her in a dream. He is on his way to find her but keeps getting sidetracked by needing to help every character he meets along the way.

The poems are strong Christian allegory full of symbolism and British legend. It was Spenser's first epic, a departure from the pastoral poetry he specialized in. It is widely studied in college English classes and a highly interesting read. Don't let the archaic language frighten you.

By far the most famous story is that of "Saint George and The Dragon".

Tropes used in The Faerie Queene include:

The entire series contains examples of:

Book One

  • Protagonist: The Redcrosse Knight, the Knight of Holinesse
  • Mission: Slay a dragon and free the king and queen he's holding captive
  • Accompanied by: Princess Una (and a dwarf who carries their supplies)

This book provides examples of:

  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Bodyguard Crush: Redcross and Una
  • Chest Insignia: "On his breast, a bloodie cross he bore..."
  • Death by Sex: Duessa's previous victim and his girlfriend were turned into trees.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Literally — Redcross defeats the dragon in the end with help from the Lord.
  • Dude in Distress: Redcross
  • Driven to Suicide: The goal of Despair
  • Easily Forgiven: Una (the True - that is, Protestant - Church) to Redcross after he abandons her; she seems more angry at Archimago and Duessa for tricking him.
  • Erotic Dream
  • Friend to All Living Things: Una
  • Heroic BSOD: Redcross makes the mistake of taking on Despair while he is still in the middle of one of these, which leaves him in even worse shape than before. Una has to get her friends Faith, Hope, and Charity to whip him into shape.
  • Hero's Journey: Two — Redcross is on his own Journey, of course, but so is Una, and the Boon she has to bring back to restore her kingdom just happens to be a knight.
  • Hero's Muse: The Redcrosse Knight is guided and inspired by his love, Una, who is the personification of the "true church".
  • Humiliation Conga: Duessa
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Sansloy trying to rape Una
  • Living Lie Detector: Una
  • Duty First, Love Second: Redcrosse returning to finish his service to the Faerie Queene after getting engaged to Una.
  • Master of Illusion: Archimago and Duessa
  • More Than Mind Control: The encounter with Despair
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Part of Redcross' encounter with Despair
  • Neutral Female: Una in the Final Battle, although she steps in to save Redcross from Despair and instructs him from the sidelines during his first battle with the Dragon Errour. The fact that she finally stays out of it is actually a sign that Redcross has matured enough to handle the fight on his own.
  • Noble Savage: Satyrane
  • No Name Given: Redcross doesn't know his birth name or anything about his family, until Contemplation informs him he is Saint George.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: The half-serpent/half-female monster introduced in stanza 14 of canto I, of which it isn't quite specified which half is which, has "A thousand young ones, which she dayly fed / Sucking upon her poisonous dugs."
  • Not What It Looks Like: How Archimago tricks Redcross into thinking Una has cheated on him.
  • Religion of Evil: Spenser knew that the Catholic Church didn't like Queen Elizabeth I very much, so he created the characters Archimago, Abessa, and Duessa to make the Catholic Church look bad.
  • Standard Hero Reward
  • The Vamp: Duessa (the False - that is, Catholic - Church)
  • What an Idiot!: Redcross, several times
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Una is accompanied by a lamb. When Redcrosse charges ahead and leaves her in the dust, the next time Una shows up, she's alone - lambless apparently.

Book Two

  • Protagonist: Guyon, the Knight of Temperance
  • Mission: Arrest The Vamp Acrasia and destroy her Bower Of Bliss, a paradise where she lures knights, sleeps with them, then turns them into animals a la Circe
  • Accompanied by: A palmer

This book provides examples of:

  • Bash Brothers: Pyrochles and Cymochles
  • Beneath the Earth: Guyon's trip to the Underworld
  • Celibate Hero: Guyon, to the point where he feels nervous just dancing with a woman at Alma's castle.
  • Death by Sex: Acrasia's victims clients who are either turned into animals or, if they come to their senses, die shortly after leaving.
  • Freudian Trio of half-sisters:
    • Elyssa, Superego
    • Medina, Ego
    • Perissa, Id
  • Kick the Dog: The dead couple and their orphaned infant Guyon finds in the forest illustrate the damage Acrasia's evil can cause and how urgent it is that he stop her.
  • Post Dramatic Stress Disorder: Guyon's first breath of fresh air after so much time in the Underworld causes him to pass out.
  • Save the Villain: Guyon wants to help Pyrochles against Furor, but the Palmer tells him it's none of his business since Pyrochles released Furor himself.
  • Story Within A Story: The histories Guyon and Arthur read at Alma's castle
  • Sword Over Head: Guyon to Pyrochles
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Guyon only ever kills Pyrochles' horse throughout the story (and even considers that shameful), in sharp contrast to Redcrosse.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Pyrochles releases Furor and Occasion only to be fiercely attacked by him and suffers injuries that would have eventually killed him if not for Archimago's help. Later, he takes King Arthur's sword from Archimago despite warnings that he will not be able to slay its rightful owner with it. and predictably loses that fight. If he had taken Guyon's sword along with his shield (leaving Arthur's sword with Archimago) he and Cymochles would've likely won that fight (and slain Prince Arthur).
  • The Vamp: Acrasia and Phaedria

Book Three

  • Protagonist: Britomart, the Knight of Chastity
  • Mission: Originally to find the knight destined to be her husband, Artegall, but eventually becomes to save Amoret from the evil sorcerer Busirane and reunite her with her husband, Scudamour
  • Accompanied by: Her old nanny disguised as her squire, Glauce

The Book of Chastity breaks away from Spenser's pattern. Britomart is a British princess who has come to Faerieland disguised as a male knight on a personal mission to find Artegall. Book Three also introduces the by-plots of Belphoebe's romance with Arthur's squire, Timias, and the woes of Florimell, a Damsel in Distress who is always on the run because everywhere she turns, she finds another man trying to rape her, until she is captured by the sea god Proteus and thrown in his dungeon for refusing to sleep with him.

This book provides examples of:

Book Four

Book Four is a Continuation of Book Three. Britomart finds Artegall, Florimell is released from her dungeon and engaged to Marinell, but first Satyrane invites all the knights in the land to a tournament and beauty contest. The prizes for the winning knight and the most beautiful girl will be... each other! Entering the tournament are best friends and brothers-in-law (they married each other's sister) Campbell and Triamond from one of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, "The Squire's Tale," another series cut short by Author Existence Failure. Britomart, still in disguise as the Knight of the Ebon Spear, wins the tournament, and enters Amoret in the beauty contest. The judges decide the "Snowy Florimell" (a clone of Florimell a witch made for her son) is the most beautiful girl, but she fails the final test: the real Florimell's golden girdle, which can only be worn by a virgin, won't fit her. In fact, it won't fit anyone but Amoret, which Britomart argues makes her the most beautiful. But the value of virginity and true love is the main point of Book Three. The Virtue of Book Four is Friendship, personified in Campbell's and Triamond's friendship and Britomart's and Amoret's (once Amoret realizes her rescuer is not a man who is keeping her near him to take advantage of her).

This book provides examples of:

Book Five

  • Protagonist: Artegall, the Knight of Justice
  • Mission: Defeat the giant Grantorto and free a queen Irena and her kingdom
  • Accompanied by: The man of iron, Talus

In the middle of the book, Artegall loses a duel to the evil Amazon queen Radigund because he refuses to finish her off when he has the chance because of her beauty. When she imprisons him, it's not the famous Arthur who comes to his rescue but Britomart.

Book Six

  • Protagonist: Calidore, the Knight of Courtesy
  • Mission: Capture the Blatant Beast

Calidore disappears from the radar for a good chunk of the action while the story follows Calepine, his girlfriend Serena, Arthur, Timias (who has regained the will to live and fight after being reconciled with Belphoebe), and their encounters with the Blatant Beast, whose bites cannot be healed and work like rumors, cursing the victims with bad reputations.

This book provides examples of: