Within five minutes, we had read about a knight, a lady, a dragon, a dwarf, a vomiting half-female half-serpent monster, and her combustible spawn….This week, we’re reading the first book of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and the kids are loving it! The first book features the adventures of the Red Crosse Knight [or St. George] and the fair Lady Una as they head off together in order to take vengeance upon the dragon who destroyed Una’s royal family and their land. I’ve been reading aloud and the kids have been sketching their favourite bits.
So what happened in Cantos i-iii of Book 1 of the Faerie Queene? The Red Crosse Knight, Una, and a Dwarf set out in search of a dragon. In a rainstorm, they get lost in a wood and end up near a cave, where the Knight faces a half-serpent half-woman monster named Error, who appears to digest her thousands of malformed serpent babies when she spies the Knight in her path. The Knight defeats the monster. Her thousands of spawn, who have been vomited out of her mouth, gorge themselves upon her blood and combust. The group then travels on until they meet an old man who invites them to his small, scenic hermitage for the night. As his guests sleep, the Hermit, a.k.a. the evil Archimago, calls forth spirits to send bad dreams to the knight as well as a spirit-in-the-form-of-Una who tries to tempt him. These efforts fail, so Archimago gets another spirit to take the form of a knight and leads the Red Crosse Knight to the site of what appears to be his beloved Una in the loving arms of another man. The RCK and his dwarf flee the place, and the real Una wakes in the morning to realize that her beloved has vanished. The RCK comes upon a saracen named SansFoy and a lady in red who rides at his side. They battle, and he defeats SansFoy, taking the lady under his charge. They take rest under a pair of trees which are actually a knight and a lady who have been imprisoned or transformed. The male “tree” tells his tale of woe to the RCK, highlighting the foul handiwork of an evil witch named Duessa [who is, of course, the woman with whom the RCK is now travelling.] Meanwhile, Una has gone off in search of her Knight. A lion spies her in the wood and becomes her protector. Una begs shelter of a woman and her daughter whose house is entered, in the night, by a seasoned thief, the paramour of the girl in the house. The lion attacks and kills the thief, and the woman and her daughter vow to take revenge upon Una and her lion. Archimago, disguised as the RCK himself, approaches Una and apologizes for his absence. They encounter one of the brothers of Sansfoy, who vows revenge and attacks the disguised Archimago. Seeing his grey beard through the mail, however, he immediately apologizes to Archimago, at which point Una realizes she is now in grave danger. Her lion attempts to defend her.
Here are today’s sketches: