Error is one of the first monsters that we see in The Faerie Queene, and serves as a kind of prototype challenge to the Redcrosse knight.
The monster is hideously detailed, half serpent, and half woman. Additionally, it is covered with tiny tendrils that turn out to be its young, suckling from their mother. When she is eventually defeated, these young drink her blood and engorge themselves so much that they burst (yuck!).
Error literally represents the mistakes that the Redcrosse knight is making. The knight embodies the everyman hero, but he is fundamentally flawed, as we see throughout the first book. It is only through some truly horrifying trials and sincere repentance that he is able to achieve holiness later on. But at this time of the story, that is not the case.
Error lives in a cave in the dark forest, representing ignorance and illusion, when Una and the Redcrosse knight stumble upon him accidentally (literally the result of an error in navigation). The Redcrosse knight is only able to defeat the beast with the help of Una, who gives him some advice to slay the monster as they battle.
- Norris Lacy, Geoffrey Ashe, Debra Mancoff – The Arthurian Handbook (Second Edition)
- Alan Lupack – The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend
- Ronan Coghlan – The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends
- Anonymous – Lancelot-Grail, the French Vulgate
- Sir Thomas Malory – Le Morte d’Arthur
See also my ever-expanding list of primary and secondary sources.