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Damsel Errant
Una, with the Red Cross Knight

The Damsel Errant is the Distaff Counterpart of the Knight Errant, a Stock Character of the Chivalric Romance. They form a complementary pair; he is seeking adventure and she knows where adventures are to be found. Not to be confused with the Damsel in Distress, though she probably knows a few in need of succor.

The Damsel Errant may Walk the Earth, often accompanied by a faithful servant, she may head for the Standard Royal Court and demand that The Good King send a Knight in Shining Armor to right an injustice in his realm, or she might set up her pavilion near a fountain or other spot where knights are known to pass. She is seldom named or given any kind of background; basically she is a plot device for putting the knight where the action is. She rarely becomes a love interest normally leaving the knight once they've run out of adventures, often at or near the spot where he first encountered her. In some cases there are hints that the lady is of magical origin.

Compare and contrast Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Examples:

Folklore
  • King Arthur legend: The three ladies encountered by Sir Gawain, Sir Ywain and Sir Marhous in the Forest of Arroy are classic examples of the Damsel Errant. They are also evidence that such ladies need not be young, as one was 60 years old!
    • According to Sir Thomas Malory and the Vulgate, Sir Lancelot couldn't move more than a step without tripping over a Damsel Errant, who would then proceed to lead him into deadly peril.
  • Dame Lynette came to court to fetch a knight to defend her sister, Lady Lyonesse. In Malory, Sir Gareth married Lady Lyonesse; in Tennyson, Lynette.

Literature
  • In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Una fetches Saint George to defend her parents and their kingdom. They do become a couple.
  • P.G. Wodehouse gently mocks the convention with Yvonne in his "Sir Agravaine"; she is a distinctly plain girl, and the quest she brings Sir Agravaine into turns out to be of a highly surprising nature.
  • Naturally, Gerald Morris has quite a few in his Arthurian retellings, The Squire's Tales, although they have a tendency to take on Action Girl characteristics too. Notable examples include Eileen, Lynette, Ariel, and Lynette's Generation Xerox daughter.
    • The Three Questing Ladies play this trope straighter, although in different ways. For example, the eldest of them trains her knights before letting them embark on adventures, and the youngest gets hers killed (by encouraging them to fight other knights until they die valiantly, at which point she latches onto the winning knight, and so on until she returns to the meeting place).

Live-Action TV
  • If you go by her words in "The Doctor's Wife", the TARDIS is this to the Doctor.
    The Doctor: You didn't always take me where I wanted to go.
    Idris: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.

Video Games
  • In Dragon Age, the plot of Witch Hunt revolves around the Warden's attempts to track down their former companion (and possible love interest), Morrigan. If romanced previously, the Warden can decide to follow her through the Eluvian and depart to parts unknown.
  • Iris in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals might fit into this trope, although she is more of a guide than a partner.

Western Animation


Come with Me If You Want to LiveHeraldManic Pixie Dream Girl
Da EditorStock CharactersDanger Deadpan
Courtly LoveOlder Than PrintThe Dead Can Dance
Daddy's Little VillainAlways FemaleDamsel in Distress
Courtly LoveChivalric RomanceDreaming of Things to Come
Currency TropesImageSource/ArtDances and Balls
Da EditorCharacters as DeviceDamsel in Distress

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