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 and returning to 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. Related tropes include The Herald (a more generic questgiver), and Lady and Knight (which this trope often upgrades into). The Damsel Errant appears in the Hardboiled Detective genre as a Dame with a Case.
- The Seven Deadly Sins begins with princess Elizabeth, who narrowly escaped the usurpation of her family, searching the countryside for knights willing to rectify that injustice. Being both very lucky and very bad at practical survival skills, she stumbled through The Hero's door a few seconds before collapsing of exhaustion. A recurring problem in the first arc is her feeling that she contributes nothing to the party and asks quite a lot of them. Though she turns out to fulfil the "damsel has magical powers" subtrope, so that helps.
- Arthurian 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. Lynette is also notable for rejecting Gareth, refusing to believe he's capable, and speaking very cruelly to him in the hope that he'll give up — in different versions of the story this is either genuine, or because she knows she's leading him into a trap but can't warn him directly.
- In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Una fetches Saint George to defend her parents and their kingdom. They do become a couple.
- King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, being an adaptation of Arthurian Legend, features this trope. Many damsels travel to King Arthur's court seeking help.
- 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.
- At the end of The Last Unicorn, Schmendrick assures Lir that his skills as a hero will be in high demand. Not five minutes after they part ways, a desperate princess runs up to them — Schmendrick gives her his horse and points her after Lir.
- 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).
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: A fair maiden by the name of Alisande comes to King Arthur's court seeking a brave knight to go with her and rescue her 44 princesses, locked up in yon tower and guarded by three fearsome ogres. This being a satire written by Mark Twain, they turn out to be pigs, and the ogres are farmhands.
- Saint George and the Dragon: Princess Una traveled a long, long way before she found the Red Cross Knight.
- Most of the Dark Souls games have a mysterious woman who greets you in the hub area and provides your initial explanation for what this place is and directs you toward the first plot hooks. Usually she has a title rather than a name - the Maiden in Black, the Emerald Herald, and the Fire Keeper, as well as Melina. Unlike more traditional examples, however, they usually don't vanish, instead remaining available to help you level up (and provide similar guidance to any other passing adventurers), and tend to eventually reveal enough personal history to explain why they care enough to involve you. Often they have ulterior motives.
- Dark Souls II also has Strowen, Morrel, and Griant - retired Fire Keepers who are also The Weird Sisters, who live in the starting zone and tell you how much you're going to die if you pursue the plot. Unlike the Herald, the trio have no further involvement with the story after you leave them (though they do remain in their home).
- Averted in Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - while the Plain Doll and Emma are recognisably similar characters, neither appears until well after the protagonist has determined their quest.
- In Dragon Age, the plot of the Origins DLC 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 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.
- Less common in The Legend of Zelda than you'd think but there are some examples.
- Impa fulfills the role in the first and second games, telling Link of Zelda's predicament.
- Zelda counts as one in A Link to the Past, informing Link of the peril befalling Hyrule.
- The Great Deku Tree is one in Ocarina of Time, sending Link to his quest.
- Impa does it again in Oracle of Seasons after Din gets captured.
- Played with in Twilight Princess, where Midna bargains with Link to do her bidding to help him save his friends.
- The Old Man serves one in the beginning of Breath of the Wild, telling Link of what befell Hyrule and sending him to the quest.
- Many other games begin with Link embarking on a personal quest, which is revealed to be part of the larger plot as revealed by another character.
- Arthur, King of Time and Space, of course, features many of the ones from Arthurian myth, including Lynette and Croisette from Lancelot's Knight Errant period. During the Grail quest, the Damsels Errant and Wise Old Hermits have a complete checklist of how the quest is supposed to go, so they can push knights in the right direction for the next bit.
- Teyla the Sorceress in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983).