Indography pp 151-168 | Cite as

Spenser’s “Men of Inde”

Mythologizing the Indian through the Genealogy of Faeries
  • Marion Hollings
Part of the Signs of Race book series (SOR)


Guyon learns in Book II of The Faerie Queene, Canto x, that he is an Indian sort of fairy. In an elaborate “faerie” genealogy that is Edmund Spenser’s own invention, Guyon’s ancestor is “Quick,” the first “Elfe,” made by Prometheus of the “many partes” of beasts (70.6). Quick, “wandering through the world,” encounters a being—“either Spright, Or Angell”—that the original Elfe names a “Fay” and with whom he generates the race of “Faeryes” (71.3–9).2 The first offspring of this Fay and Elfe, and thus Guyon’s “author,” the narrator of the poem relates, “was Elfin, him all India obayd, / And all that now America men call” (ii.x.72.5–6). The empire of the original ancestor of the Indian fairy-elf Guyon registers Spenser’s merging of fairyland and India to elaborate in his poem, in the interests of a vigorous early modern imperial impulse and its commercial enterprise, a superimposition and polychronic mingling of “faerie” and “mortal” found also in medieval romance traditions. In this essay, I discuss Spenser’s writing of the Indian into his legend of origins and ancestry legitimating Elizabeth I’s power and authority.


National Identity Sixteenth Century Early Modern Period Romance Tradition Travel Literature 
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© Jonathan Gil Harris 2012

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  • Marion Hollings

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