Canto 17 Summary
Last Updated on March 1, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 234
The creature, who is named Geryon, emerges from the Circles of Fraud. His face appears friendly, but he has the body of a snake, and his paws and arms are covered in hair; although his appearance is quite intimidating to the two travelers, they require his assistance to proceed. In order to reach the Nether Region, they must descend on the back of this seemingly benevolent but terrifying-looking creature.
Nearby the monster is a group of people standing still in the sand, and Virgil asks Dante to address them and potentially ask for their help. Dante observes that they have pouches around their necks and are fixated on their belongings and the ground. All of them are weeping, but one of them pauses his sobs to speak with Dante. He tells Dante that Florentines were calling out for a knight who carried a satchel with three goats on it. Dante, not wanting to delay Virgil, hurries back to him after the conversation.
Virgil encourages Dante to be brave as they prepare to climb onto Geryon. Dante compares their ride to Phaethon driving his sun chariot across the sky and to Icarus flying too close to the sun with his wings made of feathers and wax—neither mythological allusion bodes well for the pair. After Geryon drops them off, he quickly departs, leaving Dante and Virgil to prepare to resume their journey through the underworld.