And he came on, that filthy effigy
of fraud, and landed with his head and torso
but did not draw his tail onto the bank.
The face he wore was that of a just man,
so gracious was his features’ outer semblance;
and all his trunk, the body of a serpent;
He had two paws, with hair up to the armpits;
his back and chest as well as both his flanks
had been adorned with twining knots and circlets.
No Turks or Tartars ever fashioned fabrics
more colorful in the background and relief,
nor had Arachne ever loomed such webs.
As boats will sometimes lie along the shore,
with part of them on land and part in water,
and just as there, among the guzzling Germans,
the beaver sets himself when he means war,
so did that squalid beast lie on the margin
of stone that serves as border for the sand.
And all his tail was quivering in the void
while twisting upward its envenomed fork,
which had a tip just like a scorpion’s. (Inf. XVII, 7-24)
Geryon, as Dante so poetically claims, is a "filthy effigy / of fraud." Not only does his form combine the features of a man, a snake, a scorpion, and a random animal – as if he cannot choose what he wants to be – but his entire hide is gaudily adorned with "twining knots and circlets" of many colors and patterns. Ostentatiously beautiful on the surface, Geryon is a monster within. And just as he crosses the line between truth and fiction, he lies "along the shore, / with part of [him] on land and part in water," not truly a fish nor a beast of the land. The final simile comparing Geryon to a beaver cements readers’ impressions of him as devious. He hangs his tail seductively over the void, just as a beaver uses its tail as a lure to tempt fish into approaching and then kills them for food.