The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux

by

Kate DiCamillo

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The Tale of Despereaux: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Roscuro’s behavior has dire consequences—every action, for that matter, has a consequence. This is why when young Roscuro nibbled on Gregory’s rope, Gregory lit a match in Roscuro’s face. This match caused Roscuro’s soul to be set on fire. Because of his burning soul, Roscuro went upstairs. Because he went upstairs, the Princess Pea saw him and called him a rat. Hearing that word caused Roscuro to fall into the queen’s soup bowl, causing her to die. If the narrator might continue this exercise, because the queen died while eating soup, the king outlaws soup, soup spoons, bowls, and kettles. All soup-making implements are then piled in the dungeon. Finally, since a rat caused the queen’s death, the king orders that every rat in the Kingdom of Dor be killed.
This exercise of laying out cause and effect allows readers to understand that while many elements of this story might be absurd, there are clear, understandable reasons why everything happens. The narrator also finally shares why the pile of spoons, bowls, and kettles is in the dungeon—recall that Gregory called the pile a “monument to love.” The king essentially doesn’t want anyone to enjoy something his wife loved, now that he can’t enjoy her company himself. In this way, though, he’s much like Roscuro: Roscuro aims to seek revenge on those who live upstairs and deprive them of their light and their beauty, all because it’s inaccessible to him.
Themes
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
The issue, of course, is that a person who wants to kill a rat must first find one. So, when the king’s men bravely go into the dungeon, they find no rats, and many get lost and die there. Faced with this setback, the king just declares that all rats are illegal. This is ridiculous, since rats are outlaws anyway, but King Phillip is the king and kings get to make ridiculous laws if they want to. But it’s important to remember that King Phillip loved the queen, and that he’s lost without her. Even the most powerful people can’t stop their loved ones from dying. It soothes the king’s heart to outlaw soup and rats, so readers must forgive him.
Again, the narrator makes it clear that readers should feel empathy for King Phillip: he’s doing the best he can, and his best just happens to be a bit nonsensical. Unlike Roscuro though, the king is motivated by love, rather than revenge, which may be why the narrator suggests empathizing with him (conspicuously, the narrator has made no such suggestion that readers empathize with Roscuro at this point).
Themes
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Chiaroscuro sits in his nest in the dungeon, his spoon on his head. He creates a cape out of the prisoner’s tablecloth, and Botticelli sits beside him, asking if Roscuro has learned his lesson about what happens when rats go upstairs. Roscuro’s job, Botticelli says, is to make people suffer. Roscuro agrees—he’s going to make the Princess Pea suffer for what she did. As Roscuro plans down below, upstairs Despereaux hears music for the first time. The music will lead him to the princess, and he’ll fall in love with her. On this same evening, “more consequences dr[a]w near.” A king’s soldier drives a wagon to the castle. The wagon is filled with bowls, spoons, and kettles, and it also carries a girl named Miggery Sow. Her ears look like cauliflower, and she doesn’t yet know that she’ll help Roscuro exact revenge.
Botticelli proposes that refusing to conform leads to heartbreak. In some ways, he seems correct: Despereaux is heartbroken to be in the dungeon in his storyline, and he's in the dungeon due to refusing to conform. Roscuro looks increasingly evil as he pushes aside his desire for light and goodness and focuses on revenge. The narrator lets readers know that Roscuro will get revenge as they introduce Miggery Sow, his future helper. Like Roscuro and Despereaux, Miggery Sow seems not to fit in—her cauliflower-shaped ears set her apart. 
Themes
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon