As Despereaux rolls his thread through the castle, the narrator asks readers to think about the fact that Despereaux is small for a mouse. He weighs about two ounces, half what a normal mouse weighs. The thread weighs about as much as he does, and because of this, his chances of succeeding on his quest are pretty much nothing. But the narrator also notes that when calculating Despereaux’s odds, it’s essential to add in his love for the princess, since love is so powerful. But still, rolling the spool is hard work. When Despereaux reaches the kitchen at midnight, he’s shaking and his tail stub is throbbing. He still has a long way to go to get to the dungeon, and despair fills him.
What the narrator is essentially getting at here is that Despereaux, due to his size and his species, is a very unlikely hero. But his love for the Pea is, hopefully, powerful enough to help him be successful on his quest. Already, it’s possible to see how motivating his love for the Pea is, since he’s gotten through so much hard work by pushing the spool through the castle. That it’s now midnight—the middle of the dark night—underscores the idea that Despereaux is a beacon of light and goodness in a dark world, just like the princess he’s trying to save.
Despereaux rests his head against the spool of thread, smelling Hovis’s celery smell. Hovis believes in him, so Despereaux continues on and notices too late that there’s a light in the kitchen. Cook is there, stirring soup on the stove. She’s smiling, and the steam in the candlelight creates a halo around her head. Despereaux knows he’s in danger, because he knows how Cook feels about mice. But he has to cross the kitchen. Working up his courage, Despereaux rolls the spool across the floor. Cook turns around, looking terrified, and asks who’s there.
That the light in the soup’s steam gives Cook a halo—something that makes her look angelic—speaks to what the novel suggests is the power of soup. It can transform someone dangerous, like Cook, into an angel. For now, though, Cook still seems like an antagonist to Despereaux, since she doesn’t tolerate mice in her kitchen. Her halo simply suggests that there’s hope that she could transcend this characterization and allow Despereaux to pass.