The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux

by

Kate DiCamillo

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Tale of Despereaux can help.

The Tale of Despereaux: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Mouse Council—which is made up of 13 mice and a Most Very Honored Head Mouse—gather at the sound of Lester’s drum. They meet in a hole off of King Phillip’s throne room, and they sit around a makeshift table and listen to Lester detail what Furlough saw. The Mouse Council listens openmouthed as Lester describes Despereaux letting the Princess Pea touch him. When Lester is done, the Most Very Honored Head Mouse says Despereaux isn’t well—in fact, he’s disturbed and is putting all mice in danger with his behavior. The Head Mouse continues that any mouse willing to get so close to humans is untrustworthy. Hopefully Despereaux hasn’t spoken to a human, but they can’t assume anything. Instead, they must act.
According to the Mouse Council, a mouse who refuses to conform to norms is not just unwell, but dangerous. Difference isn’t celebrated here—indeed, it seems likely to be punished. That Lester gives his son over to the Mouse Council without expressing any emotion about it highlights just how fully he believes in making sure that all mice fit in, and going to perhaps extreme lengths to do this. However, recall Antoinette’s annoyed reaction when Lester first brought up the Mouse Council. She implied it was something silly, which offers hope that the Mouse Council isn’t as powerful in actuality as it seems to be here.
Themes
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
The Head Mouse says Despereaux needs to go to the dungeon and to the rats. He announces a vote and asks the Mouse Council to say “aye” if they’re in favor. Everyone says “aye” rather than “nay,” and in the silence after the vote, the only sound is Lester crying. The narrator asks the reader if they can imagine their father saying nothing in their defense in a situation like this. Lester continues to sob as the Head Mouse announces that Despereaux will appear before the community, have the opportunity to renounce his sins, and then be sent to the dungeon. The narrator acknowledges that at least Lester is decent enough to weep at his act of “perfidy.” They ask if the reader knows what perfidy means—though its meaning should be clear after this episode, readers should also look it up to be totally sure.
Finally, Lester does exhibit some emotion about his role in condemning Despereaux to the dungeon. Asking the reader to imagine how they might feel if their father did something like this, and then asking the reader to look up perfidy, demonstrates how to express and feel empathy. It aligns readers with Despereaux (as they’re imagining themselves in a similar position), and it may also teach them a new word. Perfidy refers to being deceitful and betraying someone, which Lester has done by giving his son up to the Mouse Council.
Themes
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon