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.

Chiaroscuro “Roscuro” Character Analysis

Arguably one of the novel’s antagonists, Chiaroscuro (or Roscuro) is a rat who lives in the castle dungeons. Unlike most rats, which love pain, suffering, and darkness, Roscuro discovers early on that he craves light and beauty. Though his mentor Botticelli Remorso tries to encourage Roscuro to be a good rat and make people suffer, Roscuro ultimately finds that being cruel to prisoners doesn’t bring him joy—so he decides to go upstairs. Initially, while wandering the castle, Roscuro feels right at home and in awe of the beauty around him. But when the Princess Pea notices him hanging from a chandelier and calls him a rat, Roscuro realizes how ugly a word “rat” is—and he decides he doesn’t want to be one anymore. The shock of this realization causes Roscuro to fall into the queen’s soup bowl, and the queen dies moments later of shock. Roscuro’s heart breaks and heals “crookedly” after this, as he looks back while fleeing the party and sees the princess giving him a dirty, angry look. Following this, Roscuro becomes obsessed with revenge. Several months later, he hatches a plan to manipulate a serving girl, Mig, into kidnapping the princess; he plans to imprison the bright, shining princess in the dungeon forever so he can have some light for himself. However, when Despereaux arrives and when Mig cuts Roscuro’s tail off, Roscuro admits that he just wants some light. The Princess Pea forgives Roscuro, invites him to eat soup with her, and ultimately gives him free run of the castle’s upstairs floors. To try to atone for his misdeeds, Roscuro also reunites Mig with her father, who was imprisoned in the dungeons and whom Roscuro tormented. In art, chiaroscuro refers to the play of lights and darks in a painting or drawing to create form and drama. In Roscuro’s case, his name’s meaning embodies the novel’s insistence that life, and people, are made up of both light and dark elements, and that this is what makes life interesting.

Chiaroscuro “Roscuro” Quotes in The Tale of Despereaux

The The Tale of Despereaux quotes below are all either spoken by Chiaroscuro “Roscuro” or refer to Chiaroscuro “Roscuro”. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
).
Chapter 3 Quotes

Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.

Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Do not speak to her!” thundered the king.

Despereaux dropped his handkerchief. He backed away from the king.

“Rodents do not speak to princesses. We will not have this becoming a topsy-turvy, wrong-headed world. There are rules. Scat. Get lost, before my common sense returns and I have you killed.”

Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

Reader, do you know the definition of the word “chiaroscuro”? If you look in your dictionary, you will find that it means the arrangement of light and dark, darkness and light together. Rats do not care for light. Roscuro’s parents were having a bit of fun when they named their son. Rats have a sense of humor. Rats, in fact, think that life is very funny. And they are right, reader. They are right.

Related Characters: Chiaroscuro “Roscuro”
Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 85-86
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

“A rat is a rat is a rat. End of story. World without end. Amen.”

“Yes,” said Roscuro. “Amen, I am a rat.” He closed his eyes. He saw, again, the red cloth spinning against the backdrop of gold.

And he told himself, reader, that it was the cloth that he desired and not the light.

Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 92-93
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

And the little princess! How lovely she was! How much like light itself. Her gown was covered in sequins that winked and glimmered at the rat. And when she laughed, and she laughed often, everything around her seemed to glow brighter.

“Oh, really,” said Roscuro, “this is too extraordinary. This is too wonderful. I must tell Botticelli that he was wrong. Suffering is not the answer. Light is the answer.”

Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

Rat.

In the middle of all that beauty, it immediately became clear that it was an extremely distasteful syllable.

Rat.

A curse, an insult, a word totally without light. And not until he heard it from the mouth of the princess did Roscuro realize that he did not like being a rat, that he did not want to be a rat.

Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

“Go back to the dungeon” was what the look she gave him said. “Go back into the darkness where you belong.”

This look, reader, broke Roscuro’s heart.

Did you think that rats do not have hearts? Wrong. All living things have a heart. And the heart of any living thing can be broken.

If the rat had not looked over his shoulder, perhaps his heart would not have broken. And it is possible, then, that I would not have a story to tell.

But, reader, he did look.

Related Symbols: Light and Dark, Soup
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

But, reader, we must not forget that King Phillip loved the queen and that without her, he was lost. This is the danger of loving: No matter how powerful you are, no matter how many kingdoms you rule, you cannot stop those you love from dying. Making soup illegal, outlawing rats, these things soothed the poor king’s heart. And so we must forgive him.

Related Symbols: Soup
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

Looking at the royal family had awakened some deep and slumbering need in her; it was if a small candle had been lit in her interior, sparked to life by the brilliance of the king and the queen and the princess.

For the first time in her life, reader, Mig hoped.

And hope is like love…a ridiculous, wonderful, powerful thing.

Mig tried to name this strange emotion; she put a hand up to touch one of her aching ears, and she realized that the feeling she was experiencing, the hope blooming inside of her, felt exactly the opposite of a good clout.

Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 35 Quotes

He dreamt of the stained-glass windows and the dark of the dungeon. In Despereaux’s dream, the light came to life, brilliant and glorious, in the shape of a knight swinging a sword. The knight fought the dark.

And the dark took many shapes. First the dark was his mother, uttering phrases in French. And then the dark became his father beating the drum. The dark was Furlough wearing a black hood and shaking his head no. And the dark became a huge rat smiling a smile that was evil and sharp.

Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

And while the mouse slept, Roscuro put his terrible plan into effect. Would you like to hear, reader, how it all unfolded? The story is not a pretty one. There is violence in it. And cruelty. But stories that are not pretty have a certain value too, I suppose. Everything, as you well know (having lived in this world long enough to have figured out a thing or two for yourself), cannot always be sweetness and light.

Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 38 Quotes

And what of the light in the princess’s heart? Reader, I am pleased to tell you that the Pea was a kind person, and perhaps more important, she was empathetic. Do you know what it means to be empathetic?

I will tell you: it means that when you are being forcibly taken to a dungeon, when you have a large knife pointed at your back, when you are trying to be brave, you are able, still, to think for a moment of the person who is holding that knife.

You are able to think: “Oh, poor Mig, she wants to be a princess so badly and she thinks that this is the way. Poor, poor Mig. What must it be like to want something that desperately?”

Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 39 Quotes

“It will be all right,” said Louise.

Cook brought the hem of her apron up to wipe at her tears. “It won’t,” she said. “It won’t be all right ever again. They’ve taken our little darling away. There ain’t nothing left to live for without the princess.”

Despereaux was amazed to have exactly what was in his heart spoken aloud by such a ferocious, mouse-hating woman as Cook.

Related Characters: Louise (speaker), Cook (speaker), Despereaux Tilling, The Princess Pea, Chiaroscuro “Roscuro”
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 45 Quotes

Cook smiled. “See?” she said. “There ain’t a body, be it mouse or man, that ain’t made better by a little soup.”

Related Symbols: Soup
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 49 Quotes

“What do you want, Miggery Sow?!” the princess shouted.

“Don’t ask her that,” said Roscuro. “Shut up. Shut up.”

But it was too late. The words had been said; the question, at last, had been asked. The world stopped spinning and all of creation held its breath, waiting to hear what it was that Miggery Sow wanted.

“I want…,” said Mig.

“Yes?” shouted the Pea.

“I want my ma!” cried Mig, into the silent, waiting world. “I want my ma!”

“Oh,” said the princess. She held out her hand to Mig.

Mig took hold of it.

“I want my mother, too,” said the princess softly. And she squeezed Mig’s hand.

Related Characters: Chiaroscuro “Roscuro” (speaker), Miggery Sow “Mig” (speaker), The Princess Pea (speaker), Queen Rosemary
Page Number: 254
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 51 Quotes

Despereaux held his trembling needle against Roscuro’s heart. The mouse knew that as a knight, it was his duty to protect the princess. But would killing the rat make the darkness go away?

Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:

And the smell of soup crashed through his soul like a great wave, bringing with it the memory of light, the chandelier, the music, the laughter, everything, all the things that were not, would never, could never be available to him as a rat.

Soup,” moaned Roscuro.

And he began to cry.

[…]

“Kill me,” said Roscuro. He fell down before Despereaux. “It will never work. All I wanted was some light. This is why I brought the princess here, really, just for some beauty…some light of my own.”

Related Symbols: Light and Dark, Soup
Page Number: 262-63
Explanation and Analysis:

I think, reader, that she was feeling the same thing that Despereaux had felt when he was faced with his father begging him for forgiveness. That is, Pea was aware suddenly of how fragile her heart was, how much darkness was inside it, fighting, always, with the light. She did not like the rat. She would never like the rat, but she knew what she must do to save her own heart.

And so, here are the words that the princess spoke to her enemy.

She said, “Roscuro, would you like some soup?”

Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Tale of Despereaux PDF

Chiaroscuro “Roscuro” Character Timeline in The Tale of Despereaux

The timeline below shows where the character Chiaroscuro “Roscuro” appears in The Tale of Despereaux. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 16
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The narrator steps backward in time several years to the day that a rat named Chiaroscuro, nicknamed Roscuro, is born in the dark dungeon. Despereaux will be born upstairs in the... (full context)
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One day, Roscuro discovers a length of rope on the dungeon floor and begins to nibble it. A... (full context)
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Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
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As Roscuro sits and calms his beating heart, he can still see the flame dancing before his... (full context)
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Roscuro follows the swinging locket back and forth as Botticelli details how to torture a prisoner.... (full context)
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Roscuro says he’d like to make someone suffer, and Botticelli says that when a new prisoner... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Soon after, a new prisoner arrives in the dungeon. Roscuro and Botticelli watch him come in, and Roscuro vows to make this man suffer. However,... (full context)
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When Roscuro continues to argue, Botticelli reminds him that mice live upstairs. He pulls out his locket,... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Following Botticelli’s instructions, Roscuro goes to take the red cloth from the new prisoner. Roscuro slips through the cell... (full context)
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Roscuro isn’t alarmed by this confession. Rat parents, after all, don’t care much for their kids,... (full context)
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Ignoring the prisoner’s protests, Roscuro drags the red cloth to his nest. Upon closer inspection, the cloth is disappointing. Roscuro... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
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...sparkling suits of armor and bright copper pots. Readers should also imagine that just as Chiaroscuro steps into the light, Despereaux is born. The two will meet much later. For now,... (full context)
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Roscuro wanders from room to room until he gets to the banquet hall, where King Phillip,... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...of the banquet hall. It’s the perfect place from which to observe the party, so Roscuro climbs onto the table and leaps to the chandelier unnoticed. He swings back and forth,... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...lengths to craft soups that are art. On this day, the soup is particularly amazing. Roscuro takes a few sips as he comes to the surface of the queen’s soup bowl,... (full context)
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After a long silence, Roscuro says, “I beg your pardon” to the queen. The queen flings her spoon, lets loose... (full context)
Chapter 22
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As Roscuro scuttles out of the banquet hall, he tells himself that he’s a rat, and that... (full context)
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...they do, they heal “in a crooked and lopsided way.” This is what happens to Chiaroscuro. Taking the spoon and deciding to get revenge helps Roscuro put his heart back together,... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Roscuro’s behavior has dire consequences—every action, for that matter, has a consequence. This is why when... (full context)
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Chiaroscuro sits in his nest in the dungeon, his spoon on his head. He creates a... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...must move backward before it can go forward. Miggery Sow is born years before either Chiaroscuro or Despereaux. She’s born far away from the castle and is named after her father’s... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...and furnishings to work). While Mig is failing at her work, down in the dungeons Chiaroscuro is plotting his revenge, and upstairs Despereaux is falling in love with the Princess Pea.... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...a song about becoming the Princess Pea one day. Mig isn’t a great singer, but Chiaroscuro, in his red cape and spoon crown, hears exactly what he wants to hear in... (full context)
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...the dark says there’s more to the world than anyone can imagine—and next to Mig, Roscuro says Gregory is right. (full context)
Chapter 32
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...to tell Gregory her deepest wish and says she will be a princess one day. Roscuro is elated when he hears this—he dances a happy dance, and the candle casts a... (full context)
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Gregory says that everyone has a “foolish dream”: he dreams of soup, and Roscuro no doubt dreams of something silly. Roscuro whispers a response, and Mig shouts, “What?” Gregory... (full context)
Chapter 33
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Just as Mig prepares to open the door into the kitchen, Roscuro asks if they could speak for a moment. He directs her attention to the floor,... (full context)
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...moment, as it’s essential that readers understand the most unusual thing going on here: that Roscuro’s voice is pitched just right for Mig to be able to hear it, without him... (full context)
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Roscuro says that Mig’s life has been tragic, but that it’s time for her to “make... (full context)
Chapter 35
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...he escaped the dungeon. Now, he has a chance to save the Princess Pea from Chiaroscuro’s terrible plan. Despereaux is so exhausted and full of emotions that he sobs for a... (full context)
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...which fights with the dark. The dark takes many forms, including Antoinette, Lester, Furlough, and Roscuro. Despereaux tosses in his sleep, asks the knight who he is, and asks if the... (full context)
Chapter 36
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While Despereaux sleeps, Roscuro puts his plan into action. It’s not a pretty story, as there’s violence and cruelty... (full context)
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The narrator acknowledges that Roscuro’s plan is ridiculous. Nobody will ever mistake the Princess Pea for Mig, or vice versa—but... (full context)
Chapter 37
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...mother, but she wakes up to Miggery Sow standing over her with a knife. At Roscuro’s prodding, Mig says the Pea must come with her unless she wants to get hurt.... (full context)
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Roscuro shouts that Mig is doing it wrong and emerges from her pocket. He crawls onto... (full context)
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The Princess Pea looks straight at Roscuro, and her heart skips several beats. Roscuro asks if she knows him. She says she... (full context)
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As she dresses, the Pea asks if Mig will do up her buttons for her. Roscuro says Mig will not put her knife down; he’ll do the buttons. As he crawls... (full context)
Chapter 38
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As Mig and the Pea make their way to the dungeon, with Roscuro hiding in Mig’s pocket, the rest of the castle sleeps. King Phillip dreams that the... (full context)
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...The Pea’s heart is complicated, like most hearts are. There are dark parts: she hates Roscuro for killing her mother, and there’s a huge dark spot of sadness for the queen.... (full context)
Chapter 39
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The sun rises, “shed[ding] light on what Roscuro and Miggery Sow had done.” Despereaux wakes up to hear Louise and Cook shouting: they... (full context)
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...Despereaux knows what he must do: he has to speak to the king. He heard Roscuro’s plan and knows the Pea is in the dungeon. He’s also brighter than Mig, so... (full context)
Chapter 41
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...and that they don’t exist in his kingdom. Despereaux tries to tell the king about Roscuro, but the king hums and says that since Despereaux is a rodent, he’s lying. There... (full context)
Chapter 49
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...can move forward, it has to go backwards a little bit to what happened when Roscuro, the Pea, and Mig arrived in the dungeon. Roscuro leads the girls to a hidden... (full context)
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...so it slides down and rests painfully on top of her cauliflower ears. She asks Roscuro how she looks. He says she looks “laughable” and will never look like a princess... (full context)
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Mig says she wants to be a princess, but Roscuro says that nobody cares what she wants. Mig has heard this many times over the... (full context)
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The Pea gently takes Mig’s hands and says she wants her mother, too. Roscuro tells the girls to stop and shouts for Mig to tie up the princess, but... (full context)
Chapter 50
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...into the dungeon, and Despereaux’s lost tail, worth it. As he runs toward the princess, Roscuro blocks Despereaux’s way. The Pea begs Roscuro to not hurt Despereaux, and Mig says she’ll... (full context)
Chapter 51
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Roscuro howls in pain and turns to look at where his tail once was. As he... (full context)
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Suddenly, Roscuro is back in his memory of the chandelier, the music, and the happy laughing people—all... (full context)
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Turning to the sobbing Roscuro, the princess puts a hand on her heart. She’s likely feeling the same thing Despereaux... (full context)
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...but Botticelli says the flavor is already ruined—there’s been too much forgiveness, and that’s disgusting. Roscuro asks the Pea if she’s serious, and she says she is. Mig notes that soup... (full context)
Chapter 52
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...be curious whether everyone lives happily ever after. The answer is complicated. The Pea gives Roscuro free access to the castle’s main floors, and he moves back and forth between the... (full context)