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.
Soup Symbol Icon

Soup represents love, comfort, and community. It’s Queen Rosemary’s favorite food, and when she dies while eating it, King Phillip bans soup (as well as soup-making implements like kettles and soup-eating implements like spoons and bowls) for everyone in the kingdom. Because he lost the person he loved most, he tries to express his love and his grief for her by taking soup away from everyone—everyone will then have to share in his loss and hopefully understand the depth of his grief. As the narrator notes, the king’s action is absurd, but this only reinforces the narrator’s assertion that love itself is absurd.

However, making soup illegal doesn’t stop soup from being a positive thing capable of bringing people (and mice and rats) together. After the Princess Pea goes missing, Cook sneakily makes soup late at night. When Despereaux comes upon her stirring the soup, the soup pot’s steam seems to create a halo around Cook’s head, suggesting that the soup can make even a hard, violent woman like Cook seem helpful and angelic. And Cook then goes on to set aside her hatred of mice to give Despereaux some soup, thereby giving him the physical and emotional strength he needs to brave the dungeon and rescue the princess. Soup creates an improbable alliance between Cook and Despereaux, highlighting its ability to bridge divides. Later, in the dungeon, Roscuro finally reveals his true plan and his true desires (he wants to possess light for himself) once he smells the soup on Despereaux’s whiskers—it leads him to essentially confess his sins and ask for help, and it stops him from continuing down his evil path. And when the Pea forgives Roscuro for his actions, it’s significant that she invites him upstairs to eat soup together. The novel’s final chapter details a meal of soup shared by the king, the princess, Mig, Roscuro, and Despereaux. The soup itself—and the love and forgiveness it represents—brings several unlikely friends together around the same table, highlighting again its ability to create community.

Soup Quotes in The Tale of Despereaux

The The Tale of Despereaux quotes below all refer to the symbol of Soup. 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 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 32 Quotes

“Most foolish,” muttered Gregory as he lifted the cover off the plate, “too foolish to be borne, a world without soup.”

Related Characters: Gregory (speaker), Miggery Sow “Mig”, King Phillip, Queen Rosemary, Uncle
Related Symbols: Soup
Page Number: 163
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 51 Quotes

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:
Get the entire The Tale of Despereaux LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Tale of Despereaux PDF

Soup Symbol Timeline in The Tale of Despereaux

The timeline below shows where the symbol Soup appears in The Tale of Despereaux. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...this, Gregory lights a match. The light illuminates a towering pile of spoons, kettles, and soup bowls—a “monument to the foolishness of love.” Despereaux doesn’t understand, so Gregory says this is... (full context)
Chapter 20
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
...is so huge that Roscuro lets go of the chandelier and falls into the queen’s soup bowl. (full context)
Chapter 21
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
The queen loves soup more than anything, aside from the Princess Pea and King Phillip. For this reason, Cook... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...lets loose a horrible scream, and then observes aloud that there’s a rat in her soup. These are her last words—she falls over backwards, dead. The king’s men all try to... (full context)
Chapter 22
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...that there’s no light for rats—there’s no light for him. Suddenly, Roscuro reaches the queen’s soup spoon. He says aloud that he might be a rat, but he’ll have a beautiful... (full context)
Chapter 23
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 28
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...a princess. In a roundabout way, Mig gets her first wish when King Phillip outlaws soup. When the king’s soldier knocks on Uncle’s door one day and announces that soup is... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...fellow human, he informs Uncle that this is against the law. He asks for Uncle’s soup-making and soup-eating supplies, as well as Miggery Sow. Since the alternative is imprisonment in the... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Miggery Sow rides to the castle with the soldier, in the wagon filled with “soup-related items.” He asks if she has parents in a shout, and Mig shouts back that... (full context)
Chapter 29
Conformity Theme Icon
...depicting her history. She points out King Phillip playing the guitar and the queen eating soup. Mig observes that soup is against the law, and the Pea says this is because... (full context)
Chapter 32
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
...tray and sits on an overturned kettle. Studying his meal, he asks if there’s no soup again. He has to shout for Mig to hear, and Mig shouts back that soup... (full context)
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
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,... (full context)
Chapter 37
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
The Princess Pea is asleep and dreaming that the queen is holding a spoonful of soup out for the Pea to taste. The Pea declares that the soup is the best... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...doesn’t, but in truth, she recognizes him as the rat who fell in the queen’s soup, because it’s her mother’s soup spoon on Roscuro’s head. The Pea looks down, enraged. Roscuro... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...he crawls over the Pea’s back, the Pea licks her lips and thinks of the soup in her dream. She whispers that she hasn’t forgotten her mother the queen—or soup. (full context)
Chapter 38
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...calling his name, while Cook dreams that she lost the recipe for the queen’s favorite soup. Despereaux is asleep not far away from Cook, in the pantry, dreaming of knights, darkness,... (full context)
Chapter 39
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...world it is where princesses disappear and queens drop dead, and they can’t even have soup. Louise begs Cook to stay quiet, but Cook shouts “Soup!” several times. (full context)
Chapter 43
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 44
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...but Despereaux stays quiet. To herself, Cook says she’s just afraid of being caught making soup. Relieved, Despereaux leans against the spool of thread, and a breeze blows the smell of... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...instead of killing him, Cook laughs—a mouse won’t throw her in the dungeon for making soup. She laughs more, because Despereaux has no tail and has a needle around his waist.... (full context)
Chapter 45
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
After stirring the soup, Cook turns back to Despereaux and tells him this is the only time he’ll pass... (full context)
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Cook asks how the soup is, and Despereaux says it’s perfect. Smiling, Cook says that soup can make anyone, mouse... (full context)
Chapter 46
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...heart is filled with love for the Pea and his stomach is full of Cook’s soup. So, he begins to work the spool of thread down the stairs. To “make some... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...whispering a story to himself about a rat, a serving girl, a princess, a mouse, soup, and red thread—much like the story the reader is enjoying. It makes Despereaux strong, and... (full context)
Chapter 48
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...vengeful parade” that follows Despereaux and Botticelli. The rats remark that they smell a mouse, soup, and blood. Botticelli tells the other rats that this mouse is his as Despereaux starts... (full context)
Chapter 51
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...smelling. The gathered rats say it’s mouse tears and blood, but Roscuro realizes he’s smelling soup. (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...has to do for her own heart’s sake. She asks Roscuro if he’d like some soup. The Pea promises that if he leads them out of the dungeon, she’ll ask Cook... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...Roscuro asks the Pea if she’s serious, and she says she is. Mig notes that soup is illegal, but Despereaux says soup is still good. Crouching down, the Pea tells Despereaux... (full context)
Chapter 52
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
...head, all sitting around a table in a banquet hall. There’s a huge kettle of soup in the middle of the table, and a mouse with big ears is sitting right... (full context)