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 Knight in Shining Armor Symbol Analysis

The Knight in Shining Armor Symbol Icon

The knight in shining armor symbolizes Despereaux’s coming of age. When Despereaux first encounters the story in a library book about a brave knight who rescues a beautiful maiden, he believes wholeheartedly in the fairytale’s happily-ever-after ending. The knight, he believes, is capable of any good deed—and happy endings are all but guaranteed. Furthermore, the story leads Despereaux to believe that other people will always be there to help those in need. This naïve outlook symbolizes Despereaux’s youthful innocence, and it provides a starting point from which he can mature.

Despereaux begins to question the concept of “happily ever after” and the knight’s power when the Mouse Council banishes him to the dungeon, where Despereaux will be eaten by rats. But even after Despereaux is rescued from the dungeon and returns upstairs, he continues to feel hopeless because he learns that Chiaroscuro has kidnapped the Princess Pea and imprisoned her in the dungeon. At this time, Despereaux also dreams about the knight, but the suit of armor in his dream turns out to be empty. Despereaux takes this to mean that the knight and the principles he stands for aren’t real or powerful. However, as Despereaux tries and fails to find someone to help him rescue the Pea, he eventually comes to the realization that perhaps the suit of armor is empty so that Despereaux himself can wear it and be a knight himself. This gives Despereaux the confidence he needs to return to the dungeon to rescue the Pea, and as Despereaux bravely faces his fears, he comes of age. The suit of armor, then, shows Despereaux that he cannot naively wait around for other people—or knights—to do things for him and to spread good in the world. Rather, he must be willing to take action himself.

The Knight in Shining Armor Quotes in The Tale of Despereaux

The The Tale of Despereaux quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Knight in Shining Armor. 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 1  Quotes

While Antoinette touched up her eye makeup, the mouse father put Despereaux down on a bed made of blanket scraps. The April sun, weak but determined, shone through a castle window and from there squeezed itself through a small hole in the wall and placed one golden finger on the little mouse.

Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

How, he wondered, had things gone so terribly wrong? Wasn’t it a good thing to love? In the story in the book, love was a very good thing. Because the knight loved the fair maiden, he was able to rescue her. They lived happily ever after. It said so. In the book. They were the last words on the page. Happily ever after. Despereaux was certain that he had read exactly those words time and time again.

Lying on the floor with the drum beating and the mice shouting and the threadmaster calling out, “Make way, make way,” Despereaux had a sudden, chilling thought: Had some other mouse eaten the words that spoke the truth? Did the knight and the fair maiden really not live happily ever after?

Related Symbols: The Knight in Shining Armor
Page Number: 57-58
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 41 Quotes

He put a nervous paw up to his neck and pulled at the red thread, and suddenly his dream came flooding back to him…the dark and the light and the knight swinging his sword and the terrible moment when he had realized that the suit of armor was empty.

And then, reader, as he stood before the king, a wonderful, amazing thought occurred to the mouse. What if the suit of armor had been empty for a reason? What if it had been empty because it was waiting?

For him.

Page Number: 214-15
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:
Get the entire The Tale of Despereaux LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Tale of Despereaux PDF

The Knight in Shining Armor Symbol Timeline in The Tale of Despereaux

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Knight in Shining Armor appears in The Tale of Despereaux. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
...words in the book. He then reads the story about a beautiful princess and a knight who “serves and honors her.” At this point, Despereaux doesn’t know that he’ll need to... (full context)
Chapter 7
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
...Pea that his name is Despereaux, and that he honors her. This is what the knight says to the maiden in the library book. The king shouts that rodents don’t know... (full context)
Chapter 11
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...wonders where this all went wrong. In the book, love was good—love was why the knight saved the fair maiden. They lived happily ever after. But did another mouse perhaps eat... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...Pea is lovely, just like in a fairy tale—and Despereaux loves her just like a knight. Despereaux asks how he knows about fairy tales, but the threadmaster shushes him. He leans... (full context)
Chapter 14
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Despereaux decides to be a knight in shining armor for the Princess Pea. He decides the best way to be brave... (full context)
Chapter 26
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...Mig sees that it’s King Phillip, Queen Rosemary, and little Princess Pea. They’re surrounded by knights and horses, all in shining armor, and each royal wears a gold crown. The Princess... (full context)
Chapter 35
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...about stained-glass windows and the dungeon. The light suddenly comes to life and becomes the knight, which fights with the dark. The dark takes many forms, including Antoinette, Lester, Furlough, and... (full context)
Chapter 38
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...favorite soup. Despereaux is asleep not far away from Cook, in the pantry, dreaming of knights, darkness, and light. Mig’s candle is the only light in the whole castle. (full context)
Chapter 41
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
...back, pulls at the thread still around his neck, and remembers his dream about the knight and the empty armor. Despereaux wonders if perhaps the armor was empty because it was... (full context)
Chapter 42
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
...needle. Despereaux says it’s like a sword; he can protect himself with it, like a knight. Hovis ties the needle around Despereaux’s waist. As Despereaux starts to move away, Hovis asks... (full context)
Chapter 51
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...The other rats crowd around to watch the show. Despereaux knows that since he’s a knight, he must protect the princess, but he’s not sure killing Roscuro will “make the darkness... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...Despereaux says soup is still good. Crouching down, the Pea tells Despereaux that he’s her knight, and she’s glad he found her. She suggests they all go upstairs to eat soup,... (full context)