The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux


Kate DiCamillo

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The Tale of Despereaux Themes

Themes and Colors
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Principles, Courage, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Conformity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Tale of Despereaux, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Good vs. Evil

In The Tale of Despereaux, the titular protagonist—a small mouse who lives in a castle—falls in love with the human Princess Pea, and Despereaux eventually takes on the monumental task of rescuing the princess from the dungeon after the evil rat Chiaroscuro kidnaps her. On the surface, The Tale of Despereaux is a simple story about good triumphing over evil, but the novel’s message is far more complex. It proposes that good and…

read analysis of Good vs. Evil

Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity

At its heart, The Tale of Despereaux is a love story: that of the love that the mouse Despereaux feels for the human Princess Pea, and the lengths Despereaux’s love causes him to go to when the rat Chiaroscuro (Roscuro) imprisons the Pea in the dungeon. Love, the narrator says, is extremely powerful, if a bit absurd—it’s ridiculous that a mouse falls in love with a human princess, but that love causes Despereaux to…

read analysis of Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity

Principles, Courage, and Growing Up

In many ways, The Tale of Despereaux details the titular mouse protagonist’s process of growing up and learning to stand up for what he believes is right. Despereaux doesn’t fit in with other mice, but this is largely because he believes in things that he suggests are far more meaningful and important than what most mice value: he values love and honor, rather than eating and being afraid. His values lead him not only to…

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The Tale of Despereaux PDF


The narrator of The Tale of Despereaux remarks at one point that “an interesting fate […] awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.” The mouse Despereaux, for his part, is thrown in the dark, rat-infested dungeon as punishment for his failure to conform to mouse rules of behavior—his love of the human Princess Pea and his love of music prove too strong for him to want to stay hidden, afraid…

read analysis of Conformity