The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux


Kate DiCamillo

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Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Analysis

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.
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon

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 believe he’s actually capable of rescuing his love from the dungeon. The narrator characterizes forgiveness similarly: it’s absurd, the narrator suggests, to think that Despereaux could forgive his own father for voting to banish him to the dungeon early in the novel, where Despereaux is guaranteed to be eaten by rats. But the novel suggests that despite the absurdity, love and forgiveness are absolutely necessary if people (or mice) mean to hold onto their humanity and not fall prey to evil. Roscuro, for instance, turns to evil (in the form of kidnapping the princess) because he’s led to believe that things like love, beauty, and forgiveness will never be available to him. And as they forgive those who have harmed them, both the Pea and Despereaux realize that being willing to forgive is the only way to avoid ending up miserable like Roscuro. Forgiveness, in other words, benefits the person being forgiven as much as it benefits the person forgiving.

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Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Quotes in The Tale of Despereaux

Below you will find the important quotes in The Tale of Despereaux related to the theme of Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity.
Chapter 3 Quotes

He was staring at the light pouring in through the stained-glass windows of the castle. He stood on his hind legs and held his handkerchief over his heart and stared up, up, up into the brilliant light.

“Furlough,” he said, “what is this thing? What are all these colors? Are we in heaven?”

“Cripes!” shouted Furlough from a far corner. “Don’t stand there in the middle of the floor talking about heaven. Move! You’re a mouse, not a man. You’ve got to scurry.”

“What?” said Despereaux, still staring at the light.

Related Characters: Despereaux Tilling (speaker), Furlough Tilling (speaker)
Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 20-21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Reader, you may ask this question; in fact, you must ask this question: Is it ridiculous for a very small, sickly, big-eared mouse to fall in love with a beautiful human princess named Pea?

The answer is … yes. Of course, it’s ridiculous.

Love is ridiculous.

But love is also wonderful. And powerful. And Despereaux’s love for the Princess Pea would prove, in time, to be all of these things: Powerful, wonderful, and ridiculous.

Related Characters: Despereaux Tilling, The Princess Pea
Page Number: 32
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 10 Quotes

“Did you break them?”

“Yes, sir,” said Despereaux. He raised his voice. “But…I broke the rules for good reasons. Because of music. And because of love.”

“Love!” said the Head Mouse.

“Oh cripes,” said Furlough. “Here we go.”

“I love her, sir,” said Despereaux.

“We are not here to talk about love. This trial is not about love. This trial is about you being a mouse,” shouted the Most Very Honored Head Mouse from high atop the bricks, “and not acting like one!!!”

Page Number: 54
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 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 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 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 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:

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: