This article is about the book. For the 2008 film, see The Tale of Despereaux (film).

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The Tale of Despereaux, also known as The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread is a 2004 Newbery Medal winning children's fantasy book written by Kate DiCamillo. The main plot follows the adventures of a mouse named Despereaux, who sets out on his quest to rescue a beautiful human princess. The book was adapted into an animated film in 2008. The novel is divided into four books and a coda. Each book tells the story from the perspective of a different character.


The Tale of Despereaux is divided into four separate sections called "books". Book I covers Despereaux's origins, Book II on Roscuro, and book the third about Miggery Sow. The first three books are set years apart all concluding up until the fourth book. The fourth book is the book where they all meet up with a sweet and happy ending.

Book I: A Mouse Is Born

The Tale of Despereaux tells a story about a tiny mouse born in a castle. He has very large ears and his eyes were wide open when he was born.And to his family he is a disappointment. Unlike the other mice, he doesn't scurry, isn't afraid of humans, and reads books instead of eating them. One day, following the sound of music, he comes across the king and his daughter, Princess Pea. He falls in love with the princess and speaks to her. His brother, Furlough, sees this and reports it to the other mice. They call together the mouse council, which sentences Despereaux to be sent to the dungeon, where in time, he will be killed by the rats. In the dungeon he meets Gregory, the jailer, and tells him a story about how he was beaten as a young boy, making Despereaux feel better.

Book II: Chiaroscuro

Which brings us to the story of an innocent rat named Chiaroscuro (Roscuro), who is chewing the rope at Gregory's ankle. Gregory catches Roscuro and burns his whiskers with a match. However, Roscuro is amazed by the light from the match and declares that goodness and light is the meaning of life, Roscuro begins to explore the castle's upstairs, where the light is. While there, the light-loving rat, entranced by the royal family's grandeur, climbs a chandelier during dinner and is seen by Princess Pea. She calls out to everyone to take notice. Roscuro falls accidentally and caused him to land into the Queen's soup, causing her to have a heart attack and die. Roscuro escapes back to the dungeon with the Queen's soup spoon. Heartbroken, he then vows revenge on Princess Pea for causing the event to happen and forcing him back underground. The grief-stricken king outlaws soup throughout the Kingdom of Dor and for the knights to take all the spoons, bowls and kettles. He also orders for all rats to be hunted down and killed.

Book III: Gor! The Tale of Miggery Sow

Set many years before Despereaux and Chiaroscuro, a six-year-old Miggery "Mig" Sow witnesses the death of her ill mother. Afterwards, Mig is sold to work by her father for some cigarettes, a chicken, and a red tablecloth to a man Mig calls "Uncle". Uncle occasionally beats Mig over her ears until she goes slightly deaf and her ears look like cauliflowers. On Mig's seventh birthday, she sees the Princess Pea riding by on horseback with her company. Princess Pea waves at Mig, but Mig is too surprised to wave back. When Mig does wave back, Princess Pea and her company are already too far away. It is then that Mig decides that she too wants to be a princess. Five years pass (she would be 12) until the day that the king bans soup and the king's guards arrive at Uncle's house to take away bowls and spoons. They also take Mig away from Uncle because slavery is illegal.

Mig is then set to work in the castle where she gains a lot of weight and begins to become lazy during her chores. One day, Mig is sent up to the Pea's room to deliver a red colored spool of thread. She gets so distracted in conversation with the Princess that she is then assigned to work in the kitchen under a plump female chef called Cook. Mig is sent to the dungeons to deliver Gregory his meal and, while there, she meets Roscuro and tells him that her greatest wish is to become a princess. Roscuro plans to make Mig suffer into hearing what she wants and manipulates Mig into granting her wish if she helps him kidnap the Pea to make her become a servant girl so Miggery Sow can become a princess.

Book IV: Recalled to the Light

Despereaux escapes the dungeons on a tray of Gregory's that Mig brings back to the kitchen, and overheard her conversation with Roscuro. However, Despereaux is soon discovered by Mig and Cook. Cook, as a mouse-hating woman, orders Mig to "kill 'em, even if they's already dead." When Despereaux is attempting to flee, Mig chops off his tail with a knife. Despereaux then spends the night in pain, sleeping on a sack of flour. He dreams of knights in shining armor, darkness, and light. However, when the knight removed the helmet, it didn't reveal anyone. Then, Despereaux doubts happily ever after and everything else that he has read and starts to weep. Meanwhile, Roscuro leads Mig to Princess Pea's room with a knife, and the two kidnap the Pea and lead her to the dungeon.

The next morning, the castle is in a panic over the missing Princess. Guards are sent to search the dungeon, only to find Gregory dead from being lost in the dark. Despereaux is then seen by the mouse council who mistake him for a ghost because he is covered in flour. Despereaux forgives his father for sentencing him to the dungeon and goes on to seek the King. Despereaux tells the King that he knows that Pea is in the dungeon, but the King refuses to believe him because Despereaux is a mouse, which is related to a rat.

Despereaux then goes to Hovis, the threadmaster, who gives him the entire spool of red thread and a sewing needle for his quest to the dungeons. Despereaux cuts back through the kitchen only to see Cook making soup. However, Cook is delighted to see Despereaux because he is a mouse and not a castle guard come to arrest her for making soup. She gives Despereaux some soup to eat and he then makes his way to the dungeons. While there, Despereaux meets Botticelli, who tells him that he will lead Despereaux to the Pea, however, this is only an act, to make Despereaux suffer.

Mig then learns that Roscuro tricked her into helping him kidnap Pea, and that Mig will never be a princess. Roscuro plans for Pea to remain locked in the dungeons, so that he can marvel over her brightly colored dress, but Despereaux arrives and Mig chops Roscuro's tail off with the knife. However, many rats arrive on the scene because they followed the smell of Despereaux, and the soup he recently ate. Despereaux threatens to kill Roscuro with the sewing needle, who then begins crying. Pea offers to Roscuro that if he lets her go, she will treat him with some soup, to which Roscuro agrees. Botticelli and the other rats are disgusted by the happiness of all that is happening that they all return into the darkness.

Despereaux and Pea become close friends. Roscuro is allowed access into the upstairs of the castle, and reunites the freed dungeon prisoner with his daughter, Mig, who is seen as a princess by him. Roscuro, Mig, the King, Pea, and Despereaux all join together for soup, as the mice watch in amazement.


Despereaux Tilling-The main protagonist of the story, Despereaux was born as a castle-mouse and the only living mouse of his mother's last litter. Named by her from the many despairs and sadness of that time, Despereaux has been an oddball among the mouse community from birth, as he was born with a small body, huge ears, and his eyes open. He then grew up to be radically different from the other mice in this tale, choosing to read books instead of eating them, and he did not learn to scurry like any other mouse,from where he develops a fascination toward fairy tales and learns from them ideas such as chivalry and courage, which his fearful peers dismiss as absurd. Through his large ears, Despereaux is able to listen to the music that the king plays for his daughter Princess Pea, and because of this, he is able to meet and fall in love with the human princess. This behavior, however, does not go unnoticed by the mice, and when he is sent to the dungeon as Despereaux must rely on his wits, bravery, and inner strength in order to save himself and the princess.

Princess Pea- The Princess of Dor and the only child of the king and queen, Pea is a sharp-eyed and beautiful girl whom Despereaux grows to honour and love upon their first meeting as Pea also comes to adore the mouse. Though kind-hearted and loved by the people of the castle, Pea is often overcome with loneliness after her mother's death. Because of her title as a princess, Pea is not used to being told what to do and sometimes takes slight offense when someone does not appreciate her for her title. However, when her past actions cause her kidnapping, Pea comes to use her forgiveness, good nature, and place as royalty for the good of the other characters.

Chiaroscuro (known as "Roscuro")- Chiaroscuro was born innocent among the evil rats of the castle dungeon some years before Despereaux. Because of a match-related reprimand from the jailer, Roscuro did not acted like rat, afraid of light,however,comes to be fascinated by light and goodness, despite objections from fellow rats. However, his love of light is what causes him to make a grave mistake in the human world, resulting in his plot to take revenge on the humans by kidnapping the princess. In the end, it is through the actions of Despereaux and the princess, and Roscuro's own true love for light that he finds his self-redemption.

Miggery "Mig" Sow- Born in the countryside of Dor, Miggery Sow was an often-mistreated child, since nobody around her cared much for what she wanted. Her mother died when she was very young and soon after, her father sold her to a man whom she was forced to call "uncle". Miggery had to work for the man to whom she was sold for many years with little or no thanks. The man would also give her "clouts to the ear," rendering her to be almost completely deaf. Despite her harsh life, Miggery remained a well-meaning albeit simple-minded child. On her seventh birthday, an accidental meeting with the royal family causes Miggery to dream of becoming a princess. When she turns twelve, she is rescued from slavery by the soldiers of the castle, and she is given the position of serving-maid in the castle itself, befriending Princess Pea but becoming an unintentional pawn in Roscuro's plan.

Botticelli Remorso- The antagonist of the story, Botticelli is a very old one-eared rat who lives in the dungeon and is suspicious of Roscuro and his ability. Botticelli believes that the meaning of life is suffering, specifically the suffering of others, and that Roscuro should take action, and become a part of the rat community. He had taken a golden heart-shaped locket from a prisoner and hung it on a thin braided rope. Whenever Botticelli spoke, the locket moved. Botticelli is evil, and wishes for the princess to die. Later in the book, he leads Despereaux to the princess in order to kill him later, and intends on feeding the princess to his army of malicious rats.

Gregory the Jailor- When Despereaux tells Gregory a story he saves himself from being killed by the rats. He wears a long rope that protects him from getting lost in the dungeon's darkness. Chiaroscuro chews on his rope and as a result Gregory burns off his whiskers with a match. Miggery Sow is sent to deliver him his food as a new job. He dies from getting lost in the dungeon's darkness and starving to death after Chiaroscuro chews through his rope completely.

Furlough Tilling- One of Despereaux's many older brothers. He plays a large part in the book/movie and betrays and sends Despereaux to the dungeon in a black suit. He tried to teach Despereaux to be afraid of things, and ridicules him for his difference. He was mentioned much more than any other family members (besides Despereaux's father). He is disappointed in his little brother for not being like the rest of the mice, and refuses to try and help his brother when he is banished. At the end, he is shown to be disgusted by Desperaux's well-being.

Lester Tilling- Lester Tilling is Despereaux Tilling's father. He sent his own son to the punishment of being exiled to the dungeon, where the rats would no doubt eat him. Later, after Despereaux escapes the dungeon on Gregory's tray, Despereaux pays a visit to the Mouse Council, which pronounced his sentence. Lester is forgiven for the perfidy he committed against his own son, Despereaux.

Antoinette Tilling- Despereaux's French mother who arrived in Dor in a foreign diplomat's luggage. She cares too much about her appearance and is often picky. Although, like most of Despereaux's family, Antoinette is inconsiderate of Despereaux, she is sad when he is thrown into the dungeon and defends him occasionally in the book.


Preceded by
Crispin: The Cross of Lead
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by

sv:Sagan om Despereaux

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