Despereaux finds an unlikely friend…
Despereaux lay on his back, blinking his eyes. 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?
Reader, do you believe there is such a thing as happily ever after? Or, like Despereaux, have you begun to question the possibility of happy endings?
Funny thing about stories (or at least the good ones) – they must have stakes in order to have meaning. The middle of a story is a rather uncomfortable place to be stuck in, regardless of the ending.
While Despereaux watched, the threadmaster unwound a length of red thread from the spool and tied a loop.
“Just enough for the neck,” muttered the mouse. No more, no less. That’s what the last threadmaster taught me: enough thread for the neck.” He looked up at Despereaux and then back down at the loop of thread. “And you, my friend, have a very small neck.”
Oddly, the threadmaster is the first mouse to express an interest in Despereaux’s adventures – perhaps because he has a job where death is ever-present.
“Is the princess beautiful?”
“The Princess Pea?”
“She is lovely beyond all imagining,” said Despereaux.
“Just right,” the threadmaster said. He drew back. He nodded his head. “A lovely princess, just so, like a fairy tale. And you love her, as a knight loves a maiden. You love her with a courtly love, a love that is based on bravery and courtesy and honor and devotion. Just so.”
[…] The mouse leaned in close, and Despereaux smelled celery again, green and alive. “Be brave, friend,” whispered the threadmaster. “Be brave for the princess.” And then he stepped back and turned and shouted, “Fellow mice, the thread has been tied. The thread has been knotted.”
A roar of approval went up from the crowd.
He seems to carry a wisdom from generations past, and is the only mouse that even tries to sympathize with Despereaux.
Despereaux squared his shoulders. He had made a decision. He would do as the threadmaster suggested. He would be brave for the princess.
Even if (reader, could it be true?) there was no such thing as happily ever after.
Until next time…