“You see what comes from a rat going upstairs?”
Every action, reader, no matter how small, has a consequence. For instance, the young Roscuro gnawed on Gregory the jailer’s rope, and because he gnawed on the rope, a match was lit in his face, and because a match was lit in his face, his soul was set afire.
The rat’s soul was set afire, and because of this he journeyed upstairs, seeking the light. Upstairs, in the banquet hall, the Princess Pea spotted him and called out the word “rat,” and because of this Roscuro fell into the queen’s soup. And because the rat fell into the queen’s soup, the queen died. You can see, can’t you, how everything is related to everything else? You can see, quite clearly, how every action has a consequence.
This is what comes of rejecting one’s role in society: In seeking a better place for himself, Roscuro met resistance both from within rat society and from the people he wished to join (the humans upstairs). And so he retreated to the familiar realm of the rats, where his hatred was only encouraged.
Because the queen died while eating soup, the heartbroken king outlawed soup; and because soup was outlawed, so were all the instruments involved in the making and eating of soup: spoons and bowls and kettles. These things were collected from all the people of the Kingdom of Dor, and they were piled in the dungeon.
And because Roscuro was dazzled by the light of one match and journeyed upstairs and fell into the queen’s soup and the queen died, the king ordered the death of every rat in the land.
Naturally, there’s a good deal of trouble enforcing the death penalty, and many of the king’s men were lost in the dungeon before the king just decided to declare them outlaws instead.
This, of course, was a ridiculous law, as rats are outlaws to begin with. How can you outlaw an outlaw? It is a waste of time and energy. But still, the king officially decreed that all rats in the Kingdom of Dor were outlaws and should be treated as such. When you are a king, you may make as many ridiculous laws as you like. That is what being a king is all about.
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.
And what of the outlawed rats? What of one outlawed rat in particular?
What of Chiaroscuro?
In the darkness of the dungeon, he sat in his nest with a spoon atop his head. He set to work fashioning for himself a kingly cape made out of a scrap of red tablecloth. And as he worked, old one-eared Botticelli Remorso sat next to him swinging his locket back and forth, back and forth, saying, “You see what comes from a rat going upstairs? I hope that you have learned your lesson. Your job in this world is to make others suffer.”
“Yes,” muttered Roscuro. “Yes. That is exactly what I intend to do. I will make the princess suffer for how she looked at me.“
In the movie they act like the outlawing of rats is a big deal – and to be fair, it is a much bigger deal for the Roscuro of the film, given that it effectively condemns him to the dungeon for the first time. But within this story, it’s more a reflection of how powerless the king truly is in the face tragedy.
And speaking of consequences, the same evening that Despereaux stood inside the castle hearing music for the first time, outside the castle, in the gloom of dusk, more consequences drew near. A wagon driven by a king’s soldier and piled high with spoons and bowls and kettles was making its way to the castle. And beside the soldier sat a young girl with ears that looked like nothing so much as pieces of cauliflower stuck on either side of her head.
The girl’s name, reader, was Miggery Sow. And though she did not yet know it, she would be instrumental in helping the rat work his revenge.
Next time: The tale of Miggery Sow…