“Ah, child, and what does it matter what you are wanting?”
Again, reader, we must go backward before we can go forward. With that said, here begins a short history of the life and times of Miggery Sow, a girl born into this world many years before the mouse Despereaux and the rat Chiaroscuro, a girl born far from the castle, a girl named for her father’s favorite prize-winning pig.
I would hassle her father for his priorities, but we’ve already met him (he was the prisoner), and naming his daughter after a pig is the least of his flaws.
Miggery Sow was six years old when her mother, holding on to Mig’s hand and staring directly into Mig’s eyes, died.
“Ma?” said Mig. “Ma, couldn’t you stay here with me?”
“Oh,” said her mother. “Who is that? Who is that holding my hand?”
“It’s me, Ma, Miggery Sow.”
“Ah, child, let me go.”
“But I want you to stay here,” said Mig, wiping first at her runny nose and then at her runny eyes.
“You want,” said her mother.
“Yes,” said Mig, “I want.”
“Ah, child, and what does it matter what you are wanting?” said her mother. She squeezed Mig’s hand once, twice, and then she died, leaving Mig alone with her father. who, on a market day in spring soon after his wife’s death, sold his daughter into service for a handful of cigarettes, a red tablecloth, and a hen.
I take back what I said about Roscuro being the character most gutted of development in the movie. I mean, at least he got SOME sort of development. Mig was basically an afterthought, and it’s such a shame, because she’s a really compelling character!
“Papa?” said Mig, when her father was walking away from her with the hen in his arms, a cigarette in his mouth, and the red tablecloth draped across his shoulders like a cape.
“Go on, Mig,” he said. “You belong to that man now.”
“But I don’t want to, Papa,” she said. “I want to go with you.” She took hold of the red tablecloth and tugged on it.
“Lord, child,” her father said, “and who is asking you what you want? Go on now.”
I don’t have a great relationship with my own dad (though not terrible, either), so the narrator asking me to imagine my own dad doing this was always an empty exercise for me – I sympathize with this poor girl enough already, with her mother dead and her father abandoning her, quite apart from the whole “selling/trading her away” thing.
Poor Mig. What will become of her? You must, frightened though you may be, read on and see for yourself.
Reader, it is your duty.
Next time: A vicious circle…