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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 890

Despereaux Tilling From his birth, Despereaux is unlike the other mice in the castle. He is born with his eyes open, looking at the light—an early indication of his love for light and all that provides it, including music, stories, and love. Despereaux is also smaller than the other mice, with unusually...

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Despereaux Tilling
From his birth, Despereaux is unlike the other mice in the castle. He is born with his eyes open, looking at the light—an early indication of his love for light and all that provides it, including music, stories, and love. Despereaux is also smaller than the other mice, with unusually large ears, and he is not expected to survive. But he does live; thus, from his very birth, Despereaux is an underdog who fights and succeeds against impossible odds.

As Despereaux grows older, his inability to fit in with the other mice only becomes more obvious. The other mice do not share Despereaux’s love for music and books, or his lack of interest in eating; worst of all, Despereaux goes against the most important mice rules when he approaches, speaks to, and even falls in love with a human. Once again, Despereaux is faced with insurmountable difficulties, as the entire mice community turns against him and sentences him to the dungeon. However, Despereaux’s refusal to conform ultimately saves him, just as his ability to tell a story convinces the jailer to rescue him.

Despereaux also proves to be a noble, brave, and magnanimous character. He manages to forgive his father, and after making it out of the dungeon, he returns of his own free will to rescue the princess. Once again, Despereaux is the underdog—a tiny mouse who weighs less than the spool of red thread he pushes through the castle, he nevertheless succeeds in rescuing Pea. Despereaux’s deep love for the princess, as well as his great determination and inner strength, allows him to overcome the many obstacles against him.

Roscuro the rat is a character in some ways similar to Despereaux, but who ultimately makes very different choices and meets a very different fate. Like Despereaux with the other mice, Roscuro does npt fit in with the other rats: while most rats abhor light, Roscuro is obsessed with light and convinced it gives life meaning. Like Despereaux, Roscuro takes a great leap unheard of for a member of his species—in Roscuro’s case, he heads upstairs into the world of light. Unfortunately, Roscuro’s journey is disastrous, as he inadvertently shocks the queen to death. However, this event is not Roscuro’s undoing—it is what happens next that seals his fate.

When Pea, distraught over her mother, scorns Roscuro, Roscuro allows his great hurt to overtake him. Unlike Despereaux, who forgives, Roscuro convinces himself that only by making Pea suffer as he has suffered can he heal his pain. Once he has Pea in the dungeon, Roscuro realizes that he has gained nothing—his own pain is as strong as ever. Even though Roscuro is pardoned by Pea, he can never truly be happy, as he no longer belongs either in the world of light above or darkness below.

Miggery Sow
Miggery Sow, a slow-witted, partially deaf girl, has been mistreated and abandoned her entire life. After her mother’s death, her father sells her to a cruel man who physically and emotionally abuses her. No one has ever cared about Mig herself or about her dreams and desires. Despite this, after getting a glimpse of the royal caravan, Mig develops a grand wish indeed: to become a princess. Mig is entranced by the splendor of the princess and her parents, calling them “human stars;” her desire to become a princess is her desire to enter the world of hope, beauty and light.

Although Mig is not a cruel or malevolent person, her slow wits and ardent desire to become a princess allow her to be easily misled, and she agrees to help Roscuro kidnap the princess. However, after discovering the rat’s true intentions, Mig redeems herself by refusing to chain the princess. In addition, Mig discovers that becoming a princess is not what she truly wants: when Pea asks Mig what she wants, Mig responds, “my ma." Deep inside, Mig wants to be loved by someone she loves as well—she does yearn for “light,” but in a different way than she initially thought. While Mig cannot reunite with her mother, she does reconnect with her father, who, feeling guilty over his earlier mistreatment of her, now lavishes his daughter with affection and love.

Princess Pea
Princess Pea is a sharp-witted, perceptive, kind, and empathetic young girl. She notices Despereaux despite his small size, and she remembers his name from one brief meeting; she is also the first to notice Roscuro in the banquet hall. The Pea is kind to Mig when they first meet, despite Mig’s deafness and clumsiness. Later, when Mig and Roscuro kidnap the princess, she manages to find empathy even for a girl who is plotting against her. Pea asks herself what it must be like to have no one care what you want, to be so desperate that you will go along with an evil and foolish plot. Pea is the first person to ask Mig what she wants, and the princess continues to empathize with the servant girl, despite their wildly different backgrounds: when Mig says she wants her mother, Pea responds that she wants her mother too. Finally, the princess forgives Roscuro and frees Mig’s father from prison; she remains a thoughtful, caring person until the very end of the novel.

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Critical Essays