Despereaux is an unusual mouse. He loves reading books and has a huge imagination. One day, he goes to Princess Pea’s room and hears her father playing his guitar and singing. Despereaux talks to Princess Pea because he is so caught up in the music. When Princess Pea picks Despereaux up for a closer look, he falls immediately in love with her. Despereaux’s brother Furlough witnesses the entire exchange. Furlough then runs and tells their father Lester what he has seen. Lester calls a meeting of the Mouse Council. The Council votes to send Despereaux to the dungeon where the rats live for breaking a “Mouse Rule.” The Thread Master ties the mark of death, a red piece of thread, around Despereaux. He is then pushed down the stairs into the dungeon. To learn of Despereaux’s fate read The Tales of Desperaux.
Despereaux is an unusual mouse. Instead of spending his days scrounging for food scraps, he read books and listens to music. Despereaux falls in love with a book about a princess and a knight. Later he meets a real princess and falls instantly in love with her. For this “terrible deed,” he is banished to the dungeon. There Despereaux’s bravery shines through as he courageously battles the scary dungeon rats to keep Princess Pea safe after she is kidnapped.
Despereaux also exhibits his goodness when he forgives his family for sending him to the dungeon.
But still, here are the words Despereaux Tilling spoke to his father. He said, “I forgive you, Pa.”
And he said those words because he sensed that it was the only way to save his own heart, to stop it from breaking in two. Despereaux, reader, spoke those words to save himself.
Princess Pea is loved by everyone in the kingdom. Not only is she beautiful but kind and compassionate as well. She lives a carefree life until her mother’s unexpected death. After this, she spends her time creating a tapestry to remember happier times.
When Princes Pea is kidnapped by Miggery Sow and taken to the dungeon, she doesn’t hate her. Instead, Princess Pea feels sympathy for the serving girl who is so unhappy with her life that she wants to be someone else.
Roscuro is different from the other rats that live in the dungeon at the castle. He longs to see light. One day he climbs the stairs of the castle. Infatuated with the brightness of everything, Roscuro climbs up on a chandelier to see everything. Princess Pea spots him and yells, “Rat!” This startles Roscuro so that he falls directly into the queen’s soup. Shocked by this, the queen dies. Roscuro becomes upset and bent on revenge. Together with Miggery Sow, the two kidnap Princess Pea in a plot to “get even.”
Miggery Sow is basically a slave. She was sold by her father for a tablecloth, a hen, and some cigarettes. Mig ends up with a master who beats her until she is half deaf. She dreams of being a princess. In Mig’s mind, this is all she needs to be happy. She schemes a plot with Roscuro to kidnap Princess Pea. Mig thinks she will just step into the princess’s shoes once she is gone. Mig later realizes she has made a mistake by working with Roscuro and helps Despereaux save the princess. She is rewarded for being good.
Botticelli is a rat that lives in the dungeon. He behaves the way a normal rat should. Throughout the story, Botticeli encourages Roscuro to carry out the plan to kidnap Princess Pea.
Gregory the Jailer
Gregory the Jailer stays in the dungeon looking out for the prisoners. Because he doesn’t have a light, Gregory keeps from getting lost in the maze of the dungeon by tying a rope to his ankle. Spending so much time in the dark dungeon has turned Gregory into a wild creature. He gobbles down his food eating bones and all.
Gregory does have some good qualities. He decides to help Despereaux by helping him escape from the dungeon. In the revenge plan Roscuro cooks up to kidnap the princess, Gregory must be occupied so he doesn’t catch on to the plan. Roscuro cuts through Gregory’s rope, so he is permanently lost in the dungeon’s maze.
Character Traits Cards
Have students summarize each character using these character cards. You can download the cards here.
Free Samples from The Tale of Despereaux Book Unit Book Unit
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The Tale of Despereaux Book Unit
The Tales of Despereaux Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities covering vocabulary, comprehension questions, constructive response writing, and skill practice.