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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Despereaux Tilling

The Tale of Despereaux may be a children's story about a very small mouse, but it speaks of thing we all need to hear...

Chapter 40 - Forgiveness

HE WENT FIRST to the throne room, but the king was not there. And so, Despereaux slipped through a hole in the molding and was making his way to the princess's room when he came upon the Mouse Council, thirteen mice and one Most Very Honored Head Mouse, sitting around their piece of wood debating important mouse matters.

Despereaux stopped and stood very still.

"Fellow Honored mice," said the Most Very Honored Head Mouse, and then he looked up from the makeshift table and saw Despereaux. "Despereaux," he whispered.

The other mice of the council leaned forward, straining to make some sense of the word that the Head Mouse had just uttered.

"Pardon?" one said.

"Excuse me?" said another.

"I didn't hear right, " said a third. "I thought you said 'Despereaux.'"

The Head Mouse gathered himself. He tried speaking again. "Fellow members," he said, "a ghost. A ghost!" And he raised a shaking paw and pointed it at Despereaux.

The other mice turned and looked.

And there was Despereaux Tilling, covered in flour, looking back at them, the telltale red thread still around his neck like a thin trail of blood.

"Despereaux," said Lester. "Son. You have come back!"

Despereaux looked at his father and saw an old mouse whose fur was shot through with gray. How could that be? Despereaux had been gone only a few days, but his father seemed to have aged many years in his absence.

"Son, ghost of my son," said Lester, his whiskers trembling. "I dream about you every night. I dream about beating the drum that sent you to your death. I was wrong. What I did was wrong."

"No!" called the Most Very Honored Head Mouse. "No!"

"I've destroyed it," said Lester. "I've destroyed the drum. Will you forgive me?" He clasped his front paws together and looked at his son.

"No!" shouted the Head Mouse again. "No. Do not ask the ghost to forgive you, Lester. You did as you should. You did what was best for the mouse community."

Lester ignored the Head Mouse. "Son," he said, "please."

Despereaux looked at his father, at his gray-streaked fur and trembling whiskers and his front paws clasped together in front of his heart, and he felt suddenly as if his own heart would break in two. His father looked so small, so sad.

"Forgive me," said Lester again.

Forgiveness, reader, is, I think, something very much like hope and love, a powerful, wonderful thing.

And a ridiculous thing, too.

Isn't it ridiculous, after all, to think that a son could forgive his father for beating the drum that sent him to his death? Isn't it ridiculous to think that a mouse could forgive anyone for such perfidy?

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.

...

After he was gone, the Head Mouse slapped his trembling paw on the table. "Mice of the Council," he said, "we have been paid a visit by a ghost who has told us to repent. We will now take a vote. All in favor of saying that this visit did not occur, vote 'aye.'"

And from the members of the Mouse Council, there came a tiny but emphatic chorus of "ayes."

Only one mouse said nothing. That mouse was Despereaux's father. Lester Tilling had turned his head away from the other members of the Mouse Council; he was trying to hide his tears.

He was crying, reader, because he had been forgiven.

2 Comments:

At 9:36 PM, March 10, 2005, Blogger Molly said...

Christian,

That chapter was so good -- it's so moving! It makes me want to read the whole book. (Once I graduate.) I love how the gospel can be described in such stirring - and surprising - ways; and in ways that can be directed at children.

But what kind of children's book has 40 chapters? :)

 
At 6:18 AM, March 11, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

This is a great book - really a must own (whether you have kids or not).

I picked it up at a bookstore in Denver and the book fell open on these pages. I was smitten and bought the book on the spot, read it completely through on the plane ride home, and then read it out loud to my family over the next several evenings. We all loved it!

Yes, there are lots of chapters, but they are all short, well crafted, zero fluff. It's a beautiful story, filled with redemptive moments. And did I mention its a great story? :-)

We need more people writing like this...

Just make sure when you buy a copy that you get the hardback version - with its thick, rough cut paper, that special "bookish" smell, and gorgeous illustrations, you just can't go wrong.

 

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