"The Tale of Despereaux" presents a story of a brave little mouse who acts very un-mouse-like. He seems to have been born without any sense of fear, and this draws great concern from his elders - he doesn't cower, scurry or shrink from danger as a good mouse should. Despereaux's sense of adventure outweighs any fear that he might have, and this sense of adventure brings him into contact with the human world, in the person of the Princess Pea.
The events are set up at the beginning of the film, when, during the annual "Soup Day" celebration, a rat accidentally falls into the queen's soup, leading to her shock and death. The king, in his grief and anger, outlaws both soup and rats, and resigns himself to a life of solitude and mourning. The princess remains in her room, wishing the cloudy skies would either clear or rain, and all the residents of the kingdom pine for soup, while the rats are banished to the lowest parts of the dungeons.
While Despereaux and his unusual courage provide the movement of the story from the beginning to end, he is not the most interesting character. The rat, Roscuro, who fell into the soup, presents an interesting character journey. After an attempt to apologize to the princess, in which he is repelled by a repulsed princess, he determines to prove a villain. However, after seeing the ugliness of the rats' desire for attacking the princess, he returns to himself, and assists Despereaux in rescuing her. He apologizes, realizing that the power to forgive is a sign of true courage. Through these events, the king is able to release himself from his grief; the soup flows again!
The film draws attention to the immense power that we have over ourselves - how pain, grief and anger are not "powers" we have that give us strength, but rather they shackle us and limit us. When we are able to let go of hurt and cease allowing ourselves to be victims, we discover the freeing power of forgiveness. It is never easy to "just forgive." However, when we do, there is a freedom that no one can give us except ourselves. But to do that, it takes courage.