Ickabog

Ickabog Summary and Analysis of Chapters 29 - 35

Summary:

Chapter 29: Mrs. Beamish Worries

Lord Spittleworth spreads a rumor that the Mr. Dovetail and Daisy Dovetail moved away from Cornucopia so that nobody will suspect that they were kidnapped. Bert feels sad that Daisy is gone, and he remembers how she used to defend him when he was bullied. Even now that Bert is friends with Roderick Roach, he has to pretend to be interested in the things Roderick is, like throwing rocks at dogs. Similarly, Mrs. Beamish is feeling bad about Mr. Dovetail being gone. She regrets telling others that he committed treason, and she worries that something bad may have happened to him as a result. She walks to the Dovetail house at the outskirts of Chouxville, and she is relieved to find that all the furniture is gone, as if they really had moved away.

On her way back home, Mrs. Beamish walks by some little girls jumping rope. They sing a song about the Ickabog as they jump, and they stop abruptly when they see Mrs. Beamish since the song references her dead husband. Mrs. Beamish is surprised to see that one of the little girls is wearing a dress that looks like one that Mrs. Dovetail made for Daisy a few years before. When she asks the little girl where she got it, the girl replies, "My daddy gave it to me, missus...And he gave my brother a bandalore."

Chapter 30: The Foot

Mr. Dovetail spends over a month working on the giant wooden foot that Lord Spittleworth requested. He begins to go crazy and sings the Cornucopia anthem all day long, trying to prove his loyalty to the king so that Lord Spittleworth will let him see Daisy again. However, when the wooden foot is finished, Lord Spittleworth does not release Mr. Dovetail from the dungeon.

Chapter 31: Disappearance of a Butcher

That night, Major Roach and other soldiers take out the giant wooden foot in the middle of the night. They locate the house of Tubby Tenderloin, the man who created the petition about the Ickabog Tax, on the outskirts of Baronstown. They bind and gag Mr. and Mrs. Tenderloin, throw them into the wagon, and then put huge footprints all around their house to make it look like the Ickabog took them. For good measure, they also let their chickens out of their coop, kill one, and spread its feathers around.

Chapter 32: A Flaw in the Plan

In the morning, the people of Baronstown awake and are horrified to see the Tenderloins' house broken into and Mr. and Mrs. Tenderloin gone. They believe that the Ickabog carried the people off and attacked their chickens. However, one of the citizens of Baronstown notices something odd: the Ickabog seems to be hopping, because there are only left footprints all over the ground. Lord Spittleworth's spy in Baronstown hears this and rushes to ride his horse to the palace and inform Lord Spittleworth.

Chapter 33: King Fred is Worried

King Fred, Lord Spittleworth, and Lord Flapoon are eating dinner together when the topic of the disappearance of the Tenderloins in Baronstown being taken by the Ickabog comes up. King Fred is alarmed and frightened to hear that this has occurred since that is what the Ickabog Defense Force, funded by the Ickabog Tax, is supposed to prevent. Lord Spittleworth lies that two soldiers on the Ickabog Defense Force fell asleep at their posts and were eaten as well. Lord Spittleworth tells King Fred that they will need to double the number of soldiers on the Ickabog Defense Force, and accordingly will need to double the Ickabog tax to 4 ducats per month. King Fred agrees, but is clearly concerned about whether people still think he is a good king. He says that people have not been cheering for him as much, and Lady Eslanda informed him that people are saying the Ickabog tax is too high. He also says that he knows the Day of Petition will not be happening. Lord Spittleworth is surprised that King Fred knows about this; he cancelled the Day of Petition so that King Fred wouldn't hear that he is indeed declining in popularity. In anger, Lord Spittleworth suggests tripling the Ickabog Tax. Just then, Lord Spittleworth's spy from Baronstown enters the dining room, and Lord Spittleworth excuses himself to see what the matter is.

Chapter 34: Three More Feet

Lord Spittleworth's spy from Baronstown shares the problem of only left footprints having been stamped in the dirt by the Tenderloins' house. Lord Spittleworth thinks quickly, sending Lord Flapoon to ride north with the Ickabog Defense Force to show people that their Ickabog Tax is being spent on real services. He then goes to the dungeons to visit Mr. Dovetail. In the dungeons, Mr. Dovetail's condition has worsened; he still sings the Cornucopia national anthem constantly, and his hair and beard have grown long and wild. Lord Spittleworth demands that Mr. Dovetail make three more huge wooden Ickabog feet, and Mr. Dovetail agrees as long as he will be released and see his daughter afterwards. Lord Spittleworth lies again that this will happen.

After leaving the dungeon, Lord Spittleworth gives two soldiers an assignment. The soldiers must follow Lady Eslanda, wait for a moment when she is alone, and then kidnap her. Lord Spittleworth decides that she is too well-known to kill, so he tells them to bring her to his estate in the country and summon him once she is there.

Chapter 35: Lord Spittleworth’s Proposal

A few days later, the two soldiers kidnap Lady Eslanda and successfully bring her to Lord Spittleworth's estate. Lord Spittleworth receives word and, after forcing Lady Eslanda's maid to spread a rumor that Lady Eslanda decided to become a nun, travels to his estate. When he reaches his estate, Lady Eslanda is reading in the library. Lord Spittleworth tells her that she is going to marry him, but she refuses repeatedly, even when he threatens her, Captain Goodfellow, and her parents. Lord Spittleworth is enraged, so he leaves her in the library for the time being.

Analysis:

Though according to JK Rowling The Ickabog is written for children ages seven to nine, it contains many serious and even disturbing themes. Death, torture, child abuse, and poverty are all shown in great detail, especially in this section of the story. It is important to note the time period in which The Ickabog was released, during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Many children around the world were going through difficult times, losing or being separated from parents due to illness, experiencing food insecurity, and perhaps even experiencing abuse or domestic violence due to the stressful climate. Perhaps JK Rowling hoped that children would be able to connect with these serious themes and discuss them with their parents.

Rowling continues and nuances the theme of rumors and gossip in this section of The Ickabog by showing Mrs. Beamish's regret about talking about Mr. Dovetail. She worries that her gossip caused Mr. Dovetail to be put in danger, which the reader already knows it did. There is dramatic irony in this situation because Mrs. Beamish goes to the Dovetail house and sees that it looks like the Dovetails did move away, though this was actually Lord Spittleworth's doing. Mrs. Beamish causing the terrible situation for the Dovetail family, the people who she was once closest to in all of Cornucopia, shows that once someone spreads gossip, they cannot reverse the damage that will be done by it.

Orphans and loss of parents is a motif in The Ickabog: Captain Goodfellow and Lady Eslanda are both orphans as noted in Chapter 35, and Daisy and the children at Ma Grunter's house are orphans or at least without their parents. It is interesting to note that in the Harry Potter series, which are the books Rowling is most famous for, the main character is also an orphan. Being an orphan is shown in both The Ickabog and the Harry Potter series to be a negative experience but also a strength, as the characters must be strong, clever, and brave to fend for themselves in the world.

Patriotism is another theme in this story. Rowling critiques patriotism by showing that it is actually a demonstration of citizens' fear of their own government rather than pride in their people and history. In the previous section of the story, Rowling depicts the people in Chouxville Cornucopia decorating their houses with flags, paintings, and slogans in support of the king and the Ickabog tax. It is clear that people are doing this out of fear that they will be accused of treason and jailed or killed by Lord Spittleworth and his cronies. Then, in this section of The Ickabog, Mr. Dovetail loses his mind, and the main way that Rowling shows this is through him singing the Cornucopia national anthem over and over. Rowling writes that, "He had a confused idea that if he showed himself a faithful subject of the king, Spittleworth might think him less of a danger, and release him." Like the flags and slogans on people's houses, this apparent show of patriotism is also caused by fear of the government.

Lady Eslanda's character is symbolic of female empowerment. Lady Eslanda is a high class woman, but as an orphan, one would expect her to want to get married to a higher class person for the economic security. However, she turns down Lord Spittleworth and King Fred's advances and instead sets her sights on Captain Goodfellow, who is a respectable man but from a lower class family. She shows her impressive strength and bravery in Chapter 35 when Lord Spittleworth tells her she has to marry him, and even threatens her life if she does not comply. During this encounter, she keeps a level head and even has a sense of humor, saying things like " could never love a treacherous man – which is why I could never love you" and "‘Then I shall die in this room... or, perhaps – who knows? – in the bathroom." This character shows young female readers that they can love anyone they want and do not have to comply when a man is attempting to force them into a relationship.