Ickabog

Ickabog Summary and Analysis of Chapters 36 - 42

Summary:

Chapter 36: Cornucopia Hungry

Five years pass with Lord Spittleworth all but controlling Cornucopia. Everywhere in Cornucopia except for Chouxville, people are poor, hungry, and fearful of the Ickabog. The only reason that Chouxville remains more or less the same is because Lord Spittleworth does not want King Fred to realize how bad things have gotten. Nearly all of the shops, restaurants, and farms in the rest of Cornucopia are forced to close down due to the Ickabog Tax. Furthermore, anyone who questions whether the Ickabog is real gets kidnapped by the Dark Footers, who have gotten good at faking Ickabog attacks. In situations where it would be too difficult to fake an Ickabog attack, the people are tried for treason and either jailed or killed.

Many children lose their parents during this time. Some childrens' parents are kidnapped, jailed, or killed, while others are simply too poor to look after them. These parents often brought their children to orphanages like Ma Grunter's house. This is what Hetty, who was once a servant for the king, is forced to do with her twin infants.

Chapter 37: Daisy and the Moon

After five years, Daisy is still living at Ma Grunter's orphanage. The orphanage has gotten much bigger, as mentioned in the last chapter, and it can now house one hundred children. Daisy has grown taller and thinner, but she is still very much the same in spirit. She is kind to the younger children, particularly Hetty's twins, and she still holds onto hope that her father is alive. Daisy copes with her miserable life because she "she had a strange feeling that she was meant to do something important."

Chapter 38: Lord Spittleworth Comes to Call

Because of the influx of orphans, Ma Grunter had become rich over the preceding six years. Every so often she would ask Lord Spittleworth for more money and he would send it to her. However, she spent most of this money on alcohol, so the children in her care were still nearly starving.

After all this time sending money to Ma Grunter, Lord Spittleworth decides to visit her orphanage and see how the money is being spent. On the day Lord Spittleworth arrives, Ma Grunter dresses up nicely and pretends to care about the orphans. Lord Spittleworth is satisfied that the money is needed to continue raising the orphans, but as he starts to leave Ma Grunter's house, he sees Daisy. He feels that there is something different and familiar about her, but he doesn't know who she is. When he asks her name, she responds that her name is Jane, like all the other girls at Ma Grunter's house. She talks back to Lord Spittleworth, refusing to curtsy to him since he is not the king and telling him about the poor quality of food the children in the orphanage eat. Lord Spittleworth thinks he detects a Chouxville accent in Daisy's voice, but when he asks where she's from, she responds, "I come from Cornucopia, my lord...You might have heard of it. It’s a country that used to exist, where nobody was ever poor or hungry."

Lord Spittleworth leaves angrily, and Ma Grunter attempts to hit Daisy with her cane, but Daisy is able to dodge it. That night in bed, Daisy's best friend Martha tells her that something she said to Lord Spittleworth isn't true. She explains that in the Marshlands, even in the past people were poor and hungry. Daisy apologizes and says she forgot. Martha says that it was because the Ickabog was stealing their sheep, and Daisy thinks to herself that she wishes she believed that the Ickabog was the cause of their suffering rather than human wickedness.

Chapter 39: Bert and the Ickabog Defense Brigade

In Chouxville, Bert has also grown up and is now almost fifteen years old. He is still set on joining the Ickabog Defense Force. Since the Ickabog Defense Force is looking for more soldiers and he is now old enough to join, he decides to skip school one day and go to the palace to enlist. On his way to the palace there is a commotion around a mail coach, but he doesn't stop to see what's going on. The narrator explains that for years, Lord Spittleworth has been blocking mail from the north of Cornucopia from entering Chouxville so that residents of Chouxville will not know how bad things have gotten elsewhere. The commotion Bert sees is caused by the mail from the mail coach not being prevented from entering the city, meaning the king's servants were tearing open letters from family members they hadn't received mail from in years.

Bert continues on to the palace and asks to join the Ickabog Defense Force. Lord Spittleworth is still away visiting Ma Grunter's house, so Lord Flapoon and Major Roach are in charge at the palace. Cankerby tells them about the mail coach, but neither man knows how to deal with the situation. Major Roach summons Bert in to talk with them, knowing they must talk with the son of a national hero if he comes to see them. When Bert enters and asks to join the Ickabog Defense Force, both Lord Flapoon and Major Roach think that "The last thing the Ickabog Defence Brigade needed was somebody who actually wanted to find an Ickabog." Lord Flapoon and Major Roach decide to lie to Bert and tell them they don't think he would be able to pass the tests to become a member of the Ickabog Defense Force (which don't actually exist). In particular, they say that they've heard from his teacher at school that he isn't smart enough to be a soldier. Bert is very upset and embarrassed to hear this, and he leaves the palace.

Bert runs home in shame. His mother is surprised to see him home so early, since she thinks he went to school as usual, but he tells her he had a toothache. Mrs. Beamish tells Bert that they received a letter from Cousin Harold who lives in Jeroboam saying that he is going to lose his tavern. Bert says that he supposes it is because people in Jeroboam are too scared of the Ickabog to go to taverns at night. Mrs. Beamish leaves for her job at the palace, and Bert throws himself on his bed and cries about not being allowed to join the Ickabog Defense Force. Meanwhile, Lord Spittleworth returns from Ma Grunter's orphanage and finds trouble brewing in Chouxville on account of the mail many have received from their relatives.

Chapter 40: Bert Finds a Clue

Lord Spittleworth is so angry about the mail from the north of Cornucopia reaching Chouxville in his absence that he almost gets in a physical fight with Major Roach. He orders Major Roach to have the Dark Footers fake an Ickabog attack in Chouxville for the first time so the people of Chouxville will remember that the Ickabog Tax is necessary.

The Dark Footers choose a house at the outskirts of Chouxville, kill the old lady who lives there, and then smash the house and put Ickabog footprints all over the lawn. The people of Chouxville flock to the house in the morning, and Bert in particular stays for a long time examining the footprints of the monster he believes killed his father. Bert goes home, angry again about not being allowed on the Ickabog Defense Force. He storms into his room and looks at the two medals he keeps there: the medal his father received for "Outstanding Bravery Against the Deadly Ickabog" and the medal the king gave him for standing up to Daisy. He drops one of the medals which rolls under his bed, and when he reaches for it, he finds the foot of the wooden Ickabog toy that Mr. Dovetail made him years before. As he looks at the foot, he realizes that it looks just like the footprints outside the house that the Ickabog supposedly attacked.

Chapter 41: Mrs. Beamish’s Plan

Bert shows his mother the wooden Ickabog foot, and Mrs. Beamish also realizes that Lord Spittleworth has been fooling everyone by faking Ickabog attacks. She thinks to herself that in all the years since her husband's death she has tried to have faith in the king and believe that the Ickabog Tax was necessary. However, so many things have built up that broke down her faith, such as the letter from Cousin Harold and the disappearance of the Dovetail family. She decides she is going to immediately go speak to the king. She tells Bert that he can't come with her and that he should run away from Chouxville if she is not back in an hour. She hugs Bert and hurries out of the house toward the palace.

Chapter 42: Behind the Curtain

Mrs. Beamish arrives at the palace, enters through the kitchens where she works as a pastry chef, and makes her way to King Fred's quarters. She hears Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon laughing at his jokes and saying goodnight. Hearing that the men are about to walk out into the hallway, she hides behind a curtain. When Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon leave King Fred's room, they immediately stop laughing and both make fun of the king. Then, they suddenly stop talking. Mrs. Beamish is a plump lady, and even though she is sucking in her stomach, she still makes a bulge in the curtain she is hiding behind.

The curtain is torn away to reveal her hiding there, and Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon grab her and stop her from screaming. They demand to know what she is doing near the king's quarters late at night. She thinks of lying, but instead she shows them the toy Ickabog foot and says that she knows that they are up to. Seeing the look that passes between Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon, she thinks to herself "Run, Bert – run!"

Analysis:

As noted previously, Rowling often includes orphans in her stories such as Harry in the Harry Potter series and Daisy, Lady Eslanda, and Captain Goodfellow in The Ickabog. In Chapter 36, Rowling delves deeper into the subject of orphaned children as a structural issue in society. She writes, "Why did he need orphanages, you ask? Well, in the first place, quite a number of parents were being killed or imprisoned. As everyone was now finding it difficult to feed their own families, they weren’t able to take in the abandoned children. In the second place, poor people were dying of hunger. As parents usually fed their children rather than themselves, children were often the last of the family left alive. And in the third place, some heartbroken, homeless families were giving up their children to orphanages, because it was the only way they could make sure their children would have food and shelter." Though The Ickabog is a fictional fantasy story for young children, this quote speaks to the reality of how poverty and oppressive governments cause children to become orphans. Many people may think of orphans as children whose parents are dead, but when an area experiences high poverty, parents may have to abandon their children due to a lack of resources. Rowling has also made it clear throughout The Ickabog that Lord Spittleworth does not like children, so he does not create policies that will provide better support for children and their families.

JK Rowling continues the motif of brave women in this section of The Ickabog. Besides Lady Eslanda, two women are shown to be emotionally resilient and self-sacrificing: Daisy and Mrs. Beamish. Daisy does not lose her sense of self even after living at Ma Grunter's orphanage for over five years, and she takes good care of the younger children instead of only looking out for herself. It is even foreshadowed that she will be the hero of the story; the narrator states, "She had a strange feeling that she was meant to do something important – something that would change not only her own life, but the fortunes of Cornucopia." Mrs. Beamish shows great bravery when she faces the facts about the strange occurrences over the past years in Cornucopia and decides to talk to the king herself. She recognizes that she has a connection with the king that might make him listen to her, and she takes action even though it puts her in personal danger.

At this point in The Ickabog, it seems that the titular monster does not actually exist. However, the story makes the reader question whether monsters truly exist in the form of cruel, selfish people. At the end of Chapter 38, Rowling writes, " In all their time together, she’d never managed to convince Martha that the Ickabog wasn’t real. Tonight, though, Daisy wished that she too believed in a monster in the marsh, rather than in the human wickedness she’d seen staring out of Lord Spittleworth’s eyes." This quote demonstrates that once someone grows up, they may come to feel that people are actually scarier than monsters. Like monsters, people can cause destruction, kill people, and cause mass fear, and unlike monsters, one cannot convince oneself that these atrocities are just a fantasy.

Rowling uses irony to poke fun at the lack of necessity of the Ickabog Defense Force. First, Major Roach and Lord Flapoon think to themselves that they must find a way to deny Bert Beamish a place on the Ickabog Defense Force because "The last thing the Ickabog Defence Brigade needed was somebody who actually wanted to find an Ickabog." This is ironic because usually an employer would jump at the chance to hire someone who is committed to their mission. However, since the Ickabog Defense Force is not actually doing its job, they must deny a spot to someone who is qualified and eager to join. It is also possible that Rowling's ironic tone is poking fun at the military in general. Lord Flapoon tells Bert, "She says you're a bit of a dunce. Nothing that should hold you back in any line of work other than soldiering, but dangerous to have a dunce on the battlefield." In reality, militaries often hire soldiers who have little education compared to other professions.

By Chapter 40, the conflict of The Ickabog has clearly escalated. Lord Spittleworth throws a chair at Major Roach, and Major Roach nearly pulls out his sword. A few minutes later, the narrator says that Major Roach "left the room, privately thinking of all the ways he’d like to hurt Spittleworth, if given ten minutes alone with him" while Lord Spittleworth tells his spies that he will throw Major Roach in the dungeons if he doesn't do his job well. It seems that Lord Spittleworth's power has gone to his head so much that he is even willing to harm his closest supporters and confidantes, perhaps foreshadowing that the structures keeping him in power will soon fall apart.