Ickabog

Ickabog Summary and Analysis of Chapters 8 - 14

Summary:

Chapter 8: The Day of Petition

When King Fred wakes up the next day, he is still thinking about how Daisy Dovetail called him selfish, vain, and cruel. He realizes that it is the Day of Petition, when common people from all over Cornucopia come to ask the king for help with their problems. King Fred decides he will dress plainly to prove to everyone that he is not vain. He chooses a black suit rather than the outfit he had specially commissioned for the day, and he only curls his mustache a little.

King Fred calls for Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon to join him, and both men are caught off guard because it usually takes so long for the king to get ready in the morning. King Fred tells his advisor to let in the common people early, to show that he is not selfish.

Citizens of Cornucopia come before the king and his lords all morning. King Fred solves each issue with few gold coins or a promise, since his advisors made sure only simple matters come before him. When the last petitioner has come before the king and it is time for lunch, King Fred is disappointed that no larger issues come up, since he wants to do something special for a peasant that will go down in history. Just as they start to leave to have lunch, a commotion is heard outside the doors of the Throne Room.

Chapter 9: The Shepherd's Story

Herringbone tells King Fred that there is a final citizen who wants to petition him. He is late because he walked for five days all the way from The Marshlands. King Fred, still concerned about seeming selfish and cruel, allows the peasant to come in. An old, frail, dirty man enters the Throne Room. Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon make fun of him, but King Fred listens to the man.

The Marshlander tells King Fred that the Ickabog ate his dog Patch. The old man also says that he saw the Ickabog himself; it had big, shining eyes and large, frightening teeth. The man asks that the Ickabog be "punished". The King decides that he will ride to the Marshlands and attack the Ickabog, and he sends his lords to go get their riding gear.

Chapter 10: King Fred's Quest

King Fred is excited to ride to the Marshlands, even though he doesn't actually believe in the Ickabog, since he thinks it will cause him to be remembered in history. As he changes into his clothes for battle, word begins to spread to the city surrounding the palace. Some people think the king is doing it as a joke, while others worry that it may be a cover-up. Lady Eslanda and other ladies of the court went out on a balcony to watch the soldiers get ready to ride off. The narrator notes that Lady Eslanda would never marry King Fred even if he asked her because she is in love with a man called Captain Goodfellow.

The children near the palace are let out of school early to wave to the king and his soldiers as they ride away from the palace. Mrs. Beamish and Bert get a good spot to cheer for Major Beamish, and he waves at them as he rides by. When the king and the Royal Guard get to the outskirts of the city, they pass by the Dovetails' new house, but Daisy and Mr. Dovetail can barely see them. Daisy feels sad because she and Bert are still fighting, and she is being picked on by other students at school. She asks her father whether the Ickabog is real, and Mr. Dovetail says it is not. However, Rowling ends the chapter with foreshadowing, writing "even sensible men may fail to see a terrible, looming danger."

Chapter 11: The Journey North

King Fred, the lords, and the Royal Guard ride north away from the palace and out of Chouxville. They arrive in Kurdsburg at dinner time and decide to spend the night there. King Fred is treated to a comfortable bed at an inn, while Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon have to sleep in a stable.

The next morning, King Fred finds out that the people of the nearby city Baronstown are upset that he didn't stay there, so the king, the lords, and the Royal Guard ride their horses in a big circle all day and then spend the night in Baronstown. King Fred again sleeps in a comfortable bed while Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon, who are already sore from horseback riding and tired from the night before, share a small room in an attic.

The third day, King Fred, the lords, and the Royal Guard ride all day and arrive in Jeroboam in the evening. Again, King Fred sleeps comfortably while the lords have a terrible night.

Finally, on the fourth day, the party reaches the Marshlands. The landscape turns from healthy green fields to dry grass and boulders. The Marshlanders stare and fall to their knees when they see the procession, since they have never seen the king before. The narrator notes that King Fred visited all the other cities after his coronation, but not the Marshlands. Just as the sun goes down, the party reaches the marsh where the Ickabog is said to live. Major Beamish suggests setting up camp before it becomes too dark and foggy, but King Fred wants to keep riding. It grows dark and chilly as they ride through the marsh, and then suddenly a thick white fog rolls in all around them.

Chapter 12: The King's Lost Sword

Nobody in the king's party can see one another due to the thick, white fog. Major Beamish tells everyone not to move, but King Fred doesn't pay attention and runs toward where he thinks Major Beamish is. He quickly starts to sink into the marsh, and when he screams, almost everyone starts to panic and run to help the king. The only two people who follow Major Beamish's order to stay still are Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon, who make no effort to help the king. Suddenly, the king shrieks that he can see the Ickabog. He screams for Major Beamish to help him, and Major Beamish attempts to find him in the fog.

The fog dissipates around Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon, though they cannot see anyone else. Then, King Fred bursts into the clearing, slimy from the marsh and shivering with fear. He says again that he saw the Ickabog, and he elaborates that it was tall as two horses with huge, glowing eyes. He says that he drew his sword but it was slippery so he dropped it, and he also lost his shoes as he ran away. Captain Roach enters the clearing as well and tells King Fred he hasn't seen any sign of the Ickabog. King Fred can sense that Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon are making fun of him for believing in the Ickabog, so he orders Captain Roach to stay with him and the lords to go back into the fog to find his sword and shoes.

Chapter 13: The Accident

Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon go back into the fog to find the king's sword and shoes as directed. They grumble as they wade deeper into the slimy marsh, and both become a bit afraid even though they don't believe in the Ickabog. Suddenly, they hear a strange growling somewhere in the fog. They call out, and Major Beamish shouts back to them. Just as they shout back to ask if he can hear the strange sound, "a huge black silhouette with gleaming white eyes" emerges from the fog. Lord Flapoon pulls out his gun and shoots, startling the members of the Royal Guard nearby.

The fog parts to reveal a large boulder; a skinny dog caught in brambles, its eyes shining in the moonlight; and Major Beamish lying face down. It becomes immediately clear that he was killed by Lord Flapoon's gun. Lord Flapoon starts to panic, but Lord Spittleworth quickly comes up with a plan. He sees the king's sword and shoes nearby and picks them up, and he releases the dog into the fog. Lord Spittleworth is just about to tell Lord Flapoon his plan when Captain Roach enters the clearing and sees Major Beamish.

Lord Spittleworth decides to let Captain Roach in on his plan. He tells Captain Roach that the Ickabog killed Major Beamish, which would make him Major Roach now. He tells a made up version of events in which Major Roach attempted to fight the Ickabog, but the Ickabog dropped Major Beamish when Lord Flapoon fired his gun. Lord Spittleworth gives Major Roach the king's sword but implies that they will tell the king that his sword couldn't be found. Major Roach agrees to go along with the plan and suggests wrapping Major Beamish so that nobody can see the gun wound (which he calls "the marks of the monster's fangs" to play along with Lord Spittleworth's story). They agree on what the Ickabog supposedly looks like, matching it to the description the king gave.

Chapter 14: Lord Spittleworth's Plan

The fog clears and the Royal Guard is shocked and confused to see that Major Beamish is dead. They seem to doubt that the Ickabog actually killed Major Beamish, but nobody wants to contradict the king. They set up camp and go to bed, though the king is too scared to fall asleep. Lord Spittleworth is happy that the king is scared because it will ensure that they head back to the palace the next day.

Indeed, the next day they set off for Jeroboam. Lord Spittleworth sends a message to Jeroboam saying that they don't want a big fanfare when they arrive since there has been a terrible accident. At the inn in Jeroboam, Lord Spittleworth asks the innkeeper for a cold place to store a body. He also tells the innkeeper not to tell anyone that the Ickabog is real and killed one of the king's men; of course, he actually wants the innkeeper to spread this gossip. The king's party awakes the next morning and sets off for Kurdsburg; when they arrive, everyone in the city has already heard the tale of the Ickabog attack. Lord Spittleworth again asks for somewhere cold to keep the body locked up overnight.

That night, King Fred comes to Lord Spittleworth and says that he has been hearing whispers about the Ickabog. Lord Spittleworth tells the king that the Ickabog has become more aggressive since the king attacked it. The king thinks to himself that he didn't actually attack the Ickabog, but he doesn't say anything since Lord Spittleworth's version of the story makes him sound more brave. The king expresses his fear again to Lord Spittleworth, and Lord Spittleworth smiles cruelly and promises to protect the kingdom from the Ickabog.

Analysis:

Throughout this section of The Ickabog, Rowling builds a complex picture of King Fred's character. On the one hand, he cares deeply about being seen positively by others. This is demonstrated by King Fred choosing to wear plain (or at least less ostentatious) clothing to show that he is not vain and listening to all the citizens who come to see him on the Day of Petition to show he is not selfish. However, his motives still seem to be focused on himself rather than others; he does not mind being cruel as long as people don't think he is. For example, the king thinks "Nobody would ever again say that he was selfish, vain, and cruel! For the sake of a smelly, simple old shepherd and his worthless old mongrel, he, King Fred the Fearless, was going to hunt the Ickabog!" Calling the man from the Marshlands smelly and simple and his dog worthless shows that the king doesn't actually value helping his citizen, but rather is doing it only to improve how people see him. This is ironic because it is vain and selfish, the very qualities the king is trying to avoid.

In Chapter 10, Rowling nuances the social commentary on gender and socioeconomic status that began in the early chapters of the story. She writes that Lady Eslanda would never agree to marry King Fred because she is in love with Captain Goodfellow, a member of the king's Royal Guard who is the son of two cheesemakers. The narrator states, "Though Goodfellow was both clever and brave, these were the days when no cheesemaker’s son would expect to marry a highborn lady." By calling attention to Captain Goodfellow being clever and brave, Rowling critiques the archaic social norms that would prevent him from marrying Lady Eslanda. Using the term clever also brings to mind the fact that Lady Eslanda is also described as smart, and this is seen as a negative quality in her because of her gender. Lady Eslanda and Captain Goodfellow parallel one another in that they are both held back from romantic relationships by the social norms of the time period.

Rowling often uses colors in the The Ickabog to give the reader information about characters personalities and social status. An example of this comes when the king and his party are leaving to hunt the Ickabog and Rowling describes the horses each person rides. She writes, "At the front of the procession rode King Fred, on his milk-white charger...Right behind him, riding a thin yellow horse and wearing a bored expression, was Spittleworth, and next came Flapoon, furiously lunch-less and sitting on his elephantine chestnut...Behind the king and the two lords trotted the Royal Guard, all of them on dapple-grey horses, except for Major Beamish, who rode his steel-grey stallion." King Fred rides a white horse, which in many cultures were reserved for heroes, showing how the king wants to be seen as brave and valiant. The two lords ride horses that are described as similar to them physically. Lord Spittleworth's being thin and yellow just as he has been described as "thin" and "sallow," while Lord Flapoon has been described as "enormous" and his horse likewise is described as "elephantine." Finally, Major Beamish's horse standing out from the horses of the rest of the Royal Guard connotes his ranking above them.

Since The Ickabog is a book for kids, Rowling includes some bawdy humor that children would enjoy. For example, she continually refers to Lord Spittleworth getting blisters on his bottom from riding his horse to and from The Marshlands, even giving graphic details like "Spittleworth spent much of the night sitting in a bucket of ice" and "He was just rubbing ointment into the blisters on his bottom when he received an urgent summons to go and see the king." Besides being humorous, describing the blisters on Lord Spittleworth's bottom may give the reader a sense of schadenfreude, or happiness at the misfortune of someone else, since readers know that Spittleworth is a cunning and wicked character.

Children's fairy tales often include morals, and one moral in this section of The Ickabog is how quickly and easily rumors can spread, especially when people are afraid. Lord Spittleworth tells an innkeeper that the Ickabog killed someone, and he asks the innkeeper not to pass this information along. However, he knows well that the innkeeper will spread the rumor immediately. The rumor spreads throughout all of Cornucopia in a matter of days, creating widespread panic. This is also an example of dramatic irony because the reader knows that the rumor people are panicking about isn't even true.