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The Phantom Tollbooth

Norton Juster

Important Quotations Explained

Chapters 19–20

Key Facts

Everyone loved the princesses because of their great beauty, their gentle ways, and their ability to settle all controversies fairly and reasonably … It was said by everyone that Rhyme and Reason settle all problems.

This quotation comes from Faintly Macabre's account of the history of the Lands Beyond in Chapter 6. Here she speaks of the twin princesses Rhyme and Reason, who have since been imprisoned in the Castle in the Air. Faintly's description of the important role the princesses played in the everyday affairs of the kingdom explains the odd, nonsensical business that Milo witnesses in the lands. Though he has only seen a fraction of the country, Milo already seems to think it is a place where the ridiculous rules, and Faintly's explanation of the missing princesses' helps Milo understand why. It is also important to notice that Faintly refers to the ongoing feud between Azaz and the Mathemagician that only Rhyme and Reason can resolve.

If we didn't collect them, the air would be full of old sounds and noises bouncing around and bumping into things. It would be terribly confusing because you'd never know if you were listening to an old one or a new one.

In Chapter 12 we learn that one of the Soundkeeper's many jobs is to collect and catalogue all the sounds in the word. In this quotation she explains why this function is so important in a way that indicates much about the world of the Lands Beyond, namely that sounds there do not function as they do in the real world. Just as words and number are physical objects in the lands, so are sounds, and they must be snatched out of the air lest they create a terrible mess. The Soundkeeper's description of the chaos that would occur if she stopped doing her job also relates to the concept of order that Milo learned about when he tried to take over Chroma's job of conducting the color orchestra. Juster suggests that without proper order, the world would be a horribly confusing place.

But it's not just learning things that's important. It's learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.

The princess of Rhyme tells this to Milo when he finally reaches the Castle of the Air in Chapter 18. Milo explains that if he had not made so many mistakes, he would have gotten there sooner. The princesses, of course, are pleased by his eagerness and good nature, and they tell him that mistakes are perfectly all right, so long as Milo has learned from them. They then elaborate on learning, illustrating the importance Juster places on this theme. Milo's education in the Lands Beyond can be broken into two phases. In the first phase, Milo encounters teachers of sorts who dispense lessons that are commemorated with gifts. In the second phase—which Milo has just completed when he reaches the Castle in the Air—the lessons must be put to use. Milo uses what he has learned to defeat a host of demons and comes to appreciate even more the knowledge he has gained.

We always see things from the same angle … It's much less trouble that way. Besides, it makes more sense to grow down and not up.

When Milo first meets Alec Bings in Chapter 9, he is perplexed by the notion that a person would grow down rather than up. As demonstrated by this quotation, Alec is similarly dubious of the idea of growing in Milo's way. Here he lists what he thinks are the benefits of his family's way of growing: one's perspective remains the same all through life and one is safer. Of course, Milo is horrified by the prospect of looking at things the exact same way whether he's eight or eighty years old. Here Juster demonstrates the value of changing perspectives throughout life, as Milo considers what it would be like to live up off the ground like Alec Bings. Eventually, Milo decides to try and and by thinking "like an adult" he is able to levitate himself for a few minutes. When he falls back to the earth, he remarks that looking at things like a child is better because you don't fall so far. Alec would obviously see it the other way around, since he avoids scrapes and scuffs because of his altitude. Juster seems to suggest that the mistakes children make are an important part of growing up and that it is better to make mistakes while young, since it's easier to learn from them.

I'm afraid of everything. That's why I'm so ferocious. If the others found out, I'd just die. Now do be quiet while I eat my breakfast.

The Gelatinous Giant, one of the many demons Milo meets throughout Chapter 17 in the Mountains of Ignorance, is a monster of conformity. He lives every day trying to blend in and simply agree with everyone around him. Milo stumbles upon the giant because he is mimicking the mountains around him. This quotation illustrates Juster's viewpoint of group thinking. People who try to fit in by copying with everyone else, he seems to think, are just afraid of being different. The giant is also petrified that someone will find out that he is afraid because that might make him stand out from the crowd. He is, as he said, afraid of everything. The Gelatinous Giant is especially afraid of different ideas, as we learn when Milo uses the words in Azaz's box to scare him away.

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