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The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth


by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 4 Summary

Confusion in the Market Place

  • Milo and Tock emerge into the word market, which is in full swing. Vendors are selling words as if they were fruits and vegetables.
  • There are all kinds of different words available, and Milo is totally overwhelmed.
  • At first, he thinks he should buy some words and picks out three really fancy ones. But they're way too expensive, so he puts 'em back.
  • Actually, Milo can't really buy any words, because he doesn't have any cash. He does have a small "coin," but that's for the tollbooth when he goes home. He should probably hang on to that one.
  • Milo and Tock still enjoy browsing, though, and they stop at a stand where you buy individual letters and create your own words.
  • Each letter has its own flavor. A's are really popular, like vanilla, but Z's aren't. (Just like in Scrabble!)
  • Milo would like to make words, but he just doesn't know how to start.
  • Cue the guy who does know how to make word: sure enough, the Spelling Bee shows up.
  • The Spelling Bee is, surprise surprise, an enormous bee that likes to spell. He can't go through a whole sentence without spelling at least one word.
  • Milo's kind of freaked out by him, because he doesn't really like bees, but the Spelling Bee calms him down and tries to demonstrate his knowledge.
  • Milo makes him spell "vegetable," which the Bee does. Nailed it.
  • The Bee has just started to tell his life story when he's interrupted by the Humbug, a giant bug.
  • It's immediately clear that the Bee and the Humbug do NOT get along.
  • The Bee says the Humbug is a big fat liar, and the Humbug strikes back by telling a puffed up story of his own family history.
  • The two yell at each other and then bust out fighting.
  • During the fight, all the word stands get knocked over. Milo falls on the Bee, and Tock gets squished in a big stack of letters. Oh my.

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