The Phantom Tollbooth
How we cite our quotes:
"What a curious idea," said the Mathemagician, raising his staff over his head and scrubbing the rubber end back and forth several times on the ceiling. "The next thing you'll have us believe is that you only sleep when you're tired." And by the time he'd finished the sentence, the cavern, the miners, and the Dodecahedron had vanished, leaving just the four of them standing in the Mathemagician's workshop.
"I often find," he casually explained to his dazed visitors, "that the best way to get from one place to another is to erase everything and begin again. Please make yourself at home." (15.31-32)
The Mathemagician's "staff" sure seems like it's more magical than an ordinary pencil. It enables him to travel "from one place to another" quickly and easily. And he can take as many people with him as he likes. Statements like this show that the whole world around him is at his fingertips. He can explore whenever and wherever he likes.
"Just follow that line forever," said the Mathemagician, "and when you reach the end, turn left. There you'll find the land of Infinity, where the tallest, the shortest, the biggest, the smallest, and the most and the least of everything are kept." (15.72)
Straightforward directions, right? Like almost everything else in the Lands Beyond, the closer you examine them the less sense they make. "Follow that line forever." Well, if you did that, you'd never "reach the end," because it goes on "forever." Duh. But the Mathemagician's instructions include an action that Milo should take after he "reach[es] the end": he should "turn left." Well, how can you turn left at the end if there is no end?
Higher and higher they climbed, in search of the castle and the two banished princesses – from one crest to the next, from jagged rock to jagged rock, up frightful crumbling cliffs and along desperately narrow ledges where a single misstep meant only good-by. (18.1)
This is either an exciting landscape to explore, or a totally frightening one, depending on your point of view. For thrill seekers, the high "cliffs" and "rocks" and "narrow ledges" have huge potential for thrills. For scaredy-cats, they have huge potential for sheer terror. Why is our Milo so willing to risk it all and conquer this crazy scene just to rescue to princesses he has never even met?