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The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster

Versions of Reality Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

There, piled into enormous mounds that reached almost to the ceiling, were not only diamonds and emeralds and rubies but also sapphires, amethysts, topazes, moonstones, and garnets. It was the most amazing mass of wealth that any of them had ever seen.

"They're such a terrible nuisance," sighed the Mathemagician, "and no one can think of what to do with them. So we just keep digging them up and throwing them out. Now," he said, taking a silver whistle from his pocket and blowing it loudly, "let's have some lunch." (14.79-80)

In our reality, we'd probably go bananas walking into a room like this. Imagine all these gems scattered far and wide. How could anyone possibly conceive of so many jewels as just trash, when they're so valuable? But in Digitopolis, nothing compares to numbers. Other valuable things dug up out of the ground are just "a terrible nuisance." We guess the old saying is true – one man's trash is another man's treasure. Or is it the other way around?

Quote #8

"Oh dear," said Milo sadly and softly. "I only eat when I'm hungry."

"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." (15.30-31)

Hmm. Once again, things in the Lands Beyond seem exactly opposite to our own reality. For the most part, we agree with Milo. We "eat when [we're] hungry" and "sleep when [we're] tired." But for the Mathemagician, who's really interested in negative numbers, you eat to feel less full and, presumably, sleep when you feel most awake.

Quote #9

Cringing with fear, the monsters of Ignorance turned in flight and, with anguished cries too horrible ever to forget, returned to the damp, dark places from which they came. The Humbug sighed with relief, and Milo and the princesses prepared to greet the victorious army. (19.21)

This sentence, especially when pulled away from its neighbors for observation, seems like a metaphor gone wild. It's like a huge jolt of figurative language that connects ignorance to darkness. In the Lands Beyond, though, this language isn't metaphorical. It's factual. The monsters are real, and so is the darkness they come from.

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