Study Guide

The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 12

By Norton Juster

Chapter 12

The Silent Valley

  • Milo, Tock, and the Humbug have gathered their courage and driven away from Dr. Dischord.
  • They know that they're about to get to the Valley of Sound, which should scare them, but so far things don't seem that bad. Deep breath.
  • After a few minutes, though, they figure out the problem. They've entered an area where there aren't any sounds.
  • They try to talk, but nothing happens. Their car doesn't make any noise, nor does the outside world. This is like a bad dream!
  • But they keep going and end up finding some people who have figured out how to communicate without sound. They use signs to show the three visitors what the problem is.
  • Here's the story: their leader, the Soundkeeper, took sound away from them.
  • They used to have all kinds of sounds, but didn't treat these sounds with enough respect. People paid less attention to good sounds and more attention to bad ones.
  • Eventually, Dr. Dischord and the DYNNE showed up, but they only made things worse instead of better.
  • So, the Soundkeeper kicked Dischord and DYNNE out, and then took all the sounds away. That means that the people who live in the Valley live in constant silence.
  • The people ask Milo for some help. If he can go into the Soundkeeper's fortress and bring out just one little noise, they will be able to win back the rest.
  • Milo's up for the challenge, so he goes into the fortress to meet the Soundkeeper. Immediately, he feels better, because within the fortress there are sounds. He's happy to be back somewhere more normal.
  • The Soundkeeper's a pretty weird lady. She values silence as much as the people outside her fortress are tired of it. At least, she says she does.
  • She helps Milo explore the collection of sounds in the fortress, explaining where sounds come from and how they are recorded for all time. She says that the sounds are saved in the fortress for the good of the world. They are all automatically categorized and put in order.
  • She explains what sounds look like. For example, each time you clap your hands you produce a piece of paper. Each of the sounds turns into a tiny object.
  • Milo thinks of various ways to take a sound outside the vault – like asking for one straight up, or trying to hide one in his pockets. But the Soundkeeper is wise to his ways and she doesn't let it happen.
  • At the end of their meeting, Milo asks why the Soundkeeper hides all the sounds. She says that she doesn't want to let them out because she can't control how they'll be used.
  • Milo is about to argue with her some more, but he stops: he realizes that he's holding the sound of the next word he was going to speak ("but") in his mouth.
  • He keeps his mouth shut and leaves.