Study Guide

The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 18

By Norton Juster

Chapter 18

Castle in the Air

  • Milo, Tock, and the Humbug go up the mountain as fast as they can. Meanwhile, the demons are following them.
  • At last, they find the Castle in the Air, but a man sitting in front of the entrance makes them stop.
  • The man, who introduces himself as the Senses Taker (like a census taker… how about that?), asks them a bunch of questions and says they have to answer them all before they can get through. As soon as they've finished, he asks a bunch more questions. Come on, dude!
  • Even though the demons are getting closer, the man insists that these three travelers answer his questions.
  • Finally they finish, but the guard tries to discourage them from going in the Castle. Instead, he provides each of them with the fantasy they'd like best.
  • Milo, Tock, and the Humbug are each mesmerized by their own fantasy, and they forget all about the danger they're in. (Hmm, it seems like the Senses Taker has taken their senses!) Meanwhile, the demons get even closer.
  • In the end, being distracted is what saves them. Milo is so into his fantasy that he can't even hold on to the gifts he was carrying. When he drops them, the box the Soundkeeper gave him falls apart and all the little sounds come out. They're enough of a new distraction that all the Senses Taker's fantasies fade away.
  • The Senses Taker still seems pretty scary and says that the only way they will be able to defend themselves against him, ultimately, is by laughing. Laughing?
  • Well, the other demons are about to overtake them, and the Humbug, Tock, and Milo run over the Senses Taker in their haste to climb the last stairs to the Castle in the Air.
  • The stairs are scary, but they prevail, and make it to the Castle at last. Whew.
  • Two beautiful women welcome the travelers. Milo recognizes them: Rhyme and Reason.
  • The travelers explain their mission, and the princesses say they should take a few minutes to relax before they try to battle their way out of the castle.
  • Milo has some private time with the princesses, who give him some wise ideas about how to approach education – and life, really. They say he shouldn't be afraid of not being right all the time.
  • Their conversation is interrupted, though, when all the demons attack the castle from below and separate it from the stairs. The castle starts floating away.
  • So the good guys smartly decide it's time to be on their way.
  • Because "time flies" (18.72), Tock is able to fly through the air, and all the others grasp on to him.
  • They abandon the castle and head for home.