The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

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Chapter 12 Summary

The Silent Valley

Milo thinks the valley looks quite pleasant and believes Dr. Dischord was exaggerating about the Valley of Sound. As soon as he drives through a heavy stone gateway, however, everything changes. Everything looks and smells the same, but it sounds quite different. It takes him a moment to find the difference, but Milo suddenly realizes there is absolutely no sound—not even the ticking of Tock. It is an unnerving sensation and Milo begins to slow the car.

The travelers realize they have driven into a large crowd of people marching along the roadway. They are singing (although their song cannot be heard) and carrying signs such as “Down with Silence,” “It’s Laudable to Be Audible,” and “Hear Here.” When the car stops, the citizens approach the car and one of them begins to write their story of silence on a large blackboard.

Nearby is a great fortress in which the ruler of the land, the Soundkeeper, lives; she was appointed the guardian of all sounds and noises (past, present, and future) by the old king of Wisdom. For years she ruled wisely, releasing each day’s new sounds at sunrise and gathering the old sounds at sunset so they could be catalogued and stored in underground vaults.

Everyone in the valley had all the sound they could ever use: singing, pots bubbling, axes chopping, owls hooting, and many more. Everyone lived in peace and flourished and the sounds were neatly catalogued for future reference. Soon, though, more people came to the valley, bringing with them sounds of every kind, both good and bad. Everyone was busy and no longer had time to listen to any sounds—and everyone knows that a sound that is not heard disappears forever and cannot be found again.

The beautiful sounds began to grow ugly. It became difficult to hear anything pleasant, so everyone eventually stopped listening for them. The Soundkeeper grew disconsolate, and the citizens determined that all their troubles began at the same time Rhyme and Reason were banished.

One day Dr. Dischord and Dynne came to the valley and promised to cure everyone of everything; the Soundkeeper allowed the doctor to try, and he did have some success. Every adult and child took his medicine and it did cure them—of everything but noise. This infuriated the Soundkeeper, who then proclaimed that the Valley of Sound must be silent because no one appreciated sound. All unused noises were to be returned to the fortress immediately. Now the citizens want the travelers to help them attack the fortress and free sound. If Milo can visit the Soundkeeper and bring back even the tiniest sound, they can breach the walls of the fortress and free the rest of the sounds. Milo accepts the mission.

When he meets the Soundkeeper, she is listening intently to an enormous radio set that is playing nothing. She tells Milo it is her favorite program, fifteen minutes of silence. It will be followed by half an...

(The entire section is 778 words.)