The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster

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Chapter 19 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 797

The Return of Rhyme and Reason

The group clinging to Tock sails past the tall mountain peaks and the grasping arms of the demons before reaching the ground with a jolt. Now they must run for their lives, and Tock takes the lead with the princesses on his back. They are followed by “all the loathsome creatures who choose to live in Ignorance” and who have been impatiently waiting for them. They are still running through thick, dark clouds; when Milo looks back he can see the awful creatures getting closer.

On the left are the Triple Demons of Compromise—“one tall and thin, one short and fat, and the third exactly like the other two.” These demons always settle their differences by compromising on something none of them wants, so they rarely make any progress. The Horrible Hopping Hindsight is an unpleasant creature who is jumping clumsily from rock to rock. His ears are in the rear and his rear is in the front; he usually leaps before he looks and does not care “where he is going as long as he knows why he shouldn’t have gone to where he’d been.” Directly behind them both are the terrifying Gorgons of Hate. They look like giant snails and inch along more quickly than one might think, leaving a trail of slime behind them.

On the right is the Overbearing Know-it All, a huge body atop spindly legs that barely support him. His greatest weapon is his mouth, as he is ready to offer misinformation on any subject to whomever will listen. He falls often, which is more dangerous to the one on whom he falls than to himself.

Near him is the Gross Exaggeration. He is grotesque in every way, and his wicked teeth are used only to mangle the truth. Riding on the back of whomever will carry him is Threadbare Excuse. He is a small, pathetic figure dressed in tatters who continuously mutters a string of lame excuses. He seems harmless; however, once he latches on, he rarely ever lets go.

All of them—travelers, princesses, and demons—are racing wildly through the darkness. Now the Gelatinous Giant and the Terrible Trivium are in the rear, urging their comrades on with glee. Suddenly the ugly Dilemma is part of the group, waiting to find someone he can catch on the ends of his long, pointed horns. The Humbug is exhausted and just as he says he does not think he can go on, lightning slashes the sky and a bolt of thunder steals his words.

Just as the demons rise up as one and prepare to launch themselves at their victims, they suddenly freeze in mid-air. An exhausted Milo looks behind him and is stunned to see the amassed armies of Wisdom in full regalia. For just a moment, everything is silent; then waves of trumpets, thousands of them, begin to sound.

King Azaz is at the head of his troops, dazzling in his letter-embossed armor; next to him is the Mathemagician “brandishing his freshly sharpened staff.” Dr. Dischord hurls explosions and Dynne gathers them immediately; Chroma leads the orchestra in playing patriotic colors. The Spelling Bee hovers and spells c-h-a-r-g-e, and Canby (who is as cowardly as can be) is here all the way from Conclusions. Officer Shrift is riding a dachshund. Every person Milo has met on this journey is now here to help.

The monsters of Ignorance cower in fear and return to their damp, dark homes as everyone else sighs with relief. An official declaration is made: Rhyme and Reason once again reign in Wisdom and Milo, Tock, and the Humbug are heroes of the realm. A royal holiday is declared, including three days of celebrations. Everyone cheers and the news is carried by horsemen to the far reaches of the realm.

At the parade, Milo insists he could not have done any of this without the help of others; however, Reason reminds him he had the courage to try. King Azaz and the Mathemagician both remind him of the thing they could not discuss until he returned. They both tell Milo the task was impossible, but they could not tell him or he might not have gone. Impossible things are possible only if one does not know they are impossible.

In a flat plain between Digitopolis and Dictionopolis there is a carnival, and all of Milo’s friends perform. That night Azaz serves a banquet of “delicious words in all flavors” and languages. Both kings vow to commemorate this day together each year. Finally Milo must leave. Tock will remain as a watchdog and the Humbug will conduct a lecture tour. Milo says his goodbyes and starts driving back home, leaving all his new friends behind him.

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