The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 8 Summary
by Norton Juster

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Chapter 8 Summary

The Humbug Volunteers

All the guests have finished eating. Suddenly the king leaps to his feet and shouts for everyone’s attention by pounding on the table. The king did not need to give the command, for everyone but Milo, Tock, and the Humbug rushes from the room the moment he begins speaking.

His guests are already outside of the palace when the king addresses the nearly empty room. Milo politely reminds King Azaz that all the others have left, but the king was hoping no one had noticed. This happens every time: all the guests go to dinner as soon as they have eaten at the king’s banquet. This seems ridiculous to Milo and the king agrees: by royal command, from now on all guests must eat dinner before the banquet.

They all agree that things are quite confusing in this kingdom but no one seems to know quite what to do about it. Milo has been waiting for such an opportunity and gently suggests that perhaps it is time for Rhyme and Reason to return. King Azaz wishes they would return; even if they were a bother at times, things always ran more smoothly when they were here. But the king is afraid they cannot be brought back.

The Humbug suggests it would be a simple task for a brave boy, a loyal dog, and a serviceable vehicle. The boy would merely have to travel miles of harrowing terrain until he reached Digitopolis and persuade the Mathemagician to release the princesses, which the leader will never agree to do. Then, if he did get the princesses, all Milo would have to do is enter the Mountain of Ignorance (a land full of evil and from which few return) and climb the two-thousand-step circular stairway (without railings, at night, in a high wind) to the Castle in the Air. After that, all Milo would have to do is chat pleasantly with Rhyme and Reason before returning through the harrowing crags full of devouring monsters. Upon his arrival, Milo would attend a triumphal parade followed by cookies and hot chocolate for everyone.

The Humbug is quite satisfied with his simple plan, and the king agrees that he never thought it could be that simple to restore Rhyme and Reason. Milo thinks it all sounds quite dangerous—and now the Humbug agrees with him, in his effort to agree with everyone. There is one more serious problem, but the king cannot reveal what it is until Milo returns from his trip.

The king claps his hands and suddenly they all find themselves standing in the middle of the marketplace. Although he would like to make the trip himself, the king must allow Milo to have the honor because it was...

(The entire section is 700 words.)