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Encyclopedia > The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) is a children's novel and a modern fairy tale full of wordplay and adventure. Written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, it tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who drives through a magic tollbooth into the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he embarks on a noble quest and in the end learns a valuable lesson. The Phantom Tollbooth has been compared to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Journey to the West, and the works of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. Juster claims his father's fondness for puns and The Marx Brothers' movies were a major influence. See also: 1960 in literature, other events of 1961, 1962 in literature, list of years in literature. ... A fairy tale is a story, either told to children or as if told to children, concerning the adventures of mythical characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants, and others. ... Norton Juster (born June 2, 1929) is an American architect and author. ... Jules Feiffer (1958) Jules Feiffer (born January 26, 1929) is an American syndicated comic-strip cartoonist and author. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... For the film, see The Wizard of Oz (1939 film). ... “Alice in Wonderland” redirects here. ... The four heroes of the story, left to right: Sūn Wùkōng, Xuánzàng, Zhū Bājiè, and Shā Wùjìng. ... Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991) was an American writer and cartoonist best known for his classic childrens books under the pen name Dr. Seuss, including The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and One Fish Two Fish Red... Sheldon Alan Shel Silverstein (September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999) was an American poet, songwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, screenwriter and author of childrens books. ... See Marx brothers (fencing) for the 16th century German brotherhood. ...



Juster wrote The Phantom Tollbooth (ISBN 0-394-81500-9) while he was living in Brooklyn, New York. He had received a grant from the Ford Foundation to write a children's book about urban perception—how people experience cities. After several months of work, he realized he was bored with that project and wrote The Phantom Tollbooth instead, primarily to amuse himself. For other meanings, see Brooklyn (disambiguation). ... This article is about the state. ... The Ford Foundation is a charitable foundation based in New York City created to fund programs that promote democracy, reduce poverty, promote international understanding, and advance human achievement. ...

Feiffer was a neighbor of Juster's who lived in the same building in Brooklyn Heights. He started contributing illustrations while Juster worked on the novel. Feiffer's illustrations have been part of the book since the first edition. View of Brooklyn Heights from Manhattan Brooklyn Heights is a neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. ...

The first edition of The Phantom Tollbooth was published in September 1961 by Epstein & Carroll (LC 61013202) and distributed by Random House; the book has remained in print since then, and is currently produced under Random House's Alfred A. Knopf imprint. // Random House is a publishing house based in New York City. ... Colophon of the publisher Alfred A. Knopf. ...

Plot summary

A bored little boy named Milo comes home one day to find an unusual gift waiting for him in his room: a miniature purple tollbooth. When he drives past the assembled structure in his small car he is transported to the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he chooses to visit Dictionopolis, one of the divided country's two capitals. He pays insufficient attention to his route and becomes lost in the Doldrums, where thinking is not allowed, but he is found and rescued by the steadfast watchdog Tock, who joins him on his journey. Tolbooth or tollbooth may mean several things: Historical Scottish terms for prisons. ... A watch is a timepiece or portable clock that displays the time and sometimes the day, date, month and year. ...

They arrive in Dictionopolis, where all the world's letters are grown in orchards and sold in a vast marketplace. During a brief incarceration in the city's dungeon, Milo talks to Faintly Macabre, the not-so-wicked Which (sic), who tells him about Wisdom's two rulers, King Azaz and the Mathemagician, and their adopted sisters, Rhyme and Reason. The two princesses were unable to settle the long-standing argument between their brothers over whether letters or numbers are more important and were consequently banished to the Castle in the Air, high in the demon-infested Mountains of Ignorance. Milo then meets Azaz, who agrees to allow the princesses to be rescued, providing his brother also agrees - a remote event, as they have not agreed on anything for years. Milo and Tock leave Dictionopolis with the blustering Humbug, whom Azaz has sent along as a guide, heading towards the Mathemagician's capital of Digitopolis. A community apple orchard originally planted for productive use during the 1920s, in Westcliff on Sea (Essex, England) An orchard is an intentional planting of trees or shrubs maintained for food production. ...

Entering the Forest of Sight, they meet Alec Bings, a little boy who sees through things and grows until he reaches the ground; visit the twin cities of Reality and Illusions; and watch Chroma and his orchestra of color conduct the sunset. Moving on to the Valley of Sound, they meet Dr. Dischord, who dispenses unpleasant noises, and his smoky sidekick the Awful DYNNE. In the valley proper, which is completely silent, Milo visits the fortress of the Soundkeeper, creator and cataloguer of all sounds, who has withheld the valley's sounds because the inhabitants had stopped appreciating them. Milo steals a sound from the palace, which the people of the valley use to break open the palace's sound vault. For the song titled Orchestra, see The Servant (band). ...

Milo and his friends continue on, taking a short detour to the Island of Conclusions, to which they jump after making unwarranted assumptions about their trip. Returning to the mainland and arriving in Digitopolis, they meet the Dodecahedron, a figure having twelve faces, each of which expresses a different emotion. He takes them to the Mathemagician, who shows them the Numbers Mine, where the world's digits are pulled from the earth like jewels. Milo tricks the Mathemagician into agreeing with his brother to release the princesses, whereupon the ruler takes them to the edge of Mountains of Ignorance. A dodecahedron is any polyhedron with twelve faces, but usually a regular dodecahedron is meant: a Platonic solid composed of twelve regular pentagonal faces, with three meeting at each vertex. ...

Entering the Mountains, Milo, Tock, and the Humbug meet the Everpresent Wordsnatcher, a dirty bird who twists the meanings of their speech; the Terrible Trivium, who stalls the travelers with meaningless busywork; the Demon of Insincerity, who tricks them into falling into a pit; the ever-hungry Gelatinous Giant; and the Senses Taker, who bogs them down with his demands for all sorts of trivial information before taking their senses. Senses are the physiological methods of perception. ...

Milo uses gifts from all the people he has met in Wisdom to defeat these creatures, and the travellers climb to the Castle-in-the-Air, where the two princesses welcome Milo. The enraged demons chop off the base of the staircase, causing the Castle to begin to float away. Fortunately, time flies, with the result that Tock is able to carry the others back to earth. The combined armies of Wisdom, led by Azaz and the Mathemagician, appear and drive back the demons. The two leaders welcome the princesses home and begin a celebration to mark their return.

Milo must also return home. The next day, he hurries home with dreams of further adventures only to find the tollbooth has vanished, leaving a note that he can now find his own way to Wisdom. Milo then realizes that he would not have time to go back anyway, as a million fantastic and profitable adventures are waiting all around him.


  • Milo, the protagonist
  • Tock, a ticking watchdog and loyal companion of Milo. The job of a watchdog runs in his family (father-to-son).
  • The Humbug, a large talking insect who acts as the anti-hero
  • King Azaz the Unabridged, ruler of Dictionopolis and loves words
  • The Mathemagician, ruler of Digitopolis and loves numbers
  • Rhyme and Reason (also known as The Princesses of Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason)
  • Faintly Macabre, (or Aunt Faintly) the Not-So-Wicked Which
  • Alec Bings, who sees through things. Like the other members of his family, he grows downwards from a fixed point in the air until he reaches the ground
  • Chroma, conductor of the world's color
  • Kakofonous A. Dischord, a fan of noise: the "A" stands for "AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE!"
  • The Awful Dynne, an emotional, noise-loving creature formed of blue smoke; an accomplice of Dr. Dischord. His grandfather was The Dreadful Rauw, who died during "the Great Silence Epidemic of 1712".
  • The Soundkeeper, ruler of the Valley of Sound, and keeper of a large collection of previously-uttered noises; a stern woman who actually prefers silence, and at one point banned sound in her valley because she felt the locals had abused the privilege
  • The Dodecahedron, an inhabitant of Digitopolis with twelve faces: one happy, one sad, one angry, and so forth
  • The Everpresent Wordsnatcher, a monstrous filthy bird that anticipates everything you say and takes the words right out of your mouth; has ambitions of being a demon, but can only manage to be a nuisance
  • The Senses Taker, a demon who distracts passers-by by supplying them with illusions of things they would rather be perceiving
  • Officer Shrift, apparently Dictionopolis' entire police force, who enjoys arresting and imprisoning people, but isn't concerned with keeping them incarcerated. He is taller sitting down than standing up, and is almost twice as wide as he is tall.
  • The Whether Man, who tries to send travellers beyond Expectations, Milo's first stop on his trip. Lost his way long ago.
  • The Lethargarians, whose regular schedule consists of dawdling and dillydallying, with a little timewasting every so often; their home is in the Doldrums
  • The Spelling Bee, an expert at word-construction who quarrels violently with the Humbug
  • The Half Boy, a boy who is only .58 of a person. He comes from the "average" family, which has 2.58 children. He is the .58.
  • The Giant, the Midget, the Fat Man, and the Thin Man, all the same very ordinary-looking individual who explains that he is at once the world's shortest giant, tallest midget, thinnest fat man, and fattest thin man
  • Canby, a frequent visitor to Conclusions who is both as short as can be and as tall as can be, among other things
  • King Azaz's advisors/cabinet, includes the Duke of Definition, Minister of Meaning, Count of Connotation, Earl of Essence, and the Undersecretary of Understanding.

In literature and film, an anti-hero is a central or supporting character that has some of the personality flaws and ultimate fortune traditionally assigned to villains but nonetheless also have enough heroic qualities or intentions to gain the sympathy of readers or viewers. ... A dodecahedron is any polyhedron with twelve faces, but usually a regular dodecahedron is meant: a Platonic solid composed of twelve regular pentagonal faces, with three meeting at each vertex. ...

The Demons of Ignorance

  • The Terrible Trivium, a demon who seduces passers-by with mindlessly easy but pointless tasks that take an incredibly long time to accomplish.
  • The Demon of Insincerity, who looks like a cross between a beaver and a kangaroo. He tries to scare Milo and his companions off their path through the Mountains of Ignorance by throwing half-truths at them, which are only dispelled when they see this demon for what he really is. (from SparkNotes)
  • The Gelatinous Giant, who is so huge that Milo first mistakes him for a mountain. He is the epitome of spinelessness. He hides in the Mountains of Ignorance and tries to look exactly like everything around him because he thinks it is "unsafe" to be different. (from Spark Notes)
  • The Triple Demons of Compromise, a demon fused of three bodies; one is short and fat, one is tall and thin, and the third looks exactly like the others. They can never truly go anywhere because, rather than reach agreements, they constantly compromise.
  • The Horrible Hopping Hindsight, a demon which has its eyes on its rear end. It never sees where it is going, only where it has been, and always thinks that each movement could have been better.
  • The Overbearing Know-it-All, a spherical demon with spindly legs. He constantly talks, offering his own incorrect opinions to anyone nearby, and all are in danger of being crushed under him.
  • The Threadbare Excuse, a humanoid demon that clings to anyone who will give him a ride. He is always heard murmuring weak reasons for not doing things, and also has a vice-like grip on anyone who holds him.
  • The Gorgons of Hate and Malice, two disgusting slug-like demons that leave oozing trails behind them. They are completely blind.

SparkNotes, originally part of a website called The Spark, is a company started by Sam Yagan, Max Krohn, and Chris Coyne in 1999 that provides free in-depth commentary, analysis and study guides for literature, poetry, history, film and philosophy. ... SparkNotes is an internet-based youth-oriented education product. ...

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

In 1969, animation director Chuck Jones adapted The Phantom Tollbooth into a full-length feature film. Produced by MGM Animation/Visual Arts, the film combines live-action and animation (Milo's life before traveling to the Kingdom of Wisdom is live-action; after he passes through the tollbooth gate, the movie becomes animated). It features the voices of Butch Patrick (who also plays the real-life version of Milo), Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, Hans Conreid, June Foray, Cliff Norton and Patti Gilbert. Also: 1969 (Stargate SG-1) episode. ... Chuck Jones in 1976 Charles Martin Chuck Jones (September 21, 1912 – February 22, 2002) was an American animator, cartoon artist, screenwriter, producer, and director of animated films, most memorably of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts for the Warner Bros. ... The Phantom Tollbooth is a live-action/animated film based on the 1961 childrens book The Phantom Tollbooth. ... The opening studio logo from one of the Chuck Jones-produced Tom and Jerry cartoons, featuring Tom the cat in place of Leo the Lion. ... In film and video, live action refers to works that are acted out by human actors, as opposed to animation. ... The bouncing ball animation (below) consists of these 6 frames. ... Patrick Alan Lilley (born August 2, 1953), better known as Butch Patrick, is a former American child actor best known for his role as Eddie Munster in the television show The Munsters (1964-1966) for which he received $600 per episode, and the movie Munster, Go Home. ... Melvin Jerome Blanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989) was a prolific American voice actor. ... Daws Butler in 1976. ... Hans Conried in 1974 television appearance Hans Georg Conried, Jr. ... June Foray (born September 18, 1917) is an extremely versatile voice actor who has worked for most of the studios which produced animated films since the 1940s. ...

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer held the film up for release until 1970 due to internal problems, and the animation studio closed soon afterwards. Juster had no input into the film adaptation, and has stated that he is not particularly fond of it. For alternate meanings of MGM, see MGM (disambiguation). ... Year 1970 (MCMLXX) was a common year starting on Thursday (link shows full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

In 1995, Juster adapted Tollbooth into a libretto for an opera version. Year 1995 (MCMXCV) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display full 1995 Gregorian calendar). ... Antonio Ghislanzoni, nineteenth century Italian librettist. ...

Various stage adaptations including the Susan Nanus stage version have been created and performed since The Phantom Tollbooth was first published.

External links

  • "The road to Dictionopolis", interview with Norton Juster from Salon.com
  • Excerpts from the Phantom Tollbooth

  Results from FactBites:
The Phantom Tollbooth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (976 words)
The Phantom Tollbooth (1961, Knopf) is a children's book and a modern fairy tale full of wordplay.
Written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, it tells the story of a young boy named Milo who drives through a magic tollbooth into the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he embarks on a noble quest and in the end learns a valuable lesson.
The Phantom Tollbooth has been compared to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Journey to the West, and the works of Dr.
ZOOM . reviews . The Phantom Tollbooth | PBS Kids (2062 words)
The phantom toll booth isn't exactlt the best book in the would but its ok. We had to act out scenes from it in class and it was pretty boring.
I liked The Phantom Tollbooth because it tells you you should never be bored, so open your eyes to the world and others ideas, and that is advice everyone should follow.
The phantom tollbooth is alright but I think for my ipinion that it needs a little more adventure.
  More results at FactBites »



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