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1001 Stories Collection

The Phantom Tollbooth

1001 The Phantom Tollbooth
Added on 08th August 2020

Author Norton Juster
Illustrator Jules Feiffer
First published 1961
Publisher Epstein & Carroll Associates Inc

A surreal fantasy story full of puns and wordplay and absurd situations.

Story

Milo is bored. Nothing interests him and everything is a waste of time. Arriving home from school he finds an enormous parcel, “For Milo”. Having nothing else to do he opens it and follows the instructions. Milo builds the ‘tollbooth’ and studies the map marked with places he has never heard of. Dusting off his toy car he chooses a destination, inserts his coin and passes through the magic tollbooth.

He finds himself driving along a country road on the way to Dictionapolis. He unthinkingly gets stuck in The Doldrums but is saved by the watchdog, Tock. In Dictionapolis (where words are more important than meaning), King Azaz tasks Milo to rescue the exiled Princesses, Rhyme and Reason from the Armies of Wisdom.

Milo’s journey includes Digitapolis (where logic is turned on its head) and, the Island of Conclusions (easier to jump to than to leave).

Why we chose it

It is a fantasy story of courage, endeavour and adventure. A feast of puns, irony, double entendre and words as play.

Where it came from

The book was written when Norton Juster was supposed to be doing something else. A chance encounter with a boy made him remember his own childhood – his confrontation with words and numbers and his confusion at learning so many (seemingly) odd things that had no immediate relevance to him; things that seemed to have no rhyme or reason.

Where it went next

It was made into a musical film in 1970 by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, which Norton Juster described as ‘drivel’. In 1995 it was adapted into a small-scale opera then revamped as a touring stage musical. Gary Ross planned a film remake in 2010 (unfinished). In 2017 TriStar Pictures announced a ‘live-action/ hybrid film’ of The Phantom Tollbooth. In keeping with the book, this too has become stuck in The Doldrums.

Associated stories

Revelling in absurd logic, it has been compared in appeal to Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll) and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L Frank Baum).

Added on 08th August 2020

Author Norton Juster
Illustrator Jules Feiffer
First published 1961
Publisher Epstein & Carroll Associates Inc