The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth

by

Norton Juster

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The Mathemagician is the king of Digitopolis and King Azaz’s brother. Like his brother, he’s a towering man with a huge beard. His robes are embroidered with complex mathematical equations, and he carries a “magic staff,” which is a giant pencil. Since his kingdom is the kingdom of numbers, the Mathemagician is convinced that numbers are far superior to words—and he’s locked in a years-old feud with Azaz because of this. The feud is what caused the Mathemagician to agree to imprison Rhyme and Reason in the Castle in the Air years before the novel begins. Though the Mathemagician is initially open to the idea of rescuing the princesses, he rejects the idea outright when he learns that Azaz thought it was a good idea. But Milo is able to convince the Mathemagician to agree using logic, and to reward Milo for this (and to help Milo through the Mountains of Ignorance), the Mathemagician gives Milo a gift: a miniature magic staff (a pencil). Milo uses the magic staff to escape the Terrible Trivium’s clutches. The Mathemagician rides to fight in the final clash with the demons and mostly makes up with Azaz—though it seems likely that they’ll continue their argument long after Milo leaves the Lands Beyond.

The Mathemagician Quotes in The Phantom Tollbooth

The The Phantom Tollbooth quotes below are all either spoken by The Mathemagician or refer to The Mathemagician. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bullseye Books edition of The Phantom Tollbooth published in 1988.
Chapter 3. Welcome to Dictionopolis Quotes

“When they began to count all the time that was available, (…) it seemed as if there was much more than could ever be used. ‘If there’s so much of it, it couldn’t be very valuable,’ was the general opinion, and it soon fell into disrepute. People wasted it and even gave it away. Then we were given the job of seeing that no one wasted time again,” he said, sitting up proudly. “It’s hard work but a noble calling. For you see”—and now he was standing on the seat, one foot on the windshield, shouting with his arms outstretched—“it is our most valuable possession, more precious than diamonds. It marches on, and tide wait for no man, and—”

Related Characters: Tock (speaker), Milo, King Azaz the Unabridged, The Mathemagician
Related Symbols: Time/Tock’s Alarm Clock
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6. Faintly Macabre’s Story Quotes

“‘Words and numbers are of equal value for, in the cloak of knowledge, one is warp and the other woof. It is no more important to count the sands than it is to name the stars. Therefore, let both kingdoms live in peace.’”

“Everyone was pleased with the verdict. Everyone, that is, but the brothers, who were beside themselves with anger.

“‘What good are these girls if they cannot settle an argument in someone’s favor?’ they growled, since both were more interested in their own advantage than in the truth.”

Related Characters: Faintly Macabre (speaker), Princess of Pure Reason (speaker), Princess of Sweet Rhyme (speaker), King Azaz the Unabridged (speaker), The Mathemagician (speaker), Milo, Tock
Related Symbols: The Castle in the Air
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12. The Silent Valley Quotes

“It doesn’t make me happy to hold back the sounds,” she began softly, “for if we listen to them carefully they can sometimes tell us things far better than words.”

“But if that is so,” asked Milo—and he had no doubt that it was—“shouldn’t you release them?”

“NEVER!” she cried. “They just use them to make horrible noises which are ugly to see and worse to hear. I leave all that to Dr. Dischord and that awful, awful DYNNE.”

“But some noises are good sounds, aren’t they?” he insisted.

“That may be true,” she replied stubbornly, “but if they won’t make the sounds that I like, they won’t make any.”

Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15. This Way to Infinity Quotes

“How did you do that?” gasped Milo.

“There’s nothing to it,” they all said in chorus, “if you have a magic staff.” Then six of them canceled themselves out and simply disappeared.

“But it’s only a big pencil,” the Humbug objected, tapping at it with his cane.

“True enough,” agreed the Mathemagician; “but once you learn to use it, there’s no end to what you can do.”

Related Characters: Milo (speaker), The Mathemagician (speaker), The Humbug (speaker), Tock, King Azaz the Unabridged
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16. A Very Dirty Bird Quotes

“I hope you found what you were looking for.”

“I’m afraid not,” admitted Milo. And then he added in a very discouraged tone, “Everything in Digitopolis is much too difficult for me.”

The Mathemagician nodded knowingly and stroked his chin several times. “You’ll find,” he remarked gently, “that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that’s hardly worth the effort.”

Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17. Unwelcoming Committee Quotes

“But why do only unimportant things?” asked Milo, who suddenly remembered how much time he spent each day doing them.

“Think of all the trouble it saves,” the man explained, and his face looked as if he’d be grinning an evil grin—if he could grin at all. “If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won’t have the time. For there’s always something to do to keep you from what you should really be doing, and if it weren’t for that dreadful magic staff, you’d never know how much time you were wasting.”

Related Characters: Milo (speaker), Terrible Trivium (speaker), Tock, The Humbug, The Mathemagician
Related Symbols: Gifts, Time/Tock’s Alarm Clock
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18. Castle in the Air Quotes

“And it’s much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer.”

“And remember also,” added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, “that many places you would like to see and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you’ll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”

“I think I understand,” Milo said, still full of questions and thoughts; “but which is the most important—”

Related Symbols: The Castle in the Air
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:

“But what about the Castle in the Air?” the bug objected, not very pleased with the arrangement.

“Let it drift away,” said Rhyme.

“And good riddance,” added Reason, for no matter how beautiful it seems, it’s still nothing but a prison.”

Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19. The Return of Rhyme and Reason Quotes

“That’s why, said Azaz, “there was one very important thing about your quest that we couldn’t discuss until you returned.”

“I remember,” said Milo eagerly. “Tell me now.”

“It was impossible,” said the king, looking at the Mathemagician.

“Completely impossible,” said the Mathemagician, looking at the king.

“Do you mean—” stammered the bug, who suddenly felt a bit faint.

“Yes, indeed,” they repeated together; “but if we’d told you then, you might not have gone—and, as you’ve discovered, so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”

Related Characters: King Azaz the Unabridged (speaker), The Mathemagician (speaker), The Humbug (speaker), Milo (speaker), Princess of Sweet Rhyme, Princess of Pure Reason
Related Symbols: The Castle in the Air
Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Phantom Tollbooth LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Phantom Tollbooth PDF

The Mathemagician Character Timeline in The Phantom Tollbooth

The timeline below shows where the character The Mathemagician appears in The Phantom Tollbooth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6. Faintly Macabre’s Story
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...princesses. One son became Azaz the Unabridged, the king of Dictionopolis. The other became the Mathemagician, king of Digitopolis—but they continued to care for the princesses, who lived in Wisdom and... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Azaz and the Mathemagician, Faintly Macabre says, would often call on Rhyme and Reason to settle their disputes. But... (full context)
Chapter 8. The Humbug Volunteers
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...and a car if that boy travels through miles of countryside to Digitopolis, gets the Mathemagician to agree to release the princesses, and then makes it through the demon-infested Mountains of... (full context)
Chapter 14. The Dodecahedron Leads the Way
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...a booming voice answers that it’s his. The figure coming toward Milo is clearly the Mathemagician: he wears a flowing robe covered in equations and carries a staff that’s a giant... (full context)
Chapter 15. This Way to Infinity
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Eight miners rush in with a huge, bubbling cauldron. It smells delicious. The Mathemagician offers Milo, Tock, and the Humbug something to eat. They all quickly finish their bowls.... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...in time for dinner later. Milo muses that he only eats when hungry, which the Mathemagician deems “curious.” Suddenly, the mine vanishes and he, Milo, Tock, and the Humbug are standing... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Milo gasps, but the Mathemagician says it’s easy with “a magic staff.” The Humbug snaps that it’s only a big... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...and says Milo would actually like to see “the number of greatest possible magnitude.” The Mathemagician coaches Milo through adding one to a massive number, again and again—Milo can never stop,... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
The Mathemagician leads Milo to a window, where a line stretches to the ground and keeps going... (full context)
Chapter 16. A Very Dirty Bird
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...reenters the workshop, he laments that everything in Digitopolis is too hard for him. The Mathemagician comforts Milo and notes that the easiest thing to do is to be wrong—but it’s... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Tock asks for the Mathemagician’s permission to rescue Rhyme and Reason. When he hears that Azaz has already agreed to... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
The Mathemagician transports Milo, Tock, and the Humbug to the edge of Digitopolis. Ahead is a narrow... (full context)
Chapter 19. The Return of Rhyme and Reason
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...are Wisdom’s armies. A trumpet sounds, and then horsemen race forward. King Azaz and the Mathemagician lead the way, Dr. Dischord, the DYNNE, and Chroma behind. Everyone Milo has met in... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
...Milo and his friends join a parade. They sit in a carriage with Azaz, the Mathemagician, and the princesses. As people cheer, Rhyme tells Milo they’re cheering for him. He says... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...followed by songs and poems praising Rhyme, Reason, and their rescuers. King Azaz and the Mathemagician vow to take armies to the Mountains of Ignorance yearly to drive out the demons. (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...He promises to remember the importance of words and numbers, just as Azaz and the Mathemagician start to argue again. (full context)