The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth

by

Norton Juster

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Tock Character Analysis

Tock is the first real friend that Milo meets in the Lands Beyond. Tock is a watchdog, which means he’s a massive dog whose body is a ticking alarm clock. Despite displaying a gruff demeanor at first, Tock is actually a normal dog in a lot of ways—he loves car rides and interesting smells, and he’s very loyal and dedicated to Milo once they get to know each other. Throughout Milo’s journey, Tock is his constant companion and voice of reason. When Milo gets confused by, for instance, King Azaz’s advisors’ flowery language, Tock observes that using lots of big, fancy words doesn’t make someone wise—using the appropriate words does. But even more importantly, Tock impresses upon Milo the importance of using his time wisely and not wasting it. Watchdogs, Tock explains, exist to make sure that nobody wastes time, which people believe isn’t valuable since there’s so much of it. But actually, Tock suggests, time is a person’s most valuable possession. Because Milo internalizes this lesson, when he returns home to his bedroom he realizes how important it is to tap into his imagination and amuse himself, rather than waste his time being bored and miserable. But Tock also provides more lighthearted comic relief, as when he flies Rhyme, Reason, Milo, and the Humbug down from the Castle in the Air because “time flies.”

Tock Quotes in The Phantom Tollbooth

The The Phantom Tollbooth quotes below are all either spoken by Tock or refer to Tock. 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 4. Confusion in the Market Place Quotes

Milo had never thought much about words before, but these looked so good that he longed to have some.

“Look, Tock,” he cried, “aren’t they wonderful?”

“They’re fine, if you have something to say,” replied Tock in a tired voice, for he was much more interested in finding a bone than in shopping for new words.

Related Characters: Milo (speaker), Tock (speaker), Faintly Macabre
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5. Short Shrift Quotes

“That was all many years ago,” she continued; “but they never appointed a new Which, and that explains why today people use as many words as they can and think themselves very wise for doing so. For always remember that while it is wrong to use too few, it is often far worse to use too many.”

Related Characters: Faintly Macabre (speaker), Milo, Tock, King Azaz the Unabridged
Page Number: 68
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 8. The Humbug Volunteers Quotes

“In this box are all the words I know,” he said. “Most of them you will never need, some you will use constantly, but with them you may ask all the questions which have never been answered and answer all the questions which have never been asked. All the great books of the past and all the ones yet to come are made with these words. With them there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. All you must learn to do is use them well and in the right places.”

Related Characters: King Azaz the Unabridged (speaker), Milo, Tock, The Humbug
Related Symbols: Gifts
Page Number: 98-99
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10. A Colorful Symphony Quotes

“No one paid any attention to how things looked, and as they moved faster and faster everything grew uglier and dirtier, and as everything grew uglier and dirtier they moved faster and faster, and at last a very strange thing began to happen. Because nobody cared, the city slowly began to disappear. Day by day the buildings grew fainter and fainter, and the streets faded away, until at last it was entirely invisible. There was nothing to see at all.”

Related Characters: Alec Bings (speaker), Milo, Tock, The Humbug
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

“You see what a dull place the world would be without color?” he said, bowing until his chin almost touched the ground. “But what a pleasure to lead my violins in a serenade of spring green or hear my trumpets blare out the blue sea and then watch the oboes tint it all in warm yellow sunshine. And rainbows are best of all—and blazing neon signs, and taxicabs with stripes, and the soft, muted tones of a foggy day. We play them all.”

Related Characters: Chroma (speaker), Milo, Tock, The Humbug, Alec Bings
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12. The Silent Valley Quotes

“Slowly at first, and then in a rush, more people came to settle here and brought with them new ways and new sounds, some very beautiful and some less so. But everyone was so busy with the things that had to be done that they scarcely had time to listen at all. And, as you know, a sound which is not heard disappears forever and is not to be found again.

“People laughed less and grumbled more, sang less and shouted more, and the sounds they made grew louder and uglier. It became difficult to hear even the birds or the breeze, and soon everyone stopped listening for them.”

Related Characters: Milo, Tock, The Humbug, The Soundkeeper
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13. Unfortunate Conclusions Quotes

“But it’s all my fault. For you can’t improve sound by having only silence. The problem is to use each at the proper time.”

Related Symbols: The Castle in the Air
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14. The Dodecahedron Leads the Way Quotes

“What a shame,” sighed the Dodecahedron. “[Problems are] so very useful. Why, did you know that if a beaver two feet long with a tail a foot and a half long can build a dam twelve feet high and six feet wide in two days, all you would need to build Boulder Dam is a beaver sixty-eight feet long with a fifty-one-foot tail?”

“Where would you find a beaver that big?” grumbled the Humbug as his pencil point snapped.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” he replied, “but if you did, you’d certainly know what to do with him.”

“That’s absurd,” objected Milo (…)

“That may be true,” he acknowledged, “but it’s completely accurate, and as long as the answer is right, who cares if the question is wrong? If you want sense, you’ll have to make it yourself.”

Related Characters: The Dodecahedron (speaker), The Humbug (speaker), Milo (speaker), Tock
Page Number: 175
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:

“I’m the demon of insincerity,” he sobbed. I don’t mean what I say, I don’t mean what I do, and I don’t mean what I am. Most people who believe what I tell them go the wrong way, and stay there, but you and your awful telescope have spoiled everything. I’m going home.” And, crying hysterically, he stamped off in a huff.

“It certainly pays to have a good look at things,” observed Milo as he wrapped up the telescope with great care.

Related Symbols: Gifts
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18. Castle in the Air Quotes

“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:
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Tock Character Timeline in The Phantom Tollbooth

The timeline below shows where the character Tock appears in The Phantom Tollbooth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3. Welcome to Dictionopolis
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
The dog apologizes for his “gruff conduct” and introduces himself as Tock. Milo assures Tock it’s fine and asks why he’s called Tock, since he goes “tickticktick.”... (full context)
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
To stop Tock from sobbing, Milo asks how he became a watchdog. Tock says it’s tradition in his... (full context)
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Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
After a while, Milo and Tock catch sight of Dictionopolis’s flags. At the gate, the gateman asks Milo if he’s come... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
...Then he invites Milo to the royal banquet later. The cabinet runs away. Milo tells Tock he had no idea words could be this confusing—but Tock says they’re only confusing “when... (full context)
Chapter 4. Confusion in the Market Place
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
...their “fresh-picked ifs, ands, and buts” and advertise “Juicy, tempting words for sale.” Milo and Tock wander the aisles studying the words. Some are short, and some of the longer ones... (full context)
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Milo and Tock continue to study the words. At the end of the last aisle, they notice a... (full context)
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Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
...a more difficult word. The most difficult word Milo can come up with is “vegetable.” Tock counts down while the bee pretends to sweat—and then spells the word correctly. (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
...the Humbug trips and crashes into a stall. Everything in the market falls down as Tock’s alarm rings. (full context)
Chapter 5. Short Shrift
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...whistle constantly—when he’s not blowing, he’s shouting at people that they’re guilty. Officer Shrift scolds Tock to turn off his alarm and then asks who’s responsible for the mayhem. He says... (full context)
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...in prison, Officer Shrift again changes his clothes—he’s the jailer too. He leads Milo and Tock through a huge door and into a dark corridor. They climb down a circular staircase.... (full context)
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Milo and Tock decide this is very serious. They also realize there’s nothing to do, but Tock says... (full context)
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Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
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...can help: the return of Rhyme and Reason. She says it’s a long story, but Tock says they’d love to hear it. (full context)
Chapter 6. Faintly Macabre’s Story
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...which opens a door into the sunshine. He waves at Faintly Macabre as he and Tock step outside. Just then, the king’s advisors rush Milo and Tock: it’s time for the... (full context)
Chapter 7. The Royal Banquet
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
At the palace, the king’s advisors lead Milo and Tock up a marble stairway to a palace that looks suspiciously like a giant book standing... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
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Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
With Milo, Tock, and the advisors in attendance, it’s time for the banquet. The Humbug says Milo, as... (full context)
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...not popular anymore. He nibbles one that reads, “THE MOON IS MADE OF GREEN CHEESE.” Tock advises Milo not to eat too many so he won’t get sick. Milo decides to... (full context)
Chapter 8. The Humbug Volunteers
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...falls off his chair as King Azaz leaps up—and as everyone else aside from Milo, Tock, and the Humbug run out of the palace. King Azaz begins a speech, but Milo... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...Azaz walks Milo to his car and says that the Humbug will accompany Milo and Tock. The Humbug is shocked, but the king insists the Humbug is resourceful and loyal. This... (full context)
Chapter 9. It’s All in How You Look at Things
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
...things. As an example, he tells Milo exactly what Milo had for breakfast. He tells Tock that Tock is worried about people wasting time, and he tells the Humbug that the... (full context)
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...far to fall. Alec deems this wise, since everyone needs their own point of view. Tock is confused; he thought this was everyone’s Point of View. But Alec says each person... (full context)
Chapter 10. A Colorful Symphony
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
As Milo, Tock, and the Humbug follow Alec through the forest, the light becomes increasingly beautiful. Alec struggles... (full context)
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Milo and Tock return to Alec, who leads them to a big clearing. He explains that people here... (full context)
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Alec tells Milo that they’re right in the middle of Reality’s Main Street. Tock and the Humbug see nothing, but Alec leads them down the street and points out... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
...needs to sleep and asks Milo to wake him up at 5:23 for the sunrise. Tock and Alec both fall asleep, and Milo follows suit. (full context)
Chapter 11. Dischord and Dynne
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Tock’s alarm goes off and he says they need to go. Alec accompanies the party back... (full context)
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Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Milo, Tock, and the Humbug drive through the countryside until they reach a deep valley. At the... (full context)
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The voice says that Milo, Tock, and the Humbug all look unwell. Milo notices that the voice is coming from a... (full context)
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Milo, Tock, and the Humbug all refuse the medicine, and Tock insists that a lack of noise... (full context)
Chapter 12. The Silent Valley
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Milo, Tock, and the Humbug think the valley is lovely and have no idea what Dr. Dischord... (full context)
Chapter 13. Unfortunate Conclusions
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...sounds fly out together, it’s confusing—but once they clear, things return to normal. Only Milo, Tock, and the Humbug notice the Soundkeeper sitting on some rubble. (full context)
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Milo apologizes to the Soundkeeper and Tock says they had to do it. The Soundkeeper says this is all her fault—“you can’t... (full context)
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Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...of the sounds are laughter. She then tells him how to get to Digitopolis. Milo, Tock, and the Humbug drive away in their car. Everything seems to be going well—until the... (full context)
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Tock asks where they are. Canby says this is the Island of Conclusions; they got here... (full context)
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Milo, Tock, and the Humbug all make the difficult, cold swim. The Humbug emerges on the beach... (full context)
Chapter 14. The Dodecahedron Leads the Way
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...they travel by miles, while Milo suggests it’d be shorter to go by half inches. Tock doesn’t care what units they use; he thinks they need to pick a road. As... (full context)
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Tock has been working on the original math problem, and he says the cars will arrive... (full context)
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Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
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...a small object out of a cart, which turns out to be a sparkly five. Tock says the numbers are exceptional. As Milo gives a handful of numbers to the Dodecahedron,... (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
...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. The Mathemagician keeps... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...eats when hungry, which the Mathemagician deems “curious.” Suddenly, the mine vanishes and he, Milo, Tock, and the Humbug are standing in the Mathemagician’s circular workshop. Everything is labeled with various... (full context)
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Tock comes to Milo’s rescue and says Milo would actually like to see “the number of... (full context)
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...the Mathemagician leads him to a flight of stairs. Milo bounds up the stairs, asking Tock and the Humbug to wait for him. (full context)
Chapter 16. A Very Dirty Bird
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Tock asks for the Mathemagician’s permission to rescue Rhyme and Reason. When he hears that Azaz... (full context)
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The Mathemagician transports Milo, Tock, and the Humbug to the edge of Digitopolis. Ahead is a narrow path leading to... (full context)
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...a mixture of lurking shadows and evil intentions.” As a heavy mist descends, Milo grabs Tock’s tail and wonders if they should wait until morning. Just then, a dirty bird quips... (full context)
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...bird replies, “thirty-four pounds.” The Humbug, pretending to be brave, suggests they find the demons. Tock starts to tremble. (full context)
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Milo, Tock, and the Humbug continue to climb until they come across an elegant gentleman leaning against... (full context)
Chapter 17. Unwelcoming Committee
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After hours and hours, neither Tock, Milo, nor the Humbug have made much progress. Milo finds this strange—especially since he’s not... (full context)
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...the Terrible Trivium, the demon of worthless jobs and petty tasks. He orders Milo and Tock not to leave, but Milo asks why people should only do unimportant things. (He now... (full context)
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Milo, Tock, and the Humbug are transfixed—until someone shouts for them to run. They all run, each... (full context)
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Tock and the Humbug are scared, but Milo now knows that people aren’t always what they... (full context)
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Milo, Tock, and the Humbug travel until they reach a mountain, where they stop to make plans.... (full context)
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...By this point, the Wordsnatcher, the Trivium, and the Demon of Insincerity know about Milo, Tock, and the Humbug, and they’ve told the other demons. Now, the demons begin to pursue... (full context)
Chapter 18. Castle in the Air
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Milo, Tock, and the Humbug climb higher and higher, the demons behind them. Milo catches sight of... (full context)
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...favorite color. He also gives the travelers forms to fill out. Milo, the Humbug, and Tock fill out the forms as fast as possible and then start up the steps. But... (full context)
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The demons get closer and closer, but Milo, Tock, and the Humbug don’t notice.  Milo is so engrossed that his bag of gifts slips... (full context)
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...break through the clouds and enter through the castle gates. Two sweet voices greet Milo, Tock, and the Humbug. The two women are clearly the Princess of Pure Reason and the... (full context)
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...the stairway loose, and the princesses suggest they leave. Milo notes that time flies and Tock offers to carry everyone down. Rhyme and Reason climb onto Tock’s back, while Milo and... (full context)
Chapter 19. The Return of Rhyme and Reason
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Tock flies just past the demons and, with Rhyme and Reason still on his back, leads... (full context)
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...and thunder steal his words. Suddenly, just as the demons are ready to snatch Milo, Tock, the Humbug, Rhyme, and Reason, they suddenly stop. Up ahead are Wisdom’s armies. A trumpet... (full context)
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...announces that Rhyme and Reason will reign again in Wisdom. The scroll also designates Milo, Tock, and the Humbug as heroes, and it declares a three-day carnival holiday. Messengers spread the... (full context)
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...sad to leave. Milo looks around at his new friends and asks the Humbug and Tock to come with him, but they refuse. Milo thanks his friends, and then, King Azaz... (full context)
Chapter 20. Good-by and Hello
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Sad, Milo curls up in his armchair. He thinks of Tock and the Humbug, Rhyme and Reason, and his other friends. But though he’s sad, he... (full context)