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The Phantom Tollbooth | Study Guide

Norton Juster

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The Phantom Tollbooth | Chapter 7 : The Royal Banquet | Summary



Milo and Tock arrive at the palace and notice that it looks like a book. The other guests are the people previously seen in the market place. When Officer Shrift sees Milo, he is surprised that six million years have passed so quickly. King Azaz the Unabridged arrives and asks Milo to entertain everyone. Milo says he can't do anything entertaining, and the king tells him that his cabinet members are all able to perform. The duke makes "mountains out of molehills," the minister "splits hairs," the count "makes hay while the sun shines," the earl "leaves no stone unturned," and the undersecretary "hangs by a thread." Milo responds that he can count to a thousand, which disgusts the King, who cares only about words.

Milo is asked to decide the menu for dinner. First he asks for a light meal, and platters filled with lights are served. Then he asks for a square meal, and plates appear that are "heaped high with steaming squares of all sizes and colors." The guests in turn are asked to speak, and each one mentions foods. The Humbug says turkey, the Spelling Bee says hamburgers, and the king names French dishes. The waiters appear carrying the foods mentioned by the guests. Milo tells the king that he didn't know he would be eating his words. The guests feel sorry for Milo so they throw suggestions at him, offering him delicacies like a rigmarole, ragamuffin, synonym bun, and his "just desserts." The guests get wild, and when the duke says it is "in one ear and out the other," he tries to push his words through the earl's head. The count shouts, "Out of the frying pan into the fire" and burns himself.

When it's time for dessert, the king explains that the pastry chefs in "the half bakery" are creating "half-baked ideas." The dessert carts are filled with half-baked or unrealistic ideas such as "the earth is flat," "the moon is made of green cheese," and "everything happens for the best."


King Azaz the Unabridged is described as "the largest man Milo had ever seen." This is a humorous allusion to his being "unabridged." He describes the kinds of things that the cabinet members can perform, such as hanging by a thread or making a mountain out of a molehill. These are all popular phrases and sayings, and it is funny to visualize someone actually doing these things. The banquet scene uses the literal interpretation of phrases throughout, and the effect is quite funny. The guests' words take physical form on the plates that are brought to them, and they literally eat their words. Similarly, the half-baked ideas served for dessert are also clever plays on common phrases. These are all foolish sayings that have no merit, so they're only "half baked," or not well thought out.

The phrases used throughout this chapter are all examples of metaphorical language. They provide humor because it is funny to think of expressions and metaphors being interpreted literally. For example, the phrase "to make a mountain out of a molehill" means to make a big deal out of something trivial. As it is used here, it means to literally make a mountain out of a molehill. This is a humorous use of language.

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