Friday, January 02, 2009

The Terrible Trivium.

Soja, I found that passage from The Phantom Tollbooth I was referring to, that I said I loved.

Now, I don't know that any child could appreciate this passage more than someone reading it as an adult. I'm referring mainly to the last four paragraphs.

Who hasn't been beaten down by the the Terrible Trivium?

The Terrible Trivium
--From The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

    The Humbug whistled gaily at his work, for he was never as happy as when he had a job which required no thinking at all. After what seemed like days, he had dug a hole scarcely large enough for his thumb. Tock shuffled steadily back and forth with the dropper in his teeth, but the full well was still almost as full as when he began, and Milo's new pile of sand was hardly a pile at all.

    "How very strange," said Milo, without stopping for a moment. "I've been working steadily all this time, and I don't feel the slightest bit tired or hungry. I could go right on the same way forever."

    "Perhaps you will," the man agreed with a yawn (at least it sounded like a yawn).

    "Well, I wish I knew how long it was going to take," Milo whispered as the dog went by again.

    "Why not use your magic staff and find out?" replied Tock as clearly as anyone could with an eye dropper in his mouth.

    Milo took the shiny pencil from his pocket and quickly calculated that, at the rate they were working, it would take each of them eight hundred and thirty-seven years to finish.

    "Pardon me," he said, tugging at the man's sleeve and holding the sheet of figures up for him to see, "but it's going to take eight hundred and thirty-seven years to do these jobs."

    "Is that so?" replied the man, without even turning around. "Well, you'd better get on with it then."

    "But it hardly seems worth while," said Milo softly.

    "WORTH WHILE!" the man roared indignantly.

    "All I meant was that perhaps it isn't too important," Milo repeated, trying not to be impolite.

    "Of course it's not important," he snarled angrily. "I wouldn't have asked you to do it if I thought it was important."

    And now, as he turned to face them, he didn't seem quite so pleasant.

    "Then why bother?" asked Tock, whose alarm suddenly began to ring.

    "Because, my young friends," he muttered sourly, "what could be more important than doing unimportant things? If you stop to do enough of them, you'll never get to where you're going."

    He punctuated his last remark with a villainous laugh.

    "Then you must -----" gasped Milo.

    "Quite correct!" he shrieked triumphantly. "I am the Terrible Trivium, demon of petty tasks and worthless jobs, ogre of wasted effort, and monster of habit."


Reading Revival said...

I hate that book.

iWoman said...

I guess you hate things that are awesome.