Monthly Archives: June 2014

Mediation, Part II: “The Phantom Tollbooth”

The classic pattern of mediation is set out in the children’s story, The Phantom Tollbooth. Once upon a time, there were two kingdoms, Dictionopolis (the city of words) and Digitopolis (the city of numbers), the kings of which had stopped speaking to one another because they disagreed on whether words or numbers were more important.  They disagreed, consequently, on everything.  In effect, they agreed to disagree.

This slender reed is all that is required, however, for them ultimately to reconcile their differences. With the assistance of an intermediary, a boy named Milo, who, with their permission undertakes the rescue of the Princesses Rhyme and Reason, the kings resolve their differences: words and numbers, they conclude, are of equal importance.  This humble parable contains within it the elements of classic mediation: a dispute, a breakdown in communication, an intermediary, an agreement to a common process, and a reconciliation.