Room 1

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…the entrance hall of the Maze.

They looked carefully at the bronze doors, trying to choose. The uncertainty of visitors is one of my little pleasures.

“It’s easy to get lost,” I said helpfully. “This can be a sinister place.” The sun glared at me through the gateway.

Something was ringing behind one of the doors. They spent some time trying to decide which door it was, not understanding that the silences of the Maze are as eloquent as the sounds.

“Decisions, decisions,” one said. “Too many decisions.”

“The story of my life,” said another.

“We don’t want to be late,” said a third, opening one of the doors.

“Nary a soul to be seen,” said the first, peering into the gloom.

I waited patiently for them to choose which way to go … into…

 - Images and text copyright 1985 by Christopher Manson
used with permission. [Purchase MAZE from Amazon]


Room Type:  PATH     Doors:  20  21  26  41


● The correct door is 26. [Credit: Unknown - during the 1985 contest.]

● The part of the Riddle of the Path in this room is “LIKE” spelled out on the scroll hanging on the wall. [Credit: Unknown - prior to 1990.] The symbols on the door (drum, cup, bottle, apple) spell out DCBA the opposite of ABCD. [Credit: Unknown - prior to 1990.] The backwards order of DCBA is intended to clue us to look for backwards letters elsewhere – leading to the identification “LIKE” spelled backwards on the scroll. [Credit: Vewatkin]

● The words over the door “Story,” “Tale,” (rearranged as Late) “Yarn,” (rearranged as Nary) are mentioned in the text. Not mentioned is “Fable” so this is the correct door. [Credit: Raphael Vanier]

● In the papers on the floor is “Go 17″ a possible reference to the hidden door. [Credit: Raphael Vanier]

● In the papers on the floor is “HI”. [Independent Credit: White Raven / David G]

● In the papers on the floor is a smiley face. [Credit: David G]

● The drawing easel: Every time you return to this room it is “back to the drawing board.” [Credit: vewatkin]

● The right hand curled end of the scroll with “IN” or “HI” on it looks like a 2. The left hand curled end of the scroll right next to it looks like a 6. 2&6=26 the number of the correct door. Also the “IN” suggests we go in via this door. [Credit: David Gentile] Between the 2 and the 6 is an upside down F reinforcing “Fable” as the correct door. The scroll with the “IN” when viewed upside down also has a 6 on the end opposite the 2 – another 26. [Credit: White Raven]

Red Herrings:

Through Door 41 the doll’s hair is YARN.
Through Door 21 the bird is turned to show its tail/TALE
Through Door 20 the newspaper perhaps suggests STORY while the tortoise perhaps recalls an Aesop FABLE
Through Door 26 the stage is playing a FABLE or STORY

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128 thoughts on “Room 1

  1. My personal 2 theories for this room which I feel are much stronger and more obvious than those mentioned:
    1. The characters are mentioned to “peer into the gloom” when the door is opened. For all doors except 26, bright sunlight from outside would at least partially illuminate the path, contradicting this description.
    2. The narrator is explicit in the prologue that this maze teaches a lesson : “They think I am some poet who will lead them through the symbols and spaces of this Underworld. They think I will teach them lessons. They should call me Cerberus…. I am the lesson.”
    Cerebus is a mythological many-headed DOG, and he’s teaching a LESSON. All of the words on the doors are kinds of narratives, but they are NOT synonymous. Fable is the only one which describes the journey through the maze (stories are linear, tales are generally semi-factual, yarns are long and meandering, but FABLES are defined by anthropomorphized animals teaching a lesson).

    I really don’t like the counting/numerology solutions. They’re easy to justify in hindsight, and there’s enough symbols in any room that you can generally find SOME synonym for some symbol that you can add up to the number. However, these are nearly impossible to discover while experiencing the book, and there’s no way to understand what synonym for a symbol should be used or what images in the frame should be counted and how. I don’t think they were Manson’s intention.

    • It’s not clear to me how a contradiction between a description of what lies behind one of the doors and what we expect to lie behind door 26 suggests that we should be through 26. But I don’t see a contradiction here either.

      The light coming through the doorway isn’t falling on either doors 26 or 20. They are both drawn lighter where the sunbeams cross them, as a means of depicting the sunbeams, but you can see from where the light falls on the floor and the wall that the sun is shining directly through the doorway, not on 20 or 26. It’s not clear that the passage beyond either of them would be brighter than the other.

      When you take into account the logistics of how an opened door might block the sunbeams, how a passage my turn beyond the doors, etc., it’s not clear that even 41 would be effectively illumined by the sunlight. I don’t think that we’re intended to think about those logistics at all, but my point is just that it’s completely plausible for any of these doors to have a gloomy darkness behind it.

    • The connection between “lesson” and “fable” is reasonable to consider, though that also doesn’t make clear that 26 is the correct answer, since there are often similar connections to incorrect doors. I don’t think it’s necessary to bring Cerberus into it; if Manson’s purpose were to reference an animal and a lesson together to imply a “fable,” a mythological beast that doesn’t feature in any prominent fables (and isn’t typically anthropomorphized) doesn’t seem a likely choice of animal.

  2. The text references a ringing sound.

    The only door picture that makes sound is the drum.

    I always thought this was a clue to the right path, but I guess I was wrong. :(

  3. The way I got to room 26 was a bit mathematical. If you add all the letters together (a=1, b=2, etc.) the only one that equals its corresponding door is Fable (FABLE=26, STORY=97, TALE=38, YARN=58).

    • Usually I’m adverse to making alphanumeric connections from words in rooms, but this one is a special case where this room references the alphabet, so nice work!

  4. Room 1 not only gives you the next door but also Foreshadows some of the rooms of the path for the first clues theres 4 doors and each has a symbol Apple.Bottle.Cup.Drum which is in alphabet that has 26 letters the sun shines on the two doors that are not part of the path and also in bottom left the words go and 17 can be seen referencing room 17 on the easel is a arrow pointing to 20 and the letter e above hinting 20 is the end of the path and finally in the text there is a mention of hearing ringing and in room 26 a ringing bell can be seen and room 20 a ringing telephone can be seen.

  5. I always went with 26 because (a) it’s the only door with a word over it that doesn’t have more than one meaning and (b) it seemed the artist went through a lot of trouble to make sure it was the only one where the picture on the door wasn’t in shadow.

    • I went to 26 cause on cover he wrote “Your first goal is to find the shortest route through the Maze” Fable is the shortest story right? And always brings a Lesson. Its my first hour there, english isnt my main language so I ended getting the hints there on accident. (:(

  6. Another reason as to why the correct numbered door would be 26, is the cup. When spelled out aloud, it sounds as if you’re saying, “See up.” And it also leads us to another clue. When ‘see up’ is switched around, it sounds like, “Up see”, as in “Upsy Daisy” or “Up see (a) day’s eye.”

  7. Is there a reason the sun “glares” at him? It feels like a rather specific choice of words- is there some mythological thing I’m missing? Especially after the whole “it’s easy to get lost”

    • “Glaring sunlight” is not an uncommon expression. But it does give you the feeling that the sun is looking directly at the narrator/Guide. In my opinion, Manson used this word to direct you to the door handle, which has little horns and a ring like one you’d find in the nose of a bull, a clue to the Guide’s identity. This is also one of the many meanings/representations of “ring” that is used in Room 1 and connecting rooms.

    • I mean… it sort of does look like one. So you think the door handle is taking the place of the guide, who we of course wouldn’t see in the image? Speaking of that, why do we never get to see our main cast?

    • The guide’s identity is meant to be secret, which makes picturing him problematic. The nature, number, identity of the visitors is also a bit of a mystery, presumably deliberately. Not picturing other characters exploring the maze also promotes the feeling that we the readers are the group of people inside it.

    • Another thought about the sun and the doors, possibly already stated elsewhere: the doors are bronze, meaning they’d get pretty hot in direct sunlight. Both 41 and 21 get direct sunlight and they are off the path. The darkest (coolest) door is 26, the correct door.

    • Perhaps “the sun was very hot” in the Prologue is telling you to seek shade in Room 1.

    • So now the book is telling us to avoid the sun? You have no problem arguing the opposite when it leads to the door you want. You would have no problem asserting it here if it worked.

      It is interesting that after two (forced) locations emphasize sunlight, the next correct room emphasizes darkness (without actually being very dark). It’s an observation worthy of some thought. I emphasize “thought,” in contrast with “disingenuous excuse manufacturing.”

  8. Didn’t see this mentioned but the text says, “…not understanding that the silences of the Maze are as eloquent as the sounds” …. which is immediately followed by the sounds of the dialogue, and in those sounds are “story,” “late (tale)” and “nary (yarn)”. The only silent word relating to the doors is “fable”.

    • Yep, from what I can tell “the odd one out” is a running theme in MAZE, and its pretty good story design to introduce it right off of the bat.

  9. Another reason why the correct door would be 26, is because the word FABLE can also be read as FAY – BULL (or a magical bull), which (by the way) then alludes to the fact that the guide could very well be a Minotaur…

  10. …the entrance hall of the Maze. – I noticed that the number of e’s (in this partial sentence) is a total of five. Five multiplied by the number of words (six words) equals thirty. Thirty minus the number of stops (three stops before “the” and one stop after “Maze”) (four stops total) equals twenty six, which is the correct door to take.

    • There’s a game I play sometimes where I take four digits generated at random and see how many consecutive numbers I can generate by putting basic operators between them (and rearranging them as necessary). So–well, let me demonstrate.

      I just used random dot org to generate four digits at random, and got 1, 4, 6, 4. Now let’s say that–for example–you wanted to try to generate the number 26.

      So, what you can do here is add 1 to 4 and get 5; multiply 5 by 6 and get 30; subtract 4 and get 26.

      Let’s get four more digits and try again:

      2, 7, 9, 3

      2 plus 9 is 11. 11 times 3 is 33. 33 minus 7 is 26.

      It would be even easier to hit your target number when you can arbitrarily dictate the number of inputs, “rerolling” the inputs (by choosing to count something else), or expanding the operators permitted. My point, of course, is that finding things you can count to get numbers to allow you to generate 26 through a ruleless process (or one in which the rules are defined according to what reaches the desired result) isn’t meaningful.

    • While what you say could certainly be true, at the same time, one should always remember that words are only like fingers pointing, to start to get us where we need to go, and have no absolute intrinsic meaning. One can not point to any thing except a thing itself, that thing pointed to is it’s own meaning, not the words that are commonly applied to it.

    • I was talking about how that math you did was not a clue intended by Manson.

    • I would like to think that too (and I know that 20 is the end of the path), but for someone starting MAZE who found this clue, this could just as well have meant “entrance.”

  11. In the prologue, the narrator hints to this book being a fable – “They think I will teach them lessons. They should call me Cerberus… I am the lesson.” This is a specific reference to an animal character, the narrator, and a moral, lesson learned. The fable elements of “a moral” and utilization of animal characters are seen throughout the rest of the narrative.

  12. Notice that the door to outside is unmarked and cannot be traversed. Once in the maze you can never escape. That must be what the red herring on the cover is all about- even once your goal is accomplished you are trapped inside the Maze.

  13. “This can be a sinister place.” – Isn’t the word “sinister”, a synonym for the word “left”?

    • Yes! Noted since the Bailey days, though a good reason for this connection eludes us.

    • Left in Latin translates to sinistra and in some cases literally translates to sinister

    • Interestingly (perhaps), a “bend sinister” is a diagonal line used in heraldry as an indication of the illegitimate offspring of nobility–which the Minotaur is. However, the diagonal line here–the sunbeam–is slanted the wrong way to be a bend sinister, so I don’t think this was an actually intended connection.

      (A bend sinister starts in the upper left and goes to the lower right only from the perspective of the bearer of the symbol, not for the viewer. Of course we could posit that we are supposed to view it as the bearer for some reason, but then we’re in the position of making any orientation of the sunbeam fit our theory, which shouldn’t bolster our confidence much.)

  14. “They looked carefully at the bronze doors, trying to choose.” – Could this be interpreted as “They looked carefully at the bear on cedar doors trying touch house?”

  15. “‘We don’t want to be late,’ said a third, opening one of the doors.”

    Late for what? This seems to be a reference to Alice in Wonderland where the rabbit didn’t want to be late to the tea party. And there happens to be a tea cup on the correct door that is being opened. Alice in wonderland can also be considered a fable.

    • “LATE” can be unscrambled into “TALE”. “STORY”, mentioned by another of the children, explicitly relates to “STORY”. “NARY”, spoken by another, can be unscrambled into “YARN”. All these phrases have negative implications, and there is no mention of “FABLE”, indicating that this is the correct door.

  16. My son and I chose door 26 by noting the cup was the only door symbol struck by sunlight. The text stated “the sun glared at me through the doorway.” Dumb luck?

    • Eric,

      There is a whole light dark theme that runs through MAZE perhaps the shaft of light is meant to subtly indicated door 26. It hadn’t occurred to me that the fact that the Guide dislikes sunlight may be an indication that we should view it as good. Makes sense!

      Welcome to The Abyss! You are approved and may now post freely.

      White Raven

  17. Hi there!

    Room 1: DCBA. Bronze medal = third place, counting backwards is the best solution, IMO. The fable=26 answer is awesome in its simplicity.

    I will tell you my door 26 theory, which is really out there and much more convoluted. So be prepared XD
    Since I speak four languages and japanese is one of them, I could notice the kanji for mountain straight away. It’s the most visible scribble on the upper side of the easel. Not only that, there’s some sort of arrow ponting up just below the kanji, but it has a slash on its left side. Now, the bottom scribbling is a minus sign with a slash on its right side. So, if we remove the red herrings (the slashes), we are left with the mountain kanji, an arrow pointing up and a minus sign. The kanji for mountain is radical 46, so we need to substract the number on top of it…which happens to be 20! In the end, we are left with 26 as the answer.

    • 228850/2 from Argentina,

      You are our first poster from Argentina, or South America for that matter. Can we call you “228″? Or “Argentina?”

      Is the “228850/2″ a cypher? Let’s see… 114425 is 228850 divided by 2. If we break the numbers into 1-14-4-25 it spells “ANDY” in direct alphanumeric substitution. Is this right? Can we call you “Andy?”

      Your Kanji solution is impressive! I am not sold on the minus symbol yet but that three prong symbol really does look like the Kanji for mountain. I have added a picture of the symbol to the related images for Room 1.

      Welcome to The Abyss!

      White Raven

  18. If you assign each letter in FABLE a number (like A=1, B=2, etc) and add those numbers up you get 26, which is equal to the number below the word FABLE. None of the other doors’ words equal the number on the door. Also, if you use the same alphabet-number code to add up LIKE, you get 37. The number 37 is “like” 26, except for 11. It looks like the number 11 is written at the top of the backwards LIKE poster.

    • Tami,

      Welcome to The Abyss! You have been approved and may now post freely.

      The FABLE=26 solution was originally offered by Hidden Mystery on his blog and posted here by Dave Gentile July 2014. It appears to be an amazing coincidence. There is alphanumeric substitution in MAZE but when it occurs it is hinted in some manner that we should be doing it. Perhaps this room is an exception? I am uncertain.

      The LIKE -11 solution appears to be yours alone and it is a very inventive solution! This appears also to be a coincidence unless we can find a reason for doing alphanumeric substitution and a reason for subtracting the 11 as opposed to adding it. Perhaps we will find these answers in time.

      Coincidence or not it is a great find, well done!

      White Raven

    • Couldn’t we consider “AB” = alpha-beta = alphabet in FABLE (together with alphabet clue in door objects) paired with the door number, 26, the number associated with the entire alphabet, to be a signal to try alphanumeric?

  19. Bronze. Seems like an odd thing to make doors out of. Is there something special about the material or does suggest the bronze age? Maybe a script from the bronze age is on the papers. I think the symbols are for something other than “hi” and “go 17″ and “like”. And “trap” in the other room’s case.

    • You know, all I can think of is bronze medal, in other words, 3rd place. With the door letters going A to D and the right door being C, that’s something I guess…

      As for the word “like,” it’s confirmed in the publisher’s solution, so it has to be in this room somewhere…

    • I actually really like Shelley’s idea here that the doors are Bronze to tell us that a lot of the references in MAZE are from the Bronze Age (Greek myths, Minoan civilization, etc).

    • Shelley & 515,

      I like both the bronze age idea and the bronze medal idea, could be either… or neither, but both ideas are imaginative and worth further thought. Perhaps something will clinch one of these solutions in the future.

      White Raven

  20. The square with a dot could be a way of saying 41. The symbols to the left and right are made of four lines each. So are the two symbols on the easel. Probably nothing but you know..


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