Room 20

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…room number 20. The ringing stopped as soon as we entered.

“What is the matter now?” I asked them.

“Too many animals for a proper house!”

They walked carefully around the edges of the room. I watched with an amusement shared, I think, by the wise old tortoise.

With backwards looks and muttered comments about turtles they left room number 20 and entered…

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


Room Type:  PATH     Doors: 1  5  27  37


● The obvious (if you have completed the rest of the circuit) correct door is 1 .

● The part of the Riddle of the Path in this room is the “S” from the bottom newspaper. The “S” from the top newspaper is discarded as the headline “EXTRA” suggests.   [Credit: Unknown - prior to 1990.]

● The phrase “With backwards looks…” suggests the trip is complete. [Credit: mazeloverrob]

● Among the rooms of The Path there are two live animals, a rabbit and turtle. In Room 15 is a rabbit that we know is to be called a “hare” because of the H clues in the room. In this room the turtle is referred to in the text as “the wise old tortoise.” The combination suggests “the tale of the tortoise and the hare” in which the tortoise beats the hare to the finish line. Note that the hare is resting on a chair and the tortoise bears a grin. This indicates that the trip is complete. [Independent Credit: vewatkins | White Raven | unknown individual prior to 1990]

● There are several elements in this room which start with the letter “T” this is a red herring. [Independent Credit: Hello Gregor | White Raven]

● The arrow is a not very hidden 1, indicating we are to take Door 1 and also that this is the last room of the sixteen step path. [Independent Credit: David Gentile | White Raven]

● The tower in the poster on the right being struck by lightning is very reminiscent of the tower card in a tarot deck. [Independent Credit: Beelzebibble | White Raven] The number of the tower card is 16. The tower in poster has an open top and open door, the tower in the chair opposite the poster has a closed top and closed door. This room is the 16th room of the 16 step path to the center and back. If you are in this room at the end of the 16 steps, you go to door 1 indicated by the 16th tarot card and the open tower. If however you are not on the 16th step then go back to the path by going through door 5, indicated by the closed tower. [Credit: One For Me | White Raven] Also the closed tower is resting in a chair, suggesting perhaps that this is the “not leaving” choice. [Credit: V-Watt’s Electric Labyrinth Love Luau] The man with the turban may reinforce the tarot connection reminiscent of the traditional garb of tarot card readers for much of this last century.

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144 thoughts on “Room 20

  1. I’d call ‘em both a checked pattern. In fact I did before I hit on the “flag” thing. If I had a shirt like that chair I’d go with “checked” or “plaid” but “plaid” does not go anywhere.

    • Even if so, that is not what a checkered flag pattern is like.

      Maybe this clue is better suited for 41, which has an actual checkered floor. For those coming back from 45 who have stepped off the path, 41 will be the finish line for you.

  2. “animal” in text in both 20 and 32 may be linked. This is probably a “guide” thing, not a “room” thing.

  3. Why “tortoise” and then “turtle”? About about “Turtle wax” fairly strong association with racing cars there.

  4. “SS” has been used by Chevy since 1961 for “Super Sport”. They have been pace cars for major races. Fits with “Checkered Flag” thing.

  5. Room 20 is the only place that tells you the room number on the way out. Repetition here, on way in and out we are told “20″ and “20″ plays into a solution. Leftover bits – I’m fairly happy with “Telephone” and “table” they give us “T” words and connection with room 1, not sure they need to do more. We used “tortoise”. Is “turtle” independently important or just reinforcement? The two sentences “What’s that matter now” and “Too many animals for a proper house” are still superfluous, and should not be.

  6. So the tower heads are part of a set, IMO. The room is full of “T”s. Wrong (too simple) approach is to follow where the Tower Heads point, because that begin with “T”, (and probably go to 5, because that one is not getting blasted). The right way to use the “T”s is to subtract the extra “S”.

  7. vswatkins – other letter rooms include – “I” 34. Good number of C,P in 44. I sounds in 41. Ending “E” in 37.”B” in 10. And 15 and 20 as mentioned. That’s all I got.

    • Hm, the cloth on the chair matching the cloth on Door 37 is interesting. The cloth on the chair seems pretty unnecessary, and Manson seems to have taken care to make it clear that the unmarked door is covered with cloth, as opposed to say wood or paper or something, by having the cloth drape down.

      If the take the turban as a cloth covering as well, we essentially have a trio of objects surrounding the wrong doors, all involving cloth coverings; I think you could have to intuit that the cloth coverings indicate wrong doors because of the impossibility of going through the unmarked door, and/or the odd-one-in business.

      I don’t know about that, but, again, it seems like something Manson did on purpose, the white cloth business.

    • I’d like the idea of a checkered pattern indicating a checkered flag, but that pattern is not checkered.

  8. The other tower and the chair both have some sort of checked pattern going on. So we have “bolt, cloth, checked pattern” Looking like “fabric” or something like that?

  9. “Bolt” is fertile as expected BB. (The arrow shaft and the tower with lightning yield bolt). The turbine and the sheet = cloth. Both and cloth go together pretty well so we seem to be getting somewhere here.

  10. OK let’s play the “what unites these things” game. How about the turbine and the covering of the exit. Ive got “covering” – any other good words or concepts here?

  11. Hmm…surprised this one is at a 4 on the solve meter. I still feel there is quite a bit I’m probably missing here. This is one I have not seriously revisited yet since 2012. I quite like my T-S=20-19=1 thing, and room 20 is in the text supporting that and “19 extra” strongly suggests the subtraction. “room 20″ is significant because room numbers are not always in the text – hey somebody go run and check that and put together a list!, lol. On board with the tortise/hare thing. Backwards looks thing seems pretty clear too. Back in April BB said something about two “bolts” – I’m guessing that is important for a “put the room all together” solution. Ringing works as stated of course. Omega was nice find whoever that was. I noted it is 24th letter and this is 24th timezone. Counting starts in 33 goes around the loop then around the 8. “226″ eh? How standard is that numbering system? To me that’s impossible to tell if Manson was aware of that or not, there is no reinforcement, and it is very obscure. I’m sure he WOULD do it, if he noticed, but then random s*it is just gonna happen too. It’s worth tracking and keeping a record of it, but is it “How you are supposed to solve the puzzle”? Clearly no. OK – so that’s where I’m at. Still have to update my page for 19 at some point, and here as well it seems.

  12. V-Watt’s Electric Labyrinth Love Luau observed that one tower’s door is open, the other’s is closed.
    The open tower is the tower of disaster. The closed tower is in a comfy chair.
    The closed door is door 1, the open doors are 5 and 27.
    1 is our best choice.

    • To wrap that up, the unmarked door is closed and that’s the door to 37; if that Door were unmarked, it would be a good choice as well, and would in fact create a second 16-step path. So it is not marked as a bad door…

      Although, I think it’s probably closed because you can’t go through it.

    • You know, it occurs to me that the T words here may be intended simply as a distraction, rather than to draw attention to the two towers. I mean, who’s going to ignore the fact that there are two towers in the room?

      It’s kind of like Room 2 , where I thought the Bs invited us to follow the bear’s eyes to a B word (boat), and WR agreed the B words invited us to follow the bear’s eyes but said the ship wasn’t intended as a B word; so my question is, why have the B words? They don’t encourage us to look where the bear is looking; if anything, they cause us to ignore the bear by thinking of it as just another B word.

      So, I don’t know enough yet, but I wonder whether that’s what’s going on here, that these letter-object groupings are there as camouflage, not roadsigns.

      Also makes me think we need to go look at those two hats in 15 some more…

      Hey, there’s some interesting connections between these object-grouping rooms.

      Room 2 has Bs, B = 2
      Room 20 has Ts, T = 20

      We know that, of course.

      Room 15 has Hs and the Hare,
      Room 20 Has Ts and the Tortoise.

      Do we have any other CLEARLY INTENDED object-letter groupings in the Maze?

    • Hello Gregor,

      Even more right-ish regarding the towers.


      Congratulations! The Ts are a red herring!

      There are other rooms with common letter red herrings and Room 2 with the Bs might be one of them. The solution to Room 2 is so complex (like Room 26 but not as bad) that I am not sure, the Bs may relate to the central riddle and thus act like a trail…maybe.

      White Raven

  13. Interestingly, the conclusion of our trip with reference to “The Tortoise and the Hare” is also a call back to our decision in Room 1, where we entered the door marked “FABLE.” Yes, it’s also technically a STORY and a TALE, but obviously the salient detail here is that “The Tortoise and the Hare” is part of Aesop’s Fables. It’s another nice little bookend to the journey, kind of like the ringing-bell-telephone connection between 1, 26, and 20.

    For Gentile fans out there, you might note that “The Tortoise and the Hare” is fable #226 in the most common compendium of Aesop’s Fables, and by choosing FABLE in the first room we go TO TWENTY-SIX.


    • Very good!
      Further, if you’re coming into 20 the proper way, you are taking the path of the turtle. You spent extra time in 1 and in subsequent rooms to do it right. If you came in through 1, you went to fast- you are a hare sleeping on a chair (tower, 15 hare) and the tortoise scoffs at you.

    • Oh, and man, maybe that’s what the Guide means in 45 when he says that what the Maze has to teach can be learned in any room: the central moral behind the Maze is that of “The Tortoise and the Hare”: “Slow and steady wins the race.”

      That is, slow and deliberate decision-making will see you through the Maze better than racing through rooms.

      That’s pretty much true, if we’re thinking in terms of a single trip through the Maze without prior knowledge. Most trips of that sort are bound to land you in 24 unless you wait to discover the room solution before moving on. (Which means you’ve been waiting for 30 years or so to complete your first run-through of the Maze. Go ahead, man, try a door already, you can just start over.)

    • dnabjm,wbhfgnskjnjkhbvsrjkgberkykbvdfybvjksbvr,

      Wow! Nice find on the “Fable!” I don’t know if 226 is a coincidence or not, but it is an interesting tidbit so I am adding it to the solution summary.

      White Raven

    • vewatkin,

      Hate to break it to you but David didn’t have it on his site then, and doesn’t now. Also it was not (from my notes) on the John Bailey site or on the previous site (which really had nothing on it anyway). You appear to be the only source for this curiosity. I put it on the Room Interconnectivity page. Everything on that page is uncredited.

      White Raven

  14. The following was observed by V-Watt’s Electric Labyrinth Love Luau:

    Much of 20 relates to it being the final room, but also doubles as a communication to those just entering it from 1.

    The backwards looks phrase mentioned above can relate both to the trip’s completion and to where you should go if you just came in here from room 1.
    One may look backwards on their journey or backwards to room 1 where one just came from.

    The carpet is edged by Omegas, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, suggesting this is the last room.

    The tortoise echoes the riddle by bearing its own home on its shoulders (as opposed to the home where all live).

    In room 1, Story and Fable stand out in that neither is anagramed in the text and that they both have sources of ringing. Story is the lazy person’s solution in that it is mentioned on the back of the book and therefore easy to choose.
    In room 20, the towers continue this duality. The tower next to 1 depicts the destruction of the tower- the ending of the journey. The tower next to 5 leans lackadaisically in a comfy chair towards 5 saying, “If you want to keep going, this isn’t so bad a way to go. It’ll take you a few extra moves, but you’ll get there.”

    Assuming you came followed the path properly, the ringing telephone also adds a nice bit of closure on the ringing you first heard when entering the Maze and some symmetry with the bell in room 26.

    Finally, the fellow in the picture is a Turk, which begins with T. He may as well be Suleiman who is known for destroying towers and giving laws.

    “Too many animals for a proper house!”
    If you went through the path like a good boy, you would’ve seen a lot more animals and would feel a similar rage at the impropriety. If you didn’t, then this statement wouldn’t make much sense to you.

    To conclude, the Guide is the tortoise.

    • Oh, man, I took all that Turk stuff to be a joke, or convenient assumption, but if you google images of Suleiman, you will absolutely find a dude wearing a hat/turban like in the picture. I think it’s legit, that’s a Turk at least.

    • Hello Gregor and the Electric Labyrinth Love Luau,

      Actually if you follow the correct path there are only two live animals (the tortoise and hare)…and one stuffed bear. I should probably add this to the tortoise and hare solution summary.

      Sort of right-ish about the towers but there is a more solid reason for taking it this way.

      It has been suggested that the ringing may be the bell, others have said it is the telephone and that the ringing has been happening the whole time. Though it hasn’t been mentioned it is also very possible that it is a red herring. Red herrings are rare in MAZE but usually span two or more rooms. I believe the text makes it clear that the ringing is the telephone and in my opinion, like you said, it is a “nice bit of closure.” No way to be sure of course and so I hereby bequeath the Hello Gregor Electric Labyrinth Love Luau one “Shot In The Dark” point!

      White Raven

  15. In Room 15 (with the hare on a heart shaped chair) vewatkin wrote:

    “Oh, I don’t think it has been mentioned, but the hare in this room is presumably the one that the the tortoise beats to the finish line in Room 20.”

    Congratulations belatedly, vewatkin! Bumping it up one!

    White Raven

  16. Yeah, I can’t make out the carpet markings very well, either. One thought: perhaps the arrow ‘shaft’ leading to room 27 indicates that you’ll get the ‘shaft’ if you take that door. Just a notion.

  17. If you come here on the way back, the answer is obvious: Room 1. Presumably, though, the objects in the room aren’t meaningless, so let’s guess they give direction for the way in.

    From 20, the best way to get to the center is to go to 5 (and then 30). Now everyone has noticed that this room contains a bunch of objects that start with T (which happens to be the TWENTIETH letter of the alphabet, explain that one, atheists)–tortoise, tower, tarot card (image of The Tower), telephone, turban. But did you notice that there are FIVE such objects? Well, there you go, on to 5.

    No, you don’t get to count “thunderbolt,” that’s part of the Tarot card. No “tacks” holding up the cloth; there’s no indication those aren’t nails or screws. No “tacky chair,” no “twin newspapers,” let’s be serious, there are five things.

    Alright, so what’s up with the arrow and the armchair?

    • Regarding the Ts yes they mean 20. S also means 19. And we have an extra S. 20-19=1

    • “They walked carefully around the edges of the room.”

      An invitation to look around the edges of the carpet, the edges of the picture, or what?

      The carpet has some interesting, though poorly detailed, patterns on the edges. Underneath the Tarot tower picture, the markings on the very edge of the carpet begin to resemble letters, but even blowing the picture up I can’t make anything out of it.

      One of the recurring symbols around the edge is four hashmarks with a circle around them, which is one way of symbolizing the number 5; but these designs are pretty carelessly rendered, and while the designs on the right all seem to feature four line and a circle, the ones on the left do not.

      The horseshoe/monolith markings look vaguely omega-ish, which would tie-in with 20 being the last room of the return trip, but like so many far-fetched solutions we have to wonder why Manson wouldn’t just draw something that looked exactly like what he wanted it to be if it’s supposed to be a clue.

    • I think Gentile’s 20 – 19 deserves a second look. The only element that makes it questionable is needing an impetus for alphanumeric coding, but I think the fact that room TWENTY is leaning so hard on T provides some justification to the think of the letters as coded. Once you make that jump, it seems straightforward.

      This also explains the “extra S” mystery, which was never really adequately explained. It’s not terribly convincing that Manson just labelled one of the two extra to indicate you only need one; I think there’s a podcast out there that addresses this deficiency.

  18. Nothing else to ‘find’, per se…But the symbolism of the tortoise evokes ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and that it is a ‘wise’ tortoise could be telling us that you are quite wise in finding the correct path that you are now at the end of, which seems indicated by their ‘backwards’ looks, as they are looking back at the path they have now found their way through. There you go.

    • Welcome mazeloverRob! Correct about the “backwards” looks – bumping the solve meter up one. Three riddles remaining.

      White Raven

    • Three more, eh? How about ‘the ringing stopped…?’ Bells have been ringing at them since they left room one, now they’ve finally stopped, indicating their journey is over. There you go.

    • Or the visitors move from room 1 straight to this room and the ringing stops to indicate that they should stop… as this is the wrong door from room 1.

  19. Flipping through and I just realized that the lightning bolt striking the tower (while obvious meant to evoke the tarot card) also might be supposed to conjoin with what could be described as a “bolt” — that is, a crossbow bolt — rather than an “arrow”.

    But as the Umbrella said, it really is up for debate whether there are any riddles at all here besides the “S”, considering the placement of this room, where the choice is clear if you’re on the way out from the center.

  20. Room 20 Solution: Partial.
    Sixteenth (and last) room of the path – The letter to take from this room is “S.”

    The correct door is obviously door 1.

    Unsolved: Everything but the “S” but, since the correct door is 1, maybe there isn’t anything else to find?


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