Use and Organization
There are one hundred cupboards in total. Ninety-nine of them were built into a wall in the attic of the Willis house, and the hundredth cupboard is located on the floor of Grandfather's bedroom. The hundredth cupboard is referred to as the "main cupboard," because it is the cupboard normally used by human beings to travel from one world to another and was created for this purpose.
One of the cupboards near the center of the attic wall has two knobs in it that each resemble a large compass. The position of their "compass needles" determines which world the main cupboard will lead to.
The left knob has nineteen symbols written around it, and its "needle" can be turned to point at one of them. The right knob has the first twenty-two integers written around it in Roman numerals, and its "needle" can likewise be turned to point at one of them. This makes for a total of 418 possible combinations, and thus 418 worlds that can be accessed through the main cupboard. However, only 98 of the cupboards were aligned to the knobs, leaving the other 320 combinations powerless.
Each of the other ninety-eight cupboards leads to another world, but they are too small for a grown human to pass through. That is why the main cupboard was built. The ninety-eight cupboards have each been aligned to one of the combinations.
To travel to one of the worlds, the knobs must be turned to that world's corresponding combination. This will cause the main cupboard to lead to that world. The main cupboard can then be crawled through into that world. If the knobs are set to a combination to which no cupboard has been aligned, then the main cupboard will just be an ordinary cupboard and will lead to nowhere.
As Grandfather describes it in his journals, "When one of [the cupboard's] combinations has been set, you will find no back to [the main] cupboard. The back is still there, as is the wall that supports it, but the cupboard meets with another place before it meets with the wall."
The cupboard with the knobs also leads to a world.
The cupboards were originally constructed by Henry's great grandfather (on Dorothy's side of the family), and the house where the Willis family lives was apparently built specifically for the cupboards.
Henry's grandfather studied them and exploited them, writing down what he learned in journals. After a series of unfortunate mishaps, he decided to hide them by plastering over them. They remained hidden under the plaster until Henry uncovered them in the first book.
List of Cupboards
This is a list of the ninety-eight cupboards found in one of Grandfather's journals. The middle word (if there is one) in each row refers to the world, and the left word (if there is one) refers to a specific location within that world. The meaning of the right word (if there is one) is never made very clear in the series. However, it seems to have something to do with time.
If that's the case, then "alt" is probably short for "alternate," "pres" for "present," "pas" for "past," and "fut" for "future. Wherever there is a question mark, it appears that Great Grandfather wasn't certain which time the cupboard led to.
(There may be minor spelling errors in this copy of the list, due to the original being handwritten and difficult to read at parts.)
- Cylinder/Aksum/Alt Pres
- Wall/Mistra/CCM back
- CV/Telmar/Alt Pas
- C. Lane/Yarntown/ Vary delay?
- Balcony/Fontevrault/apprx. C loss
- Lunar A./Carnassus/Alt Pas?
- Litter/Napata/Alt Pres
- Hutch/FitzFaeren/Alt Pas?
- Deep Shaft/Masada/Varies
- Drop/Ein Gedi/ Alt 2M back?
- Bom J./Goa/Pres
- Dome/Sintra/Alt pas
- Hall/Cush/ Damage
- Partition/Globe, H-let/True pas?
- Garden/ H. Sophia/ Pre-minaret
- Wet/Henneth Annum/Alt
- Encyc./Uqbar/Partial Pres
- Lower Castle/Transito/Sealed
- Water Tunnel/Germa/Varies
- Tempore/ /Alt pres?
- Bowl/ Skara Brae/Now
- Lab/Knoss/Alt Pas, back 4M?
- Inner p./Arcturus/Surging
- Sewer/Topkapi/ back 5 C. true
- Mouth/Marmara/Alt ?
- ?/Angkor/ Varies
- Fern/Bootes/ Damage
- Hole/Nara/Alt now
- Konya/Huyuk/Shifting alt
- Pool/Basra/Slowing alt
- Commonwealth/Badon Hill/Same
- Hollow/iguazu/Shifting Now
- Narbonne/Carcassone/back 3C
- Barn/Lower Sol/Alt pres
- Lighthouse/Alex/Alt Pres
- Moss/Morte/Surging pres
- ? /Kappa Crucis/Lost
- Nave/Dochia/Alt Fut
- Corrund. shaft/Myanmar?/ ?
- Vat/Kimber/Alt now
- Southern Cit./Boghazk/Alt pas. back 3M
- Wells/ Premier Cullinan/Lost
- Yellow Pine/Tindrill/ ?
- Temp/Mysore/Alt pas, back 4C
- Shifting/ San LO./Shift spring
- Mill/Gilroy/Alt trailing L
- Reka/Skogan/Back? Alt?
- Base/Massis/Alt back 3C
- Canal/Tenochtitlan/Alt pres
- Blue/Cataldo/Alt fut
- Sub Pill. 56/Persepolis/Alt pas, back M
- Frame/Tana Kirkos/Partial Lost
- Mine Spurr/Tordrillo/Now
- Mid/izamel/Flux Alt
- Veranda/Millbank, Rhod./Alt pas
- Offs./Epidauros/Constat Aristo
8. /Endor/ leads to the crypt in the world of Endor where Nimiane and Nia were sealed. It is through this cupboard that Nimiane was revived when she bit Henry's hand and drank the blood from the wound.
19. Hutch/FitzFaeren/Alt Pas? leads to a hutch in the Lesser Hall of FitzFaeren. This is the first world actually visited by Henry and Henrietta in 100 Cupboards. They had viewed some of the other worlds through the smaller cupboards before, but this was the first one they actually entered through the main cupboard.
77. Post/Byzanthamum/When? leads to the back of a post office box in a post office in the city of Byzanthamum. Henry received several letters through this cupboard in the first book before actually visiting Byzanthamum in Dandelion Fire.