Lessons from A Turtle


Last night, Emma and I read “Yertle the Turtle,” by Dr. Seuss, after a friend recommended the book.

I have to say, I was thinking maybe a 9 year old who reads chapter books like “The Secret Garden,” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, might find an easy reader a little boring. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. Sometimes, there’s more to a book than meets the eye, as I’m finding is the case with many of Dr. Suess’s books. Yertle was no exception.

The story goes down on a far away island, in a small pond called Sala-Ma-Sond, where Yertle was king, perched high on his throne of stone.

Sala-Ma-Sond was a nice little pond. Full of warm water, plenty of food, and the freedom for turtles to come and go as they pleased. The pond had everything a turtle would need to be happy.

But not Yertle.

He decided his kingdom was too small. Although it was good, it just wasn’t good enough. So Yertle traded his throne of stone with it’s limited view for a stack of turtles that would set him high above the pond and it’s inhabitants.

Yertle is relentless. His thirst for power supersedes anything else, and he uses his position as king to get what he wants. He commands the turtles from all over the pond to stack themselves higher so he can have what he wants. He ignores the their complaints of aches and pains and hunger. In fact, every time he realizes there’s something bigger than him, Yertle bellows for more turtles. His final conquest was the moon, until one of the turtles (Mack, who was positioned at the bottom of the pile and had been quite patient) grows weary. He’d had enough. Mack lets out a mighty burp that shook Yertles turtle throne.

Yes, I said burp.

Em and I nearly collapsed with laughter. Potty humor is hysterical, I don’t care how old you are.

After we were through laughing, we finished the story. Yertle toppled from his throne, right into the mud and back where he started (albeit a little dirtier and perhaps a lot less liked).

This was a tale about a turtle with an unquenchable thirst, who didn’t care who he hurt while attempting to satisfy his desire to make himself great. He wasn’t content. The more he tried to fulfill himself, the more he needed to be fulfilled, and the less he cared about what he had to do to achieve it, even at the expense of others.

That’s the very nature of lust: it’s an unsatisfiable thirst for more… Whatever “more” may be; it can be more money, more popularity, more power, or more stuff. Unless our desire for more is for more of the Lord, like Yertle, we will never be satisfied, and we’ll step on others trying to achieve our goal.

Our greatest need for more of anything is our need for more of God, and more important, for more worship of Him and less of ourselves. It’s what we were created to do.

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities , or powers; all things were created by him, and for him.
Colossians 1:16

Worshipping God helps us overcome the temptation to make our name great.

The story of Yertle opens the door for us to communicate with our children about pride, lust, contentment, humility, consideration of others, and so much more. It’s rhythmic words make it exciting to read and appealing for all ages, but the fundamental lessons it teaches are what really impressed me. Yertle The Turtle presents what Dr. Seuss does so well, reaching kids (and adults) with rich lessons about morality that are fun and easy to learn.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 John 2:15-17

I can’t deal with lust apart from you, and lust leads to other sin. My foolish pride comes from this world, and so do my selfish desires and my desire to have everything I see. I thank you for this story, the simplicity of it, and for the teachable moment You created for us through a silly short story. Help me apply these lessons and Your truth to my life, so that I would bear witness of them for my children and others to plainly see, and I would be a vessel for Your Name to be exalted.

In Jesus Name

If you have children, granchildren, friends who are expecting, or a children’s ministry at church, I’d recommend reading Yertle the Turtle, and the stories that accompany it (Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories). We borrowed ours from the library, but it’s worth making part of your permanent library. You can purchase it from my affiliate, Christian Book’s, by linking below, and find it on my recommended books for reading. Any earnings from my affiliates are used to support this site.

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

3 Replies to “Lessons from A Turtle”

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  2. Sharon, you will love it! I thouroughly enjoyed it and plan to make the book a part of my library for the grandbabies that are headed our way! :-)

  3. Sharon @ Hiking Toward Home says:

    I think that is one Dr. S. book I don’t ever remember reading. Guess I will be heading to the library soon! :-)

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