The eponymous story revolves around Yertle the Turtle, the king of the pond (located on the faraway island of Sala-ma-sond), where all the turtles swim happily. Dissatisfied with the stone that serves as his throne (it’s too small for him to rule the landscape beyond the pond), Yertle commands the other turtles to stack themselves beneath him so that he can see farther and expand his kingdom, each time marveling at what he believes he now rules (like a cow, a mule, a house, a berry bush, and a cat). However, the stacked turtles are in pain. A turtle named Mack, who has a checkerboard-style shell and is at the bottom of the pile, is bearing the brunt of the suffering. Mack asks Yertle for a respite, but Yertle just tells him to be quiet. Then Yertle decides to further expand his kingdom and commands more and more turtles to add to his throne. This time, Yertle declares that he is the king of the bees, the birds, the trees, the butterflies, and the air. Mack makes a second request for a respite because the increased weight is now causing extreme pain and hunger to the turtles at the bottom of the pile. Again, Yertle yells at Mack to be quiet. Then Yertle the turtle notices the moon rising above him as the night approaches. Furious that something “dares to be higher than Yertle the King”, he decides to call for even more turtles in an attempt to rise above it. Before he can give the command, Mack decides he has had enough. He burps, which shakes up Yertle’s throne and tosses the turtle king off the turtle stack and into the water, leaving him “King of the Mud” and allowing the others to once again swim free, “as turtles, and maybe all creatures, should be”.
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
Yertle the turtle is the ambitious king of the pond who decides he wants to expand his kingdom. Yertle orders the turtles to stand on each other’s back to form a tall throne, ignoring the complaints of the turtles at the bottom. He then sits atop this throne and proclaims that he rules over all that he sees.