The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands

Title: The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands
Author(s): Stephen King
Release year: 1991
Publisher: Donald M. Grant

Why in Database: The third volume of the eight-volume Dark Tower series, the first one with turtle elements, and it quite a lot of them!

Below we present all seventeen fragments with turtle mentions, some with a geographical name (Turtle Bay), some with another geographical name, The Street of the Turtle, the rest mostly concerns a turtle character important in the series, named Maturin, this name here, however, it is not used yet, he is referenced only as one of the “guardians”.

The first mention is in the context of the guardian:

He tapped the center of the circle.
”Here is the Dark Tower for which I’ve searched my whole life.”
The gunslinger resumed: ”At each of the twelve lesser portals the Great Old Ones set a Guardian. In my childhood I could have named them all in the rimes my nursemaid—and Hax the cook—taught to me… but my childhood was long ago. There was the Bear, of course, and the Fish… the Lion… the Bat. And the Turtle—he was an important one…”
The gunslinger looked up into the starry sky, his brow creased in deep thought. Then an amazingly sunny smile broke across his features and he recited:
”See the TURTLE of enormous girth!
On his shell he holds the earth.
His thought is slow but always kind;
He holds us all within his mind.
On his back all vows are made;
He sees the truth but mayn’t aid.
He loves the land and loves the sea,
And even loves a child like me.”

The second is about Turtle Wax:

He cocked an eyebrow at her. ”Next carwash we come to, I’ll push you through myself. I’ll even Turtle-wax the goddamn thing. Okay?”

A reference to turtle slowness:

He dropped, and as he did, he saw the gunslinger’s left hand blur down to his side. My God, he thought, still falling, he can’t be that fast, no one can be that fast, I’m not bad but Susannah makes me look slow and he makes Susannah look like a turtle trying to walk uphill on a piece of glass—

The first mention in the context of the name Turtle Bay:

Coming soon? Maybe . . . but Jake had his doubts. The letters on the sign were faded and it was sagging a little. At least one graffiti artist, BANCO SKANK by name, had left his mark across the artist’s drawing of the Turtle Bay Luxury Condominiums in bright blue spray-paint.

A poem about a turtle, a bit in the context of Turtle Bay and a bit in the context of a Guardian:

”See the TURTLE of enormous girth!
On his shell he holds the earth
If you want to run and play,
Come along the BEAM today.”
Jake supposed the source of this strange little poem (if not its meaning) was clear enough. This part of Manhattan’s East Side was known, after all, as Turtle Bay. But that didn’t explain the gooseflesh which was now running up the center of his back in a rough stripe, or his clear sense that he had found another road-sign along some fabulous hidden highway.

Again, a piece of poem:

”See the TURTLE of enormous girth” Jake muttered. ”On his shell he holds the earth.” He shivered. ”What a day! Boy!”

And again, a piece of poem:

As he told this part of his story for the second time, speaking very slowly now, Jake found that what the gunslinger had said was true: he could remember everything. His recall improved until he almost seemed to be reliving the experience. He told them of the sign which said that a building called Turtle Bay Condominiums was slated to stand on the spot where Tom and Gerry’s had once stood. He even remembered the little poem which had been spray-painted on the fence, and recited it for them:
”See the TURTLE of enormous girth!
On his shell he holds the earth.
If you want to run and play,
Come along the BEAM today.”
Susannah murmured, ”His thought is slow but always kind; He holds us all within his mind . . . isn’t that how it went, Roland?”
”What?” Jake asked. ”How what went?”
”A poem I learned as a child,” Roland said. ”It’s another connection, one that really tells us something, although I’m not sure it’s anything we need to know . . . still, one never knows when a little understanding may come in handy.”
”Twelve portals connected by six Beams,” Eddie said. ”We started at the Bear. We’re only going as far as the middle—to the Tower—but if we went all the way to the other end, we’d come to the Portal of the Turtle, wouldn’t we?”
Roland nodded. ”I’m sure we would.”
”Portal of the Turtle,” Jake said thoughtfully, rolling the words in his mouth, seeming to taste them. Then he finished by telling them again about the gorgeous voice of the choir, his realization that there were faces and stories and histories everywhere, and his growing belief that he had stumbled on something very like the core of all existence. Last of all, he told them again about finding the key and seeing the rose. In the totality of his recall, Jake began to weep, although he seemed unaware of it.”

Again the poem, this time maliciously reworked:

”Yeah, and probably is,” Eddie said. His face was pale and solemn… and then he grinned like a lad. ”
‘See the TURTLE, ain’t he keen? All things serve the fuckin Beam.’

Turtle street and turtle statue, reference to the guardian:

Eddie glanced up at the darkening sky and easily picked out the path of the Beam in the rushing clouds. He looked back down and wasn’t much surprised to see that the entrance to the street corresponding most closely to the path of the Beam was guarded by a large stone turtle. Its reptilian head peered out from beneath the granite lip of its shell; its deepset eyes seemed to stare curiously at them. Eddie nodded toward it and managed a small dry smile. ”See the turtle of enormous girth?”
Susannah took a brief look of her own and nodded. He pushed her across the city square and into The Street of the Turtle. The corpses which lined it gave off a dry, cinnamony smell that made Eddie’s stomach clench . . . not because it was bad but because it was actually rather pleasant—the sugar-spicy aroma of something a kid would enjoy shaking onto his morning toast.
The Street of the Turtle was mercifully broad, and most of the corpses hanging from the speaker-poles were little more than mummies, but Susannah saw a few which were relatively fresh, with flies still crawling busily across the blackening skin of their swollen faces and maggots still squirming out of their decaying eyes.

The Voice of the Turtle, probably in a guardian context:

Then the war had ended and silence had fallen… for a while. But at some point, the speakers had begun broadcasting again. How long ago? A hundred years? Fifty? Did it matter? Susannah thought not. What mattered was that when the speakers were reactivated, the only thing they broadcast was a single tape-loop… the loop with the drum-track on it. And the descendents of the city’s original residents had taken it for… what? The Voice of the Turtle? The Will of the Beam?

The next three mentions are about the street:

Eddie continued to push her along The Street of the Turtle and the Path of the Beam, trying to look in all directions at once and trying not to smell the odor of putrefaction. Thank God for the wind, he thought.

For Eddie it was, as some wise man had once said, deja vu all over again: he was running with the wheelchair, racing time. The beach had been replaced by The Street of the Turtle, but somehow everything else was the same. Oh, there was one other relevant difference: now it was a railway station (or a cradle) he was looking for, not a free-standing door.

Up ahead, the arched entrance to a marble building stood at the intersection of The Street of the Turtle and another avenue.

Street and bas-relief:

Maud set a rapid pace along The Street of the Turtle. Jeeves trotted beside her. Eddie, who was pushing Susannah in the wheelchair, was soon panting and struggling to keep up. The palatial buildings which lined their way spread out until they resembled ivy-covered country houses on huge, run-to-riot lawns, and Eddie realized they had entered what had once been a very ritzy neighborhood indeed. Ahead of them, one building loomed above all others. It was a deceptively simple square construction of white stone blocks, its overhanging roof supported by many pillars. Eddie thought again of the gladiator movies he’d so enjoyed as a kid. Susannah, educated in more formal schools, was reminded of the Parthenon.
Both saw and marvelled at the gorgeously sculpted bestiary— Bear and Turtle, Fish and Rat, Horse and Dog—which ringed the top of the building in two-by-two parade, and understood it was the place they had come to find.
That uneasy sensation that they were being watched by many eyes— eyes filled equally with hate and wonder—never left them. Thunder boomed as they came in sight of the monorail track; like the storm, the track came sweeping in from the south, joined The Street of the Turtle, and ran straight on toward the Cradle of Lud. And as they neared it, ancient bodies began to twist and dance in the strengthening wind on either side of them.

The next two fragments are again about turtle street:

A wide red strip had been painted across the pavement at the point where The Street of the Turtle emptied into The Plaza of the Cradle. Maud and the fellow Eddie called Jeeves the Butler stopped a prudent distance from the red mark.

When they were out of the downpour, Eddie paused and they looked back. The Plaza of the Cradle, The Street of the Turtle, and all the city beyond was rapidly disappearing into a shifting gray curtain. Eddie wasn’t a bit sorry.

Turtles as a comparison:

The mono was now flying through the mountain-range they had seen on the horizon: iron-gray peaks rushed toward them at suicidal speed, then fell away to disclose sterile valleys where gigantic beetles crawled about like landlocked turtles.

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