HI FRIENDS–I RECENTLY RECEIVED AN INQUIRY about Old Turtle from a reader interested in original sources and inspiration. It’s a good question and I tried to give a good answer. I thought perhaps some of you FB friends would be interested as well. Here is the exchange.
Hello Douglas Wood,
I have a question regarding your book, “Old Turtle: Questions of the Heart”. Our church group had an adult read aloud of this book and commented that the use of an old turtle and many of the teachings resembled Indigenous teachings and legends. I was wondering if you could tell me if your book was inspired by Indigenous teachings. If it was, why was this not mentioned in the book?
I also want to add that this “Old Turtle: Questions of the Heart” is a truly wonderful book. Our whole church group agreed that it was an amazing book full of wisdom and greatly enjoyed it. I loved how well each topic was address with both simplicity and deep thought. Thank you for creating this book and for taking time to answer my random questions.
Hi L. G.
Thanks for your inquiry. There can be little doubt that my choice of character, Old Turtle, now appearing in three books, is somewhat influenced by the pan-Indian myth of Turtle Island, a beautiful land carried on Grandmother Turtle’s back, and a story which appears in various forms across this continent. If you are not familiar, please look it up. I am especially fond of a Cheyenne version, to be found in a 1968 book entitled American Indian Mythology, by Alice Marriott. The first Old Turtle book, entitled simply ‘Old Turtle,’ perhaps comes closest to an expression of Native American, especially Plains Indian, spirituality. I have been told this, with appreciation and approval, by a number of generous Native American readers.
But with that said, none of the books uses any specific legend or story or even a philosophy directly derived or borrowed from American Indian sources. Any influences were primarily subconscious, and in fact, are no more important than influences from my lifelong interest in other spiritual traditions from around the world. Also, I would say one of the prime sources for all three books was the ancient Chinese tradition of Taoism. The artist for the first Old Turtle book, Cheng Khee Chee, is a practicing Taoist, and was drawn to the story for this very reason. Further, some significant credit for the philosophical and inspirational underpinnings for the books should go to Joseph Campbell, and his brilliant work on worldwide mythology (“Hero With A Thousand Faces,” etc.) And, there is my own upbringing sitting in the pews of virtually every Christian denomination–Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Congregational, etc.–all through my childhood, with a mother and dad who were church choir directors. I then married a beautiful Catholic girl, 48 happy years ago. And finally, one would hope, there is some decent portion of original thought and inspiration on my own part.
So, my friend, that is my best attempt at a short but honest answer. I hope it helps. Thank you for the kind words about the book, and for telling me of your church group reading it. That is always nice to hear!