Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories Yertle the Turtle, Lines 99 – 102 Summary
Free at Last
As we reach the very final stanza, we get our final payoff: seeing Yertle sunk as low as any turtle can sink.
There's some kind of gunk all over his head (unless he's suddenly gotten a perm), all of his former subjects (ahem, slaves) are swimming away from him looking as pleased as can be, and the writer of this story is doing all that he can to show us just how close to the ground this king who soared so high now truly is.
Yes, Dr. Seuss doth Spare Yertle not, once again building him up in the first line with, "Yertle, that marvelous he,"just to cut him down in the second by calling him "King of the mud."
The moral of the story: well, Seuss didn't actually write with morals in mind, as he felt that "kids can see a moral coming a mile off" (source). Morals just came out of it, and the one here is clear: "all the turtles are free/ as turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be" (101-102).
That "maybe" is the one time in the entire story that Seuss slows us down so we pay attention. Sure, this book is about power and the jerks who often wield it, but it's mostly about how those things relate to the freedom of the everyday turtle.
Lest (lest, we say!) we gloss over how important this "maybe" really is, you should know we're not the only ones to find it interesting. In fact, Seuss was asked pretty regularly when he was on tour why he went for maybe as opposed to "surely," to which he most often responded, "I wanted other people to say surely in their minds instead of my having to say it" (source).
Yes, in true Seuss style, he sought to emphasize his point without slamming it into our heads. He wanted to keep the lecturing out of it, so we could wonder and ask the deeper questions on our own.
Questions like, who should be free? What does it really mean to be free anyway? That's a discussion to have with your kid. And we'll have it too. Just check out "Meaning" for more.