Study Guide

Pyongyang The Turtle

By Guy Delisle

The Turtle

Turtle Power

Guy loves the turtle in the hotel restaurant. He mentions it almost as many times as he gets drunk. Which is a lot. Guy first looks at the turtle in panel 3.18, and it’s love at first sight.

We’ve seen cuter, but okay, we’ll admit the restaurant’s turtle is a cute one.

What makes this little amphibian different is that Guy never says anything to the turtle or about the turtle. And the turtle sure as heck isn’t talking to him. For a while we weren’t even sure if the turtle was alive.

But Guy keeps returning to it. He returns to it more than he returns to the people he works with, or to the Koreans who act as his guides. It’s almost as if the turtle were his guide, instead. But what is he being guided toward? A nice pile of wheat grass? In some ways, the turtle symbolizes Guy’s loneliness and alienation. His best friend in North Korea is a turtle?

Maybe Guy feels most comfortable with the turtle because 1) the turtle doesn’t feed him with propaganda or any other lies or half-truths about the world around him and 2) he doesn’t have to hide anything from or watch his step with the turtle. It’s like Delisle is saying that the best communication in Pyongyang, the only communication that really works, is the kind that doesn’t rely on language—which in North Korea is mainly made up of lies.