The Story of Telly the Tortoise (An Allegory)

When people see the cover to this book, they ask, “What’s with the turtle?” Actually, it’s a tortoise. This is his story.

Once upon a time, there was a tortoise name Telly.

Telly the tortoise was a simple reptile, content with staring at the ground all day, every day. He lived a peaceful life in the city, as few good tortoises do. But Telly knew no better.

He trudged around from place to place, never knowing anything but the concrete around him and the blacktop below.

Nothing exciting ever happened to Telly—that is, until one day…

It was an ordinary Thursday when Telly was hit by a car. He was crossing the street at 32nd and 5th—his usual 10:0am routine—when it happened.

The Volvo knicked the tortoises’s rear, which was enough to send him spinning in circles. Careening off the street and skidding across the ground, Telly landed on his back in the gutter. He fell right into a black puddle with a big SPLAT!

With a sore shell, Telly began to cry. But no one heard him. The tortoise squirmed and flailed his arms and screamed for help. But he couldn’t move. And no one came. Telly was stuck with his legs in the air.

He sighed in defeat. So this is how it’s going to end, he thought.

The sun set and people finished their work days. And the streets emptied. Everyone went home—everyone but the tortoise on his back. The owls started to hoot, and the air grew chilly. Night slowly crept in.

At that point, Telly had given up. He stopped squirming, stopped crying, and waited for the inevitable. In his resignation, he did something peculiar, something he had never done before.

Telly looked up.

Surrendered to his situation, he gave up on the possibility of leaving this uncomfortable mess he had gotten himself into, and his eyes moved beyond the concrete and blacktop around him.

And for the first time in his life, Telly saw the stars.

There were millions of them—thousands upon thousands of beautiful diamonds in the sky. And each seemed to sparkle just for Telly. The tortoise spent hours looking at them, counting each one, losing track and gladly starting all over again.

It was wonderful.

For hours, Telly couldn’t sleep a wink. How could he, after all? Where was everyone else? he wondered, Didn’t they know what they were missing? Eventually, the tired tortoise drifted off to slumber, dreaming of faraway lands that sparkled like diamonds.

The next day, a kind stranger walked by an upside-down turtle—actually, it was a tortoise—and flipped him over. Our reptilian friend awoke and scuttled off quickly.

And though he went back to staring at the ground, Telly was never the same again.

This is a book about moments like that. Moments where your eyes are opened to a new reality, where it’s impossible to return to simply staring at the concrete. That’s what it means to be wrecked. To share your own story, click here or click the turtle—I mean tortoise—below. And if you haven’t picked up the book yet, get it here.

Wrecked Tortoise

About the Author

Jeff Goins

Jeff Goins is a blogger, speaker and author. He works as the Communications Director for Adventures in Missions, a nonprofit organization. In his spare time, he writes books and shares ideas worth spreading. He lives outside Nashville, TN with his wife and son.


  1. Ahh, good story. Nice to know the story behind the cover. (FWIW, tortoises are not amphibians but reptiles. 🙂

    • Oops! Nice catch, Paul. I’ve corrected my gross error. 😉

  2. That was fun!

  3. Nicely done. Ahhh, the importance of stopping and looking at the stars. Literally and figuratively. 🙂

  4. Wow. That’s some story about that turtle…uh tortoise. Profound!

  5. I think you should turn this into a children’s book. It reminds me of books like “Verdi” and “Stellaluna”…2 books, if you do NOT own them yet for your little guy, you should add to your collection immediately! My grown kids STILL refer to both of these books. Life is ALL about how you CHOOSE to look at it!

  6. Thank-you! I love how no matter what situation were in, there is beauty and purpose. We just have to look for it!

  7. I ran over a turtle (or maybe a tortoise?) with my car once. There was a severe bump and loud crack! My wheels needed an alignment after. And I’m pretty sure the turtle didn’t live to have a moment like that. WHICH IS WHY this story is better than mine. 🙂

  8. Great story – reminds me of ‘we’re all in the gutter: some of us are looking at the stars’. Makes me wonder if my story fits the wrecked theme after all – life certainly hasn’t been the same since – it’s a story of God’s mercy and grace.


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  2. […] about Telly the Tortoise, featured wrong side up on the cover of the book. You can find it here, . If like me you’re not a fan of book introductions and forwards, Telly will connect you to the […]

  3. […] do it for me. Do it for Telly. var dd_offset_from_content = 40; var dd_top_offset_from_content = 0; Join the tribe! It’s […]

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