The Surprising Origins of the Iconic Phrase ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

Join Moiya McTier, the brilliant PhD behind the PBS series Fate & Fabled, as she unravels the fascinating mythology behind the popular phrase “turtles all the way down.” In this captivating episode, McTier delves into the origins of this whimsical phrase, which can be traced back to a Hindu myth depicting three elephants supporting the Earth while standing on the back of a turtle.

Across various mythologies around the world, the concept of the world resting on the back of a turtle has been depicted. However, it was in the mid-19th century that the phrase “turtles all the way down” gained prominence. A preacher in 1852 criticized those who believed in the turtle myth and asked what the turtle stood on. The response he received was an infinitely regressive one: “turtles all the way down.”

Interestingly, the myth became intertwined with a folktale about a woman who claimed that the Earth was supported by a stack of rocks, endlessly descending. In 1854, another preacher wrote about the heathens who believed in the Earth resting on a turtle, with anotherturtle beneath it, and so on, creating an infinite chain.

Moiya McTier’s exploration of the origins of the phrase “turtles all the way down” sheds light on the fascinating intertwining of mythology and folklore. This whimsical phrase has become an iconic representation of infinite regression and the unfathomable mysteries of the universe.

Join McTier on this enlightening journey as she uncovers the ancient roots and historical connotations of “turtles all the way down.” From Hindu mythology to 19th-century critiques, this episode of Fate & Fabled provides a captivating glimpse into the cultural significance and enduring appeal of this intriguing phrase.

More Buzz