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Sturdy and Steady Turtles

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One of the most well known attributes of turtles and tortoises is that they're not exceptionally fast and nimble animals. Between their heavy shells and short legs, they're not very well suited for quick, speedy movement, and as such have evolved to be more reliant on their thick armor for protection than in outrunning danger.

This is often carried over in fiction, sometimes to the point of exaggeration. Fictional turtles tend to be ridiculously slow, sometimes to the point of seeming to move — or even speak — in slow motion.

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There are two general ways this trope is often employed. Sometimes, the turtles' slowness is equated with patience and endurance in contrast with hurry and impatience, a la The Tortoise and the Hare, with the turtle's plodding but steady progress reliably getting it where it needs to go, even if not in a very flashy way. Other times, it is combined with the turtle's natural and seemingly impenetrable armor to create a Stone Wall or Mighty Glacier-type character, slow and not necessarily very strong, but capable of weathering almost any attack. Together, these two attributes create characters that rely on their trusty defenses to patiently endure the attacks of more hotheaded, brash foes and wait until they give up in boredom or frustration — something based off of the way turtles defend themselves in real life, retreating into their shells and waiting for would-be predators to give up and leave before coming back out.

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In real life, turtles may not be the most agile animals around, but they're nowhere near as slow as fiction makes them out to be. Sea turtles can be quite speedy when they need to be, especially in the water. The part about them being well-defended is absolutely Truth in Television, especially for land-dwelling tortoises (but, again, sea turtles are something of an exception — an overly thick shell would harm their buoyancy, and the leatherback sea turtle does not have a bony shell at all: its back is covered by thick skin alone).

See also Turtle Island and Wise Old Turtle.


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • Comcast Cable has, as their mascots for high speed Internet, the speed-hating Slowskys — a husband and wife turtle couple.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Sgt. Frog: One episode has Tamama coming across a tortoise in the countryside, plodding along the same path day after day. It's revealed later on that Fuyuki had that tortoise as a pet but lost it several years ago, and it's done nothing but make its way back to its breeder ever since. It eventually succeeds.
  • Shirokuma Cafe: Tortoise moves and talks very slowly.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Meandering Towershell, a very large turtle creature, is notable for having its slowness written in as a mechanic. Instead of attacking normally on the turn when it's activated, like most creatures do, it's removed from battle for a turn, and in the next turn it returns into play and deals damage to its target, representing the slow process of the Towershell plodding over to its foe and attacking. This trope is also referenced in the Flavor Text for Giant Tortoise:
    In the coastal states of Jhess and Valeron, "tortoise" is a synonym for 'stubborn".

    Comic Books 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Tommy Turtle's character in a nutshell, or rather in a turtleshell; slow, patient, and pretty durable. His debut issue even revealed that he and Sonic had a very Tortoise and the Hare-esque race as kids (Sonic had taken on a disguise as a Hare named Juice and as such the story was recounted as a turtle racing a hare).
  • The Flash: A number of the Flash's enemies have been based on turtles, typically using slowness gimmicks to contrast the hero's Super Speed.
    • The Turtle specializes in slow-paced, methodical planning, and uses body armor themed after a turtle shell and a ray gun that makes people move in slow motion. In Justice League (2018), he's reimagined as being connected to the "Still Force" in opposition to the Flash's Speed Force.
    • The Turtle Man, the original Turtle's successor, is able to steal others' speed so as to slow even the fastest person to a crawl.

    Literature 
  • One of the most famous of Aesop's Fables, The Tortoise and the Hare, tells of a race between a proud, speedy hare and a slow, plodding tortoise. The hare, being the fastest animal around, has no doubts that he will win, quickly gains a large lead and stops partway through to nap under a tree, confident in his advantage. The tortoise instead keeps making his slow but steady progress towards the finish line. By the time the hare finally wakes up and realizes that the tortoise has passed him and is approaching the finish, it's too late for even his speed to close the distance and the tortoise wins. The moral of the story is not to let oneself be blinded by arrogance, and that determination and perseverance can make up for a lack of natural advantages.

     Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street: Shelly the Turtle has a song called "I Get There", where he says that although he doesn't travel fast like other animals, he always gets where he's going eventually.
    Puppies travel at a run,
    I suppose a run is fun.
    Me, I'm kind of slow,
    But I get there.
    Bunnies hop along so fast,
    Hopping fast I couldn't last.
    Me, I take my time,
    But I get there.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Zaratans are immense earth elementals in the form of giant, rocky tortoises. They're extremely well-defended beings, and when they take more damage than they're comfortable with can retreat indefinitely within their impermeable rocky shells. A zaratan in this state is impervious to all damage and slowly regenerates health, allowing it to wait out whatever danger threatened it before eventually emerging again.
    • DragonMech, a third-party setting, has humanoid turtles called tortogs, notable for their ability to Feel No Pain from anything that doesn't punch through their very thick shells — and it takes quite a lot to break their shells. This has resulted in them becoming an entire species of smugglers and traders in the setting's present, as they're the only ones capable of withstanding the agonizing rains of micrometeorites that pelt the world on a nightly basis and forced almost all other species to retreat underground or inside city-sized Giant Mecha.

    Video Games 
  • In Candy box! and its sequel, using the turtle potion will turn you into a turtle that moves at a slow speed but has much higher defense. This is vital for surviving some bosses, especially those that deal incredible amounts of damage.
  • Digimon: The sea turtle Archelomon is a slow swimmer, but its tough shell ensures that it's unlikely to be attacked and its goes through life with a laidback and unconcerned personality.
  • Iron Marines: The Tortugons — turtle-shaped walking tanks — have a giant amount of health. The bad news is that they're all slower than molasses.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: Turtle Tamers are the defensive Muscle class, and have skills themed around turtle motifs, including ones focusing on armor, patience, and communing with ancient turtle spirits.
  • Mega Man:
    • Rainy Turtloid of Mega Man X6 is a tortoise-based robot who is built with high defenses to withstand high levels of pollutions and made to work for a pollution survey team. As a boss, his shell makes him nigh invincible, except for attacks at his weak points.
    • Mega Man Zero 4: One of the bosses, Heat Genblem, is a robotic tortoise. He's fond of a particular tactic during combat where he walks slowly forward, then, when an attack comes, he immediately turns his back to guard himself. If he's attacked further in that state, he'll do a Counter-Attack with an Elemental Punch. In general, both his shell and his battle pattern makes it hard to find an opening to hit him.
  • Minecraft: Sea turtles, while having no form of attack and not being particularly fast (at least on land), have substantially higher health than most other mobs and over twice the usual amount of health for passive mobs. Their shells can also be used for brewing the Potion of the Turtle Master, which when drunk gives players a large defense bonus while drastically cutting their maximum movement speed. Of note is that enhancing the effect of said potion via Glowstone will make a player slow to a crawl via a -90% speed reduction... but also gives them 80% Damage Reduction, which makes them nearly invincible against most forms of damage.
  • Pokémon has featured a number of turtle-based Mons over the years, most of them fitting this trope to one degree or another. They tend to have good base physical Defense and HP, but their Speed tends to be middling at best and very low at worst.
    • Torkoal, a Fire-type introduced in the third generation games, is an archetypal Stone Wall — it has an abysmally low speed stat and mediocre Attack stats on both sides, but very good physical defense.
    • Turtwig and its evolutions Grotle and Torterra, Grass- and Ground-types based off of the idea of the Turtle Island, tend more towards being Mighty Glaciers — they have very good defense and health coupled with respectable attack, but their speed remains very low. In point of fact, Torterra is one of the slowest Pokémon among all the fully evolved starters.
    • The fossilized sea turtles Tirtouga and Carracosta have excellent defense, and are also Rock-types, an elemental type that tends to have a lot of resistances in the games' Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors. Combined with one of their abilities, Solid Rock, which reduces the damage done by moves that would normally be super-effective against them, they are very well suited to tanking damage. They need this, because they are also very, very slow. However, they're capable of learning Shell Smash, which inverts the trope by turning them into powerful Fragile Speedsters instead.
    • Generation VII's Turtonator, much like its predecessors, is both very slow and provided with excellent defenses. Like Tirtouga above, however, it can invert this trope by learning Shell Smash.
  • Saurian: Most of turtles avert this — a fair number of them, being softshell turtles, are surprisingly fast, and most are capable of defending themselves. Basilemys, however, plays this straight, as it primarily defends itself by retreating into a shell that only Tyrannosaurus rex can hope to break.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The Koopas have a bit of a strange relation with this trope.
      • In terms of personality, generic Koopa Troopas tend to be a variation on this trope, being pretty easygoing. Specific Koopa characters, however, aren't always like this, with Bowser himself being incredibly Hot-Blooded.
      • In terms of stats as playable characters, it's the reverse. Generic Koopa Troopas are usually among the faster characters, with the slowest and sturdiest being in the baseball games, where they're all-around types. Bowser himself, however, is usually the Mighty Glacier when he's playable — he's generally a lot slower than the brothers, and may not even be able to jump, but he tends to have much, much higher health and attacking power than the Bros.
      • Paper Mario 64: Kent C. Koopa, a giant Koopa fought as a secondary boss, has high HP and strong attacks, but his defining trait is how hard it is to hurt him. He has the highest defense in the game, to the point where Mario's normal attacks can't damage him without the aid of badges unless he's knocked over. Further, unlike other Koopas, his defense isn't reduced to zero when he's knocked on his shell unless you attack his tail.
    • Paper Mario: The Origami King: The Earth Vellumental is covered in impenetrable armor, which Mario's attacks will harmlessly bounce off of. To harm it, he needs to strike at its exposed limbs, head and especially tail. Notably, the attack learned from it is the only one to be defensive in nature — the other Vellumentals' powers focus directly on harming or depowering their targets, but the Earth Vellumental's ability is meant to allow Mario to ride out powerful attacks in safety.
    • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: The Lazy Shell is a tortoise shell that, when equipped, lowers the wearer's offensive stats but gives them nearly unbreakable defense.

    Western Animation 
  • The Lion Guard: Besides moving slowly, Kongwe the Wise Old Turtle prefers to take things at a slow and calm pace, making observations along the way. Fuli is initially exasperated by this due to the fact they're in an Escort Mission (and, being a cheetah, she would rather do everything fast), but she gradually takes her advice to heart, especially when it becomes useful in defeating Makucha.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "May the Best Pet Win!", Rainbow Dash holds a contest to choose a new pet, and one contestant is a tortoise. Rainbow is highly unimpressed, particularly since she wants a fast pet to keep up with her racing and the tortoise is anything but, something most clearly evident in a race Rainbow holds to judge the speed of the prospective pets and all the other animals complete three full circuits in the time it takes the tortoise to take a single step.
    • The tortoise still wins the competition: in the last trial, a breakneck race through a dangerous gorge, all the other animals shoot ahead — but they also leave Rainbow in the dust when she's trapped by a landslide. The tortoise, however, walks up to her and slowly begins to dig at the rubble, pushing it away bit by bit until Rainbow is freed, and then just as slowly carries her to the finish line. Rainbow chooses him as her pet due to his loyalty and tenacity, naming him Tank to reflect his "never give up, can-do attitude". Also, the exact win condition of the race was to cross the finish line with her.
    • In the last scene, Tank completes one of the earlier trials — stealing the ill-tempered cat Opal's favorite mouse toy — by goading Opal into attacking him, letting her waste her furious claw swipes on his shell while he calmly reaches over to grab the toy.


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