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Origins and Encounters. The World on a Turtle’s Back. Literature terms to know. Myth—a traditional story, passed down through the generations, that explains why the world is the way it is. Creation myth—explains how the universe, earth, and life began.

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Origins and encounters

Origins and Encounters

The World on a Turtle’s Back

Literature terms to know
Literature terms to know

  • Myth—a traditional story, passed down through the generations, that explains why the world is the way it is.

  • Creation myth—explains how the universe, earth, and life began.

    • Instills a sense of awe toward the mystery of the universe

    • Explains the workings of the natural world

    • Supports and validates social customs

    • Guides people through the trials of living

      • Definitions from THE LANGUAGE OF LITERATURE


  • Void—an empty space

  • Ritual—a ceremonial act or a series of such acts

  • Devious—shifty; not straightforward

  • Contend—to compete/vie

  • Succumb—to give up or give in; yield

  • Lacrosse—game of Native American origin that is played on a field with long-handled sticks with webbed pouches.


  • Main Characters—events center on the lives of one or more people, animals, or other beings

  • Minor Characters—interact with main characters and help move the story along.

  • Static characters—tend to stay in a fixed position over the course of the story.

  • Dynamic characters evolve as individuals, learning from their experiences.

Characters in world on a turtle s back

A man/husband in Sky-World

His wife

Birds of the sea

Fish and creatures of the deep


Man with arrows


Minor / static

Main / dynamic

Characters in“World on a Turtle’s Back”

Cause and effect
Cause and Effect

  • Cause/Effect—one event that brings about the other.

    • Example from story

      • Effect: Earth

      • Cause: Woman walked around in circle on a turtle’s back.

      • What cause and effect did you find most interesting?


  • Central idea or ideas the writer intends to share

    • Lesson about

      • Life

      • People

      • Actions

    • Different readers can discover different themes in the same work.

World on a turtle s back
“World on a Turtle’s Back”

  • Themes

    • an Iroquois myth which explains how the world was created

    • expresses a Native American ideal of people living in harmony with nature

    • the world is made up of forces that seem to be in opposition to one another

    • these opposites are needed for balance and harmony

Discussion questions
Discussion Questions

  • How did the animals help the woman who fell from the sky?

  • What are the differences between the twins?

  • What was the outcome of the duels between the twins?

More discussion questions
More discussion questions

  • Why do you think that the people sing and dance for the left-handed twin?

  • How does this compare to other creation myths that you have heard?

  • How would you relate the left-handed and right-handed twins to the concept of good and evil?