A’Tuin The Great Turtle

When I first started thinking about learning to sculpt things out of clay, I first thought I’d try something simpler than the traditional human head. It turns out that humans are really tricky, especially if you don’t want them to look freaky. Something that came to mind that I’d always fancied recreating in some way was A’Tuin, the Great Turtle from the fabulous Discworld books by Terry Pratchett. If you haven’t read them, stop reading this nonsense and do so. Basically, we’re talking of a giant, disc-shaped flat world, supported by four enormous elephants, on the back of a giant turtle drifting through space. Pretty realistic when you think about it.

The Discworld

Now that we all know what we’re talking about here (if you don’t, you didn’t follow my last instruction above), the first thing I set about making was the wonderful world of the Discworld itself. I mostly made this up as I went along, although I did loosely base it off some maps I found online.

This was simply made from a blob of beige Super Sculpey. I didn’t realise how unpleasantly fleshy this would look until it was too late. I made this part way back in the heady, happy days of October of 2019 when the future was bright.


The Great Turtle itself started off as a humble ball of tightly-packed tinfoil and a pair of strange little streamers of foil that would become flippers.

On top of that I kept sticking more Sculpey and pushing and prodding it until it looked vaguely turtle-like. It was at this point that I started using a real-world Sea Turtle for reference, which turned out to be fortunate… (that’s foreshadowing, folks).

It’s not an entirely accurate representation of a real species of any Earth-bound turtle, but in general it’s some relative of a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), but with more exagerated shell plates. Real turtles are far less pointy than mine. And bigger.

Green Sea Turtle, by Bernard Spragg, NZ.

Here we’ve skipped quite a bit forward, because I didn’t take enough pictures. I never think I’ll finish any project, so don’t document their journey enough.

I’ve added the rest of the details to the turtle now, although it’s still mostly un-textured and just basic blocking.

I did forget to create any sort of armature for the rear flippers and head, so some cautious poking with skewers was required. Little beads for the eyes ensured a nice smooth eyeball without it getting accidentally smooshed while making the rest of the head.

Now we have a bit of a #restoftheowl moment due to the lack of steps, but I’ve made the shell way craggy and mountainous, because it’s supposed to be a planet-sized creature floating through space. I’ve textured the flippers too.

The World Elephants

Yeah, this is where the earlier forshadowing kicks in. It turns out that making a small giant turtle was something I could tackle. Making four teeny little giant elephants was just too much. So, alas, I bid farewell to Berilia, Great T’Phon, Jerakeen and Tubul, threw the Discworld into the void, and just called what remained “A Giant Turtle” and left it at that.

The End

Some time after finishing the turtle, and having it sat on a shelf for a year or two forlornly waiting for four turtles and a world to appear on top of it, I asked a pr0painter friend of mine to stick some colour on it so I could call it done. So here, in all it’s glory, is A’Tuin, the Great Turtle, after a small misshap dislodged his passengers.

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