The Scorpion and the Frog

myth and meme month

This isn’t a new tale, nor is it a terribly uncommon one, but I like fables.

My favorite version of this fable comes in song form (Prick! Goes the Scorpion’s Tail, sung by the Painted Doll in The Devil’s Carnival). The darkness of the story lends well to it being one of the fables that repeats throughout popular culture-even if the delivery varies from retelling to retelling.


A scorpion is trying to cross the river.

Scorpions don’t swim.

Along hops a frog, also attempting to cross the river. Frogs, in fact, do swim.

The frog sees the scorpion but says nothing, knowing the ways of the scorpion. The frog starts to hop into the water when the scorpion says,

“Hey. Pal. Take me across, I’m not heavy. It’ll be no extra weight or work for you. We’ll both be happy in the end.”

The frog says,

“Do I look stupid or ill? You’re a scorpion. Scorpions sting.”


Scorpions sting, but it turns out they’re also sweet talkers, and after a longer period of time than what it would have taken the frog to just hop in the river and swim across, the frog reluctantly agrees to take the scorpion across. The scorpion’s main argument here is that the frog would drown, which would drown the scorpion, which means that stinging the frog is of no use to the frog-ensuring that the frog stays safe.

They make it halfway across the river when the scorpion suddenly stings the frog.

The frog, and the scorpion, both start to the drown and the frog says,

“What was the point of that?!”

The scorpion replies,

“Point? There is no point. I’m a scorpion. Stinging is what we do.”

You can ask a great many things of a person…just nothing outside of their own nature.


There is a less fatal, and grumpier, version of the story involving a turtle. The turtle, having a hard shell, is fine and puts the scorpion on the ground and yells at it for harming those wishing to aid it (and pointing out that the only thing saving -it- is the nature that the gods/God gave it, with the shell). The scorpion’s reaction is a fairly cranky reaction amounts to so? What did you expect? I’m a scorpion.

To balance out the turtle, there’s another version where the scorpion makes it across, and kills a man. Because…you guessed it…scorpion.


One comment

  1. The version I heard, the Scorpion replies with: “That’s my nature.” I like using this parable when JJ gets cranky about me stopping at all the sample booths at the grocery store or making a mess when I cook.

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