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A Little Happier: The Fable “The Scorpion and the Frog” Warns Us to Stay Wary of the Dangerous Ones


I love aphorisms, paradoxes, koans, and teaching stories of all kinds. And I do love fables.

A very famous and helpful fable is the story of “The Scorpion and the Frog,” which apparently was first recorded in Russian. It’s similar to one of Aesop’s fables, the story of “The Farmer and the Viper.”

In this version of the story, a scorpion is sitting on the bank of a river and needs to cross. Because it can’t swim, it asks a passing frog to carry it on its back across the water. The frog hesitates and says, “You’ll sting me!”

The scorpion says, “Oh no, I wouldn’t do that, because if I sting you, we’ll both drown.” So the frog is convinced, and agrees to the arrangement, and halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog.

“Why did you do it?” gasps the frog.

“I couldn’t help it,” says the scorpion. “It’s my nature.”

The fable has had more than one interpretation, but this is my take: When you see a creature that’s clearly menacing, and with destructive powers, protect yourself, and don’t allow persuasive words convince you to put yourself in danger.

A scorpion is a scorpion. No matter what argument it makes or what the situation is, in the end, it’s still a scorpion.

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