The Scorpion and the Frog
“To know what that true self is without social pressure is to know your true nature.” – Martha Beck
Every Spring, in a certain part of a certain desert, the Spring rains would flood a large bowl shaped section of hardpan. There were several types of animals who hibernated in the cooler dirt deep beneath the desert floor, waiting for the new rains to soften the soil again.
The dry season was much longer than the rainy season, and many creatures would move in and make homes in the bowl; there were, after all, rocks, and prickly bushes growing there. In fact a scorpion, too young to remember last year’s flood, had made itself a nice home under a medium sized rock. The rock had a good location, and the scorpion hunted and ate well. Doing what scorpions do, it was generally happy with its life.
When the Spring rains came, at first the scorpion didn’t know what to make of all the stuff falling from the sky. The stuff did not make the scorpion particularly happy – if too much got on it, it had trouble breathing, so it stayed under its rock until its burrow started filling with the now terrifying stuff. Enough rain had fallen for the water to begin pooling.
Instead of hiding under the rock, the scorpion crawled up on it. The water rose, so the scorpion climbed higher until it was at the top of the stone. And the water kept rising. As one last act of desperation, the scorpion made a mad leap in the direction of a tuft of nearby prickly bush. One of its pincers connected with the plant and the scorpion latched on for dear life.
By now, some of the frogs were coming out of hibernation, and had worked their way up through the now silty mud. One after one, they bobbed to the surface, and with the emergence of each one, no matter how far away, the scorpion would yell for help. Many of the frogs either didn’t hear the scorpion or simply decided to ignore it. Several frogs were curious, and paddled over to see the exotic creature, but upon closer examination, they were intimidated by the scorpion, and paddled away. Finally, an older frog, who had seen several Spring floods, surfaced very near the bush where the scorpion was clinging for dear life.
The scorpion saw the frog bob to the surface and immediately began yelling desperately for help–the water was coming so dangerously high. But the frog had seen several spring floods, and knew how treacherous scorpions could be when the floods came. Still, for whatever reason, the frog could not ignore the scorpion’s pleas. The frog leisurely paddled nearer to the scorpion, but kept a safe distance from it.
Then ensued a conversation you have, perhaps, heard of before wherein the skeptical frog is finally driven, by conscience and the earnest reassurances of safety from the scorpion, to paddle to where the scorpion could drop onto its back. The frog immediately regretted the decision, since the scorpion’s legs were pointy at the ends and it dropping onto the frog like that hurt.
“I think there’s some dry land over there, where I can drop you off and you can flee far from this flood,” said the frog.
“You have saved my life,” the scorpion said, just barely able to speak after yelling so long, “I don’t think I can ever repay your kindness and your trust.”
“Well,” said the frog, “you could start by not stinging me when we reach land,” which was exactly the impulse the scorpion was fighting at that moment.
As they paddled along, several other frogs noticed this strange configuration and paddled over to watch a frog giving a scorpion a ride.
“I think we all know how this one ends,” another older frog chided.
The scorpion gazed around and saw all the various frogs, looking accusingly at it.
“Don’t you dare,” they silently demanded, “You know what’s right,” their expressions yelled.
By now, the scorpion had not eaten in quite some time, and the urge to sting the frog and eat it was growing stronger each minute. The scorpion, however, resolved to show them all that this scorpion could be trusted, could do what all the frogs knew was right.
Finally (right?), the frog reached the edge of the newly formed pond, and crawled a short way up onto dry land.
“Off you go,” said the frog, desiring only to have those pointy legs off its back.
Without a sound the scorpion leapt to the ground and spun to face the frog. The frog, having resigned itself to its fate shortly after taking on the passenger sat, awaiting the inevitable.
The scorpion looked at the old frog and remembered many of the times it had stung prey. The ending had not been pleasant for them, but the scorpion had simply been doing what scorpions do. The scorpion looked at the other frogs idling nearby, watching accusingly, “You know what’s right.”
The scorpion looked once more at the frog sitting hopefully in front of it and imagined how badly it would feel to watch the frog die. But it had held back for so long, controlling itself, keeping itself from doing what scorpions do.
The scorpion acted with lightning speed, stinging itself several times.
The frogs gave a single, shocked gasp.
The old frog who had carried the scorpion was dumbfounded, but as the scorpion slowly died, the frog came to its senses and asked, in total disbelief, “What could possibly drive you to do such a thing?”
With its last few breaths the scorpion said, “I could not bring myself to betray you, and so grievously disappoint everyone. Neither could I continue to live contrary to my true nature one more second.”
And with that, the scorpion died.