Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fiction: The Scorpion and the Frog

I've previously mentioned "The Scorpion and the Frog" to be among what I think are the good short stories, and I would have enclosed a copy if there were one in general circulation. With the scarcity of sources for the story and my encroaching boredom, however, I figure that it's worth retelling it here instead. To me, it's a nice treatise on the nature of villainy (although it may not be quite what you expect).

The following narration is paraphrased from its original version, previously found in Alderac Entertainment Group's The Way of the Scorpion:


The Scorpion and the Frog

One day, a frog and a scorpion both came upon a river, and in their travels, both of them wanted to reach the other side. Seeing that the frog was a good swimmer, the scorpion asked him, "Little frog, would you please help me cross this river?"

"But how would I do that?" asked the frog, eyeing the scorpion carefully.

"Just carry me on your back," the scorpion said, "and that way we both can cross."

At this, the frog became very much concerned and fearful. "I am sorry, friend scorpion," the frog said, "but I cannot do that."

"Why not?" the scorpion asked, giving the frog a deep look.

"Because," the frog said, "because once you are on my back and we are in the middle of the river, you will sting me, and I shall die."

"But why would I do that?" the scorpion asked. "If I sting you while I am on your back, then we both shall drown."

Now, when he heard this, the frog agreed that the scorpion was right. And so the scorpion hopped onto the frog's back, and both of them began to cross.

But when they were in the middle of the river, where the waters were deepest, the frog suddenly felt a tiny sting.

And at this, the frog cried out, "Oh, wicked scorpion! Despite your promises, you have stung me, and now I shall die and we both shall drown!"

But just before the frog's head slipped beneath the waves, he heard the scorpion's voice one last time:

"But little frog... I can swim."



banzai cat said...

Fuckin' hell... that was the ending of the story? Wow.

Thanks for the heads-up on that one. That ending is positively creepy.

Sean said...

Banzai Cat: The standard version of the story ends with the Scorpion saying something like:

"Because I'm a scorpion. It's my nature to sting."

This is the version that's largely permeated the public consciousness. I believe it says that a villain is a villain, no matter what.

The version I have above appears to be specific to Legend of the Five Rings, as I haven't found any other sources that have this ending. I personally prefer this one -- for me, it illustrates the principles of villainy in a much clearer fashion.

A villain, I believe, is not merely defined by who he is. A villain is defined by what he knowingly does.