Once there were two animals, a frog and a scorpion. Both were standing on the edge of a river, looking to cross to the other side. Although the frog could easily swim to the other side, the scorpion could not. So the scorpion asked the frog if he could ride on the frogs back in order to get across the river. The frog was suspicious at first, and said How do I know that you wont sting me if I help you? The scorpion replied, saying, Why would I sting you? Then we would both drown and die. Believing this to be a reasonable explanation, the frog allowed the scorpion to get on his back, and they began to cross the river. Once they had almost reached the other side, however, the frog felt a sharp pain in his side and realized that the scorpion had stung him. Why would you do that? You said you wouldnt sting me! the frog cried. Jumping off of the frogs paralyzed body and onto the shore, the scorpion said Because I can and walked away, while the current of the river took the frogs body.
Unlike many fairytales that have a happily ever after ending, this folktale has a more serious resolution. The moral of the story seems to be that someones innate character cannot be suppressed, and it would be foolish to assume otherwise. In this story, the frog thinks that despite the scorpions reputation as a known killer with its poisonous sting, the frog will be safe since the scorpion promised not to sting him. Unfortunately, the frog learns a fatal lesson when he is stung and killed, and not even out of spite or vengeance, but merely because the scorpion can kill the frog.
In other versions of this folktale that I have heard, the scorpion stings the frog when they are only half way across the river, and both drown in the swift current. This version further emphasizes the idea that dangerous creatures (or people) should not be trusted, under any circumstances. It seems to say that if someone is willing to be so dangerous, they may not even care about their own self-preservation as long as their destructive behavior continues.
The simple structure of this folktale seems to indicate that this story is intended for a young audience. The moral is easy to pick out and understand and the entire story is fairly short, so children listening to the folktale should not lose interest easily. By gearing this folktale toward children, it is possible to see how the values and ideas of a society can be transmitted from the older (wiser) generation to the younger (presumably naïve) generation.
Although Kathryns father learned this story from his mother, who is fully Mexican, it was told to him in English and he passed on the story to Kathryn in English, too. I thought that the folktale might have been unique to the culture Kathryns grandma was raised in, but Kathryn also heard this story later in life from people of different ethnic backgrounds. Thus, perhaps the story does have some cultural values that are transmitted through the telling of the story, but these values are upheld by many different cultures. Kathryn said that her dad told her this story when she was about six years old, during a car ride to school. She said her dad would always tell her a story in the car, and she was especially interested in stories about animals, so this tale had a deep impact on Kat. She said she felt sad the rest of the day because the frog died, and to this day can recall exactly how she felt when the story was told to her. Thus, it is clear that passing on stories to children can have a profound impact on them. Even though Kat said she was affected by hearing the story and learned a moral as a result, she would not want to pass on the story to her children because she said it was almost too traumatic, and that other stories would be more appropriate for little kids to hear.