Painting of a frog carrying a scorpion across a river.

The Scorpion & the Frog (Russian Fable)

The Scorpion and the Frog is a modern Russian fable, originally appearing in Lev Nitoburg’s 1933 novel, The German Quarter. It’s based on the old Persian fable The Scorpion and the Tortoise.

This Russian retelling is darker, changing the moral lesson. I’ll explain what it means at the end. It’s one of those fables with a few layers of depth.

The Fable

A long time ago, a scorpion came to the edge of a great river. Not being a good swimmer, it asked a nearby frog if it might get a ride across.

The frog eyed the scorpion warily. “I’ve heard of your kind. I see the stinger you hide behind your back. I wish I could help you, but I cannot risk it.”

“Why would I sting you?” the scorpion reasoned. “If you die, we would both drown.”

The frog was convinced. It let the scorpion climb atop its back, then began to swim across the great river. But when they were halfway across, the scorpion suddenly stung the frog.

As the poison spread through his body, the frog cried out, “Why did you sting me? You have killed us both!”

The scorpion replied, “I couldn’t help it. It’s my nature.”

The Moral & Meaning

The Scorpion and the Frog has a similar moral lesson to the old Persian fable it was based on. You can read it from two perspectives:

  • From the perspective of the frog, it’s a warning not to be naive or overly trusting. If someone has a history of being cruel, their future may be cruel as well.
  • From the perspective of the scorpion, it’s a call to rise above our animalistic urges. We all have our dark thoughts and tendencies. We must overcome them.

We also need to consider that none of us are completely rational. Some of us cannot resist our base impulses, even when it harms us. As the old saying goes, some of us will cut off our noses to spite our faces.

Similar Fables

If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend the original Persian fable, The Scorpion and the Turtle. It has a slightly different moral lesson.

Perhaps even more interesting, there’s an old Indian fable with the opposite moral lesson.

For another Russian fable, you might like The Monkey and the Peas.

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.

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