An English Language version of the story is as follows…
A turtle was happily swimming along a river when a scorpion hailed it from the shore.
A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. “Are you mad?” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”
“My dear turtle,” laughed the scorpion, “if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you, and drown as well. Now where is the logic in that?”
The turtle thought this over, and saw the logic of the scorpion’s statement. “You’re right!” cried the turtle. “Hop on!” The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river the scorpion gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said:
“Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there’d be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?”
“It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion sadly replied. “It’s just my character.”
My version of the Story
Wisdom and True Friends
Scorpion was being his usual self mucking about the river bank when Hawk flew over. That was unusual because most of the animals avoided Scorpion because he had a tendency to sting them. Hawk told him that his father was dying and wanted to talk to him, come home. Home for Scorpion was across the wide river. He could not swim it alone. He asked Hawk to take him.
“NO, you will sting me because that is a part of who you are. I don’t want to die” and hawk flew away.
Scorpion saw Crocodile and went over to him. In the nicest voice he could muster he said “Crocodile, you are big and strong, your jaws are amazing, please take me across so I might say goodbye to my father before he dies.”
“NO. Even with my strong skin, I am afraid you would sting me and then we would both die. I want to live” and the crocodile swam away.
Scorpion saw Eagle in a tree. “Please take me?” Scorpion said now a bit desperate, and Eagle looked with distain on Scorpion, and flew away.
Feeling very desperate the scorpion asked the beaver for help but got the same response. The scorpion could not help being a scorpion. EVERYONE was afraid of him and he wanted to see his father before he died. Who would help him? He sat by the bank and felt sorry for himself. He knew he couldn’t swim across, but no one, not anyone would help him. He felt angry too.
Old wise Turtle had been watching this while floating by the bank of the river. He asked Scorpion, “Would you like me to take you across?”
With some excitement, “Oh, yes!” Scorpion said jumping on the turtles back. “Yes, please, I will be good, I promise” and he sat in the middle of the turtles back, curled up, stinger held in check. “I’ll be good, I promise, I promise I’ll be good.”
Turtle pushed away from the shoreline then went into his shell and started to float in the current of the river. Scorpion did not expect this and was angered, and scared he’d never see his father again. Out of fear he struck the Turtle’s shell with his stinger, but only the shell. The journey across took a longer time as the turtle simply floated across the river hiding in his shell to protect both him and the slightly scattered and frazzled Scorpion. The current did finally take them across the river. When they had come to the other side Scorpion jumped off the turtle and yelled at him.
“You stupid turtle, we are so far down stream I will never make it to my father before he dies. I hate you!” Scorpion said, very angry.
“Go now, and you might make it” the turtle said kindly but from within his still floating shell.
“Alone, I will be alone!” the scorpion whined, with anger and fear, and wasting time.
“Go, you will make it in time. If I go with you I will slow you down. You are fast, all will be well. Now GO!” said the turtle, faking calmness to help his scattered, angry, and scared friend who was scaring him.
Scorpion ran upstream feeling upset. He ran as fast as he could. It wasn’t as far away as he thought and he made it to his home, to his family in time. All was well. His mother and siblings greeted him and he got to say goodbye to his father. They talked a long time before his father died, and Scorpion felt better.
The wise turtle slowly came up the river enjoying the day. It was perfect weather for a long walk. The birds were singing, the insects buzzing, life was everywhere. Turtle enjoyed this day.
As dusk came he saw Scorpion sitting by the bank looking at the sun as it set. Silence was between them at first.
“Thank you.” Scorpion said quietly. “You are a true friend.”
“You are welcome.” said the old, wise turtle.
The Scorpion said, “I was so scared. I might well have stung you, though I did not want to. I was so very angry, and scared, and, well; I can’t help being who I am. I wish I were someone else” said Scorpion, matter-of-factly.
Fetching a sigh Turtle replied, “I know, that is why I hid in my shell hoping the river current would take us across.”
“Good, strong, sturdy shell.” said Scorpion.
Turtle continued, “I wanted you to get across the river. I know it took more time my way, but at least both of us are still alive.” Turtle said kindly. “You are who you are, and still alive. Be who you are in this world, be real, and don’t worry about who likes you and who does not.”
“Thank You” was all Scorpion could say. The two friends sat in silence by the river watching the sun set knowing both were alive, and neither alone.
Moira Levant ©2017