Then, one day, another frog which had heard of the nice river came and made his home just down the riverbank from the first frog. At first, the two frogs were cordial and polite. While they were not really friends, and they were natural competitors for the bugs and other food on the bank, there seemed to be plenty to go around, so they lived in peace with one another.
After a while, though, the riverbank began to change. The river itself became wilder, colder, and more dangerous. At the same time, the flies, which had been so plentiful, began to disappear. Soon, the two frogs began to fight over the few bugs and pockets of calm water that remained on the riverbank, and they became implacable enemies. They would fight and squabble every day, until they were gaunt and exhausted from stress and lack of food. There came a day when they could not even rouse themselves to fight over a stray dragonfly that was blown onto the riverbank by a passing storm.
That morning, as the first frog lay panting and starving in his little hole, a scorpion wandered down to the riverbank and struck up a conversation.
"Hello there, Mr. Frog. How are you this fine morning?"
The frog just grunted, so the scorpion continued: "I have heard that the other bank of this river," which was too far away for the frog to see, "is a veritable paradise of gentle pools, soft breezes, and fat, juicy bugs." The frog perked up a little at this.
"Unfortunately," the scorpion continued, "I cannot swim. Therefore, I am looking for a trusty frog to take me across the river on his back so I can enjoy this riverine nirvana. Would you by any chance be interested in taking me?"
The frog was sorely tempted by this offer, thinking that he would no longer have to share the slim pickings of his current home with the second frog. However, he noted the morning sun glinting on the sharp tip of the scorpion's stinger and gulped.
"But how am I to know that you would not stab me with your stinger once you are on my back and kill me, Mr. Scorpion?"
"Why, Mr. Frog, I am surprised at you. If I stung you while we were in the river, you would drown, and so would I. Remember, I cannot swim. I only thought you might find my proposal interesting," the scorpion sniffed, looking around at the frog's dismal hole, "since it looks like you could use a change of scenery yourself."
"But," he continued, "if you are not interested, I hear there is another frog just down the bank from here. Perhaps he would be agreeable to my proposition."
"Oh, no, no, no!," exclaimed the frog, brushing aside his qualms, "I would be delighted to carry you across the river."
"Excellent," replied the scorpion. "Since I will be on your back and able to see over the river's waves to the other bank, I will act as your pilot and navigator. And once we reach the other side, I will catch and kill twenty juicy flies for you in recompense for your generous assistance."
The frog was well pleased with this, so he and the scorpion set out immediately for the water's edge to make their crossing.
As soon as they arrived, however, the frog had a nasty shock. There, at the water's edge, was his frog neighbor and a second scorpion, apparently preparing to cross the river just as he and his companion were planning to do. Each frog became enraged at the thought that his deadly enemy would cross the river to froggy paradise, so they began bellowing at each other and girding for battle.
The two scorpions, however, who just wanted to get to the other side and who needed these silly frogs to carry them, intervened with their companions and attempted to calm them down.
"Gentlefrogs, gentlefrogs," the first scorpion exclaimed, "surely there is no need to fight about this. I have heard that there are bugs enough for all of us on the other side of the river. Besides, the opposite riverbank is much larger than this one, so you will each be able to live in peace and plenty without ever even having to catch sight of one another."
"This is true," asserted the second scorpion. "I have heard it as fact from a raven which told me the tale last week. Please do not fight, and let us all cooperate, to our mutual benefit."
The frogs, who were frankly too exhausted to make a good fight of it anyway, saw the wisdom in the scorpions' words and allowed themselves to be talked out of a battle. After a while, they even suggested that the scorpions tie one of each frog's hind legs to the other with some grass, in order to make a more stable platform for the scorpions to ride on and to make the burden of swimming the turbulent river more manageable for the tired frogs.
The four companions now prepared for their crossing. There next erupted a bit of a scuffle between the scorpions, when it became clear that they each expected to have the prestigious role of pilot to the expedition, rather than the less important one of navigator, but the tolerant frogs were able to restore peace with a promise that the scorpions could share both duties equally in the crossing. All was well once more, the little expedition pushed off the bank, and the frogs began swimming to the promised land with the scorpions on their backs.
Unfortunately, however, the sun soon sank below the opposite bank, as the four companions had already wasted much of the day in argument. In the dark, the frogs became lost, and the scorpions began to argue heatedly, each blaming the other for getting the flotilla lost and complaining vociferously that his rights and privileges had been trampled on by the other.
The scorpions soon came to blows. In striking at the other with his tail, one of the scorpions missed and accidentally stabbed one of the frogs in the back. In the dark and confusion, it was not clear who had struck the fatal blow or indeed which frog had been stung. Nevertheless, since both frogs were tied together at the leg, the paralyzed frog dragged the other—and both of the still-squabbling scorpions—down to the bottom of the cold, dark river, where they all perished.
Fortunately, however, there is a happy ending to this sad story. A big catfish later found the four companions floating on the riverbed and enjoyed a wholesome and delicious evening meal.
Which leads us to the moral of our story:
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