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The Farmer and the Viper

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Perhaps they want a pet snake?note 

"One winter a Farmer found a Viper frozen and numb with cold, and out of pity picked it up and placed it in his bosom. The Viper was no sooner revived by the warmth than it turned upon its benefactor and inflicted a fatal bite upon him; and as the poor man lay dying, he cried, 'I have only got what I deserved, for taking compassion on so villainous a creature.'"

Kindness is thrown away upon evil.

This Hard Truth Aesop is much like Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: a display of friendship, trust, and love won't always bring about redemption; sometimes a bad person is simply bad, and they won't stop being that way just because you were kind to them — in fact, they may very well betray you in any number of fashions, repaying the good turn you've done for them with evil. It's in the nature of a snake to bite, after all.

Correctly discerning the irredeemable from the redeemable is tricky, of course, and expect characters to argue over whether this trope even applies. After all, in Real Life, this belief is used to justify ignoring people in need, especially if they have ever done anything vaguely "bad". In fact, characters believing in this trope too passionately often creates unsympathetic to outright villainous characters - anything from uncaring zealots to psychotic serial murderers who believe they are purging society of its permanently corrupted evil dregs since there is no hope for redemption for them.


Compare Morality Chain, where the Samaritan does somehow manage to restrain their ward's wickedness. Turn the Other Cheek is probably the Samaritan's mindset. The receiver may turn out to be Always Chaotic Evil, a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, or a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk. When combined with Save the Villain, this is sometimes used to set up a Disney Villain Death. Compare Bad Samaritan, when it is the caregiver, not the care-receiver, who is evil. Also compare Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like. Plays with the traditional belief of Sacred Hospitality. If such an act makes a character give up on redeeming the villain, it's Beyond Redemption.

Common occupational hazard of a would-be Redeemer.

Inverse of Good Samaritan and Androcles' Lion. See also Befriending the Enemy, Naïve Animal Lover, Save the Villain, Taking You with Me, Take My Hand!, Prisoner's Dilemma, Ungrateful Bastard, Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, Horrible Judge of Character. Compare Pacifism Backfire (while this is "Hospitality Backfire") and the False Innocence Trick where a captured villain pretends to be harmless. See also They Were Holding You Back for a common justification for how the viper is really "helping."


Also called the "Scorpion Dilemma" or "The Scorpion and The Frog" after a similar fable (popularized in Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin), this story contains the additional Aesop that a poisonous creature can't help but give in to its nature, even when doing so will lead directly to its own death. See also Orc Raised by Elves.

(Also, at risk of pointing out the obvious, but don't take Aesop's Fables as a good guide to real-life snakes, who do not run around envenomating people out of a general desire to do evil. Venom is precious and expensive, so real snakes save it for if they think they're really under threat.)


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    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Little Otik", one childless couple finds and adopts one strange baby monster who ends up eating them whole.
  • Joseph Jacobs' story Yallery Brown. The main character releases a small spirit trapped under a stone, and the creature puts a bad luck curse on him.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Lion King (1994): Mufasa learns the hard way that being nice to an Obviously Evil sibling, who was scheming right behind his back, isn't going to change his heart. And not even entirely behind his back. Scar all but announces on the day of Simba's presentation that he hates the new cub, wants the throne, that Mufasa should beware of him, and that he won't attempt to seize it by challenging him directly.
  • In Toy Story 3, Buzz and Woody risk their lives to save Lotso from the dump shredder, even though he had previously tried to kill them. Then, at the dump incinerator a few minutes later, it's Lotso's turn to repay the favor. Instead, he leaves Buzz, Woody, and all the toys to burn to death. Unfortunately for Lotso, karma makes sure he pays for the act by a garbage man, who finds him and attaches him to the grille of his truck.
  • Zootopia: Subverted. While it appears at first that Nick Wilde is the traditional sly, untrustworthy fox when he takes advantage of Judy Hopps' naivete to pull her into his pawpsicle hustle and later delivers a solid Break Them by Talking speech to her, over the course of the film, it's revealed that Nick was originally as idealistic as Judy until a childhood trauma caused him to live up to the stereotype that society had about foxes. His character development arc reveals that his kind and idealistic side still exists, it was just buried and Judy's faith in him helps that resurface. At the end Nick abandons his con-mammal ways and joins Judy as a police officer in the ZPD.
  • Kung Fu Panda 3 has this in the villain's backstory. Kai and Master Oogway were old friends who went into battle together as warlords of Ancient China. Oogway was injured in battle and Kai carried him for days looking for help. They came across a village of pandas who saved Oogway's life using chi techniques the world had never seen before. Kai's reaction to them helping his friend, for sharing their secret arts out of the goodness of their hearts? Try and kill them all and steal their power for himself. Thankfully, Oogway stopped him, but he managed to come back from the dead hundreds of years later to menace China for the "betrayal" from Oogway.
  • Frozen (2013): From the moment they meet, Anna shows Prince Hans nothing but kindness and love, and even considers him her One True Love. In fact, both share their similar backgrounds of older siblings ignoring them, and even quickly agree to a Fourth-Date Marriage despite meeting each other on the same day, something which they get called on. It doesn't stop his plot to seize control of Arendelle by faking his romance with Anna and doesn't soften his attitude towards her — in fact, when he reveals his true colors, he cruelly mocks her for quickly agreeing to marry him "just like that," which made his plan easier than expected. It briefly left her despondent, but Anna realizes there are others (Olaf and Kristoff) who still care for her. Hans has been confirmed to be a "frozen-hearted" man and a subversion of the classical Prince Charming Disney is known for. Also, Hans is later revealed to be Anna's Evil Counterpart, Foil, and Shadow Archetype, as while she manages to reconcile with Elsa after 13 years of separation and retains her optimism, he remains bitter against his 12 brothers and makes it clear to Anna that he will never reconcile with them.
  • Doctor DeSoto: The titular mouse dentist takes a chance to treat a fox's toothache when the fox begs him for help, and the very grateful fox plans to eat him anyway. Dr. DeSoto finishes the job out of professional pride and survives by gluing the fox's mouth shut on the way out, having no illusions about the fox's intentions.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Patriot, the rebels (who've had great success ambushing British convoys) agree to stop slaughtering surrendering British soldiers. The first time they try out this new honourable approach, they promptly get counter-ambushed by the British troops and killed or captured almost to a man. They swiftly go back to killing any redcoat on sight.
  • Eastern Condors have the titular commandoes taking on various Vietcong during the base escape, and one of the managed to pin down a random young Vietcong, only to realize in horror that is a Child Soldier, barely 7 years of age. The commando decides to let the child go, and the child (a Tyke Bomb who's seen playing Russian Roulette with some captured prisoners early on) repays his kindness by pulling out a concealed knife and stabbing the commando fatally in the guts.
  • In the film Flesh And Bone 1993, a starved and abused boy is discovered by a kind family. They take him into their home for the night to care for. When they go to sleep, the boy lets in his father (James Caan), who then proceeds to kill the whole family before robbing the house. This is a ploy the father and son had repeated many times before and since, till the boy was able to live on his own.
  • The British humor film Keeping Mum has what might be considered a (on the whole) well-meaning (though definitely not good) snake. Grace, the new housekeeper (who happens to be an elderly released murderess) becomes genuinely grateful that the family she has moved in with is happy and grateful she's come, particularly Walter (aka. Mr. Bean). Compounded with her being Gloria's mother, she decides to help the family and goes about being a decidedly murderous Mary Poppins to the Goodfellow family. First killing a dog that kept Gloria up, then the owner when he snooped, and finally Gloria's peeping tom paramour because he was causing Gloria to destabilize the family. All in all, she did the family a world of good, however she may well have unlocked her daughter's murderous side.
  • In the backstory of MirrorMask, the Queen of Light took in the Evil Princess, who repaid her kindness by stealing the charm that kept the Queen and the realm alive.
  • Halloween
    • In the opening scene of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Michael is nursed back to health by a hermit after falling down a mineshaft and being shot repeatedly by local authorities. Then, a year later, he wakes up from a coma and murders the hermit.
    • In the 2007 remake, when Michael escapes the institution, the only security guard who showed him compassion and kindness throughout his fifteen-year incarceration is given an extremely brutal and over the top murder: tossed around like a ragdoll, head dunked in sink four times, and finally head squashed by thrown TV. In contrast, the other guards, most of whom bullied and demeaned him, are typically stabbed or neck snapped.
  • The Shaw Brothers film, The Iron Buddha, has this as the backstory of it's Villain Protagonist, Xiao Tian-zhun, a former rapist and murderer who after being captured red-handed by a martial arts master, pleads that he will turn over a new leaf if he was accepted as a student. The benevolent master complies. Three years later, Xiao Tian-zhun had graduated from the Master's school as one of the top students, at which point he reveals he never have any intentions to reform whatsoever, deliberately hunting down his former schoolmates, killing all of them, then maiming his master and raping the master's daughter while said master is Forced to Watch, before delivering a Death of a Thousand Cuts by hacking his former master at least 40 times to death.
  • In The Coen Brothers film Miller's Crossing, Tom is supposed to take Bernie into the woods and kill him for grifting the wrong mobster, but Bernie's constant pleading and weeping convinces Tom to take pity on him and lets him go. Shortly thereafter, Bernie shows up at Tom's home and proceeds to blackmail him by threatening to walk around in public and expose the fact that Tom lied about killing him. While pleading, Bernie even makes the argument that he shouldn't have to die for grifting, because "I see an angle, I take it," somewhat paraphrasing the Scorpion's excuse, "It's my nature." Tom doesn't repeat his mistake.
  • In The Thief of Bagdad (1940), Abu, while stranded on a deserted beach, discovers a bottle. Opening the bottle, he unleashes a huge genie, who because of his imprisonment grew to hate those who lived free and swore to kill his liberator. Abu tricked the genie into returning to his bottle and threatened to toss him into the sea. The genie was then able to regain his freedom by granting Abu three wishes.
  • The Devil's Carnival, which overtly bases chapters of the story on Aesop's Fables, uses the Scorpion and the Frog story in several ways. First, one of the female leads dies during a fight with her abusive boyfriend. Once in Hell, she comes across a hoodlum locked in jail and kindly returns his knife so he can use it to pick the lock and get free. Once freed he convinces her to take part in his "knife-throwing act", where he sings a song mocking her before throwing a dagger into her heart. Finally, the story is summarized in a second, innuendo-heavy song about a trusting young frog falling for the "prick" of a scorpion's tail.
  • A Zig-Zagging Trope in the 2000 live-action adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Here, the Grinch is a green-furred baby who is persecuted throughout his childhood and finally driven out of Whoville and up to the isolation of Mount Crumpet, where he grows to maturity. Cindy Lou Who becomes convinced that the Grinch is not completely evil and urges the townspeople to include him in their Christmas festivities. But not only are the Whos unreceptive to this idea at first, but the Grinch himself has become so misanthropic that he does not want to be treated kindly anymore. Cindy at length gets both sides to change their minds, and the Grinch is made the guest of honor at the Whoville Christmas festival - a position he does not enjoy. Even so, the Whos shower him with kindness and the Grinch grudgingly plays along... until the time of the gift exchange comes and he is awarded a "gag gift" of a razor - an object carrying Unfortunate Implications for him because as a boy he had been mocked by the other children for his green whiskers, and when he tried to shave them off he succeeded only in cutting himself and getting mocked for that; this was the final injustice that drove the Grinch to flee from civilization. His temper boiling over, the Grinch lectures all the Whos about their hypocritical attitude toward Christmas before setting fire to the Christmas tree in the town square and fleeing the scene. But when he discovers that the Whos had a spare tree to continue the festivities, he becomes even more filled with hatred and finally embarks on his mission to steal all the townspeople's present.
  • In The Lone Ranger Tonto's backstory involves him finding and rescuing Cole and Cavendish from the desert. After being nursed back to health, they proceeded to slaughter his tribe to keep the silver mine a secret.
  • In Prayer Of The Rollerboys, Griffin saves the life of an old friend's second-in-command, which earns him entry into the friends' gang. The rescued rollerboy thanks Griffin by spending the rest of the film trying to turn the gang leader against him. Even lampshaded during the film itself.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: First Class: Charles Xavier believed that he could help the emotionally damaged Erik Lehnsherr find some measure of peace and happiness by offering the latter friendship and a home, but Erik repays Charles' kindness with betrayal, abandonment, and a permanent (if accidental) spinal cord injury.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: 1973 Magneto's sole contribution to the venture is to derail things the moment he sees a chance to advance his cause at the expense of everyone else. As the endings of First Class and X2 show, this is something of a habit for him.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: It all comes back to Erik in the end, when in the third movie, having gone into hiding and adopted a civilian lifestyle as a steel mill worker, Erik had to secretly use his powers once to save a co-worker from getting crushed to death. His co-workers repay him by reporting Erik to the authorities and exposing him as a mutant, resulting in a team of police officers sent to arrest Erik accidentally killing Erik's wife and daughter in the process.
  • At the beginning of The Stepfather III, a rejected medical doctor gives the titular character face change surgery, only for the Stepfather to kill him after the surgery was done and after he stayed rent-free in the doctor's house until he was healed.
  • True Legend (2010): The movie's Big Bad is the adoptive half-brother of The Hero but was treated with love and respect by the adoptive father like a biological son. When The Hero has a chance of promotion, he relinquishes his position as governor for his half-brother to make amends for their fathers' wars in the past. Refusing to let go of a grudge, he proceeds to kill his adoptive father, arrange for his adoptive family to be massacred and tried to kill The Hero for daring to show any compassion towards him.
  • Dragonheart began when Prince Ainen's life was saved after he was given half a dragon's heart. He recovered but he turned into a tyrant. Years later his mother told him saving him was the worst mistake she ever did.
  • Batman Forever had one where Robin saved Two-Face from falling to certain death and he gets rewarded by having a gun pointed at his face and used as a hostage.
    Two-Face: The Bat's taught you well. Noble. [pulls his gun] Stupid, but noble.
  • Near the end of Superman II, Superman asks Lex Luthor to help him trick Zod, Ursa, and Nod into depowering themselves by getting him into a chamber that would take away their powers. Lex immediately informs Zod to get back into his good graces, despite Zod having turned on him earlier, and Zod promises to give him the Shiny New Australia he was asking for all along, Superman is forced into the chamber instead. Unfortunately for Lex and Zod, Superman counted on Lex doing exactly that, knowing that Lex was a Smug Snake with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder who couldn't help himself, and had rigged the chamber so that it worked in reverse- Superman was protected while inside the chamber, but Zod and his minions lost their powers because they weren't, leaving Superman the only one with powers again.
  • The documentary Grizzly Man concerns a real-life case of this: Animal activist Timothy Treadwell was pretty much in love with bears; he insisted and believed that he was protecting the bears from humans and believed that he had a strong bond with the predators to a point of pacifism towards them. His pacifism towards them led to the deaths of him and his girlfriend when he refused to set up security measures in his camp, allowing an aggressive grizzly to enter it and kill them.
  • The Crying Game: When a British soldier is taken hostage by an Irish Republican Army terrorists, he tells his guard the story of the Scorpion and the Frog, using it in reverse to suggest that his guard is not a killer and cannot escape his nature as a good man.
  • Subverted in Natural Born Killers where an old Native American takes in Mickey and Mallory, who unbeknownst to him are brutal Serial Killers. While the old man recites the Scorpion and The Frog variant of the story, Mickey shoots him accidentally after waking up from a nightmare, and Mallory gets pissed at him for killing a Nice Guy who did nothing to earn their wrath.
  • GoldenEye: 007 once considered 006/Alec Trevelyan his best friend and comrade-in-arms, and even mourned his supposed death during their mission to destroy the Arkhangelsk chemical weapons facility in Russia. But when Trevelyan reveals that he not only survived the explosion but is also the true Big Bad, Bond's reaction changes to one of raw anger and shock. Trevelyan even laces his Breaking Speeches to 007 with derision, pointing out his Fatal Flaw for women, whether he has any qualms killing people, his loyalty to England, and even his skills as an agent. Near the end, Trevelyan even tries to kill Bond near the climax.
  • Dogman: In spite of the fact that Simone's death would solve a lot of Marcello's problems, Marcello won't take a side on the discussion of whether to have the brutal bully killed. Soon afterward, Marcello can't help but save Simone's life twice. The next time we see them together, however, Simone abuses Marcello worse than ever before.
  • Shenandoah: A Dangerous Deserter arrives on the farm and impales James with a sword seconds after James generously tells him he's welcome to all the water he can drink and carry.
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home has two examples, both revolving around the Green Goblin.
    • Aunt May convinces Peter to not go through with sending the supervillains back home without curing them, which would condemn them to die, after she meets Norman Osborn. Green Goblin(admittedly distinct from Norman) thanks her by killing her in order to drive Peter to villainy.
    • Raimi-verse Peter saves Green Goblin's life by stopping an enraged MCU Peter from impaling him on his own glider. Green Goblin immediately and literally stabs him in the back.
  • Barbarian: Tess goes against Andre's advice to save herself and returns to the house in an effort to rescue AJ. He repays her by accidentally shooting her and then intentionally throwing her off a water tower.

  • Animorphs:
    • It's revealed that a case of this is what turned the Yeerks into the Galactic Conquerors they are. On an expedition to the Yeerk homeworld, the Andalite Prince Seerow felt sorry for the Yeerks, who were fully sentient, but limited by the need for their hosts and Kandrona rays. Thus, he gave them access to Andalite technology and taught them writing, science, astronomy, and even how to build their own portable Kandrona generators. The Yeerks thanked Seerow by betraying him, escaping into space, and enslaving multiple races and civilizations to use as host bodies. It's because of this that the Andalites created a law, aptly titled "Seerow's Kindness," that expressly forbade any Andalite from sharing their technology and secrets with non-Andalites.
    • Of course, the series takes the view that the Andalites learned the wrong lesson from Seerow's mistake. The Animorphs are only able to fight back against the Yeerks because an Andalite illegally gave them morphing technology, the Hork-bajir could have been protected from the Yeerks if the Andalites were more willing to arm them, and the Taxxons are ultimately convinced to turn on the Yeerks by giving them morphing technology — a deal that the Andalites almost ruin by rejecting it out of hand.
  • In the The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids Copper-Colored Cupids short story The Resurrection of the Wellsians, the alchemist Mandragora revives six hibernating Martians, only for them to (try to) kill him as soon as it suits them.
    Mandragora: "Have pity! I gave you life!"
    Wellsian: "You did give us life. And see how we repay you. Now, Master, we give you death!"
  • The Death Gate Cycle uses this as a subversion of Love Redeems.
  • The Dresden Files discusses and invokes this trope interestingly by proposing that, just like an evil nature simply doesn't go away, you can also count on a good person to do the right thing even when it's against their best interest. In Summer Knight the protagonist gets himself beholden to Queen Mab, the wicked ruler of the Winter Court of the Fae, and they agree to settle his debt by him performing three tasks for her, albeit while retaining the right to veto any one task on principle. After Mab gives him his first assignment and turns to leave, Harry incredulously asks her what makes her believe he will accept it and she tells him the story of the "Fox and Scorpion" and assures him "You will accept this case, wizard. It is what you are. It is your nature." By the end of the book, she's proved completely correct; in the process of fulfilling his task, he discovers a much larger plot, one that any rational person would admit it's way above his weight class for him to get involved, but Harry — being Harry — couldn't help himself but go beyond what he was obligated to do and try to save the day. Just like Mab expected him to.
  • The villain Achilles from the Ender's Shadow series has a pathological need to kill anyone who has ever seen him helpless — including but not limited to a girl who lifted him from low-ranking thug to leader of a prosperous gang, a nun who got him off the streets entirely and enrolled him in a good school, and a doctor who dared use anesthesia to help fix his bad leg.
  • An interesting inversion takes place in The Executioner. One-Man Army Mack Bolan sets off on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge when his family dies in a murder/suicide indirectly caused by Mafia loan sharks. A faction of the New York Mafia Commission, pointing out that their own organisation was created when former enemies made peace, suggest offering Bolan a deal in which he would now work for them. A rival faction is opposed, with one mob boss who's missing several fingers mentioning a pet alligator he tried to raise as an allegory. Although an undercover Fed urges Bolan to take the deal he rejects it, saying he can't let the Mafia even think that they've won.
  • Orson Scott Card used something similar in his story "The Princess and the Bear", collected in Maps in a Mirror. Having attempted to redeem the Evil Prince, the princess gives up on him and lets the Bear kill him. It ought to be mentioned that the prince and the princess follow the standard cycle of an abusive relationship.
  • If any lesson is to be taken from Otherland, it's this: never date anyone whose last name is Dread. And who likes to be addressed as "More Dread." And whose idea of romancing you is setting a priest on fire for your amusement ...
  • Les Misérables:
    • Jean Valjean is taken in by the priest when no one else will after being paroled following nineteen terrible years in prison. Valjean assaults the priest and steals his silver in the night, but while escaping, he is caught by the police as a suspicious character. The priest tells the police that he gave Valjean the silver, and lets him go. This second act of kindness actually changes Valjean's nature, as he strives to be good in return for this following act of compassion. It's shown that being put in prison had thoroughly corrupted him in the first place. His crime was stealing bread to feed his sister's children, for which he got five years, with the sentence extended for every time he escaped.
    • This trope is ultimately the reason Javert chooses to commit suicide. Valjean is a wanted criminal, so legally the only thing to do would be arresting him (something which Valjean has promised, by that point, not to fight). Thing is, Valjean also just saved Javert's life at the barricades, so Javert cannot, in good conscience, betray him like that. The only solution Javier can think of is to remove himself from the problem by killing himself.
  • Aristophanes quotes Aeschylus in The Frogs as saying: "Best not to rear a lion's cub in the City, but if you do, its ways must then be served."
  • Redwall:
    • Veil Sixclaw repaid the Abbeydwellers for saving him by attempting to poison one of them. Then again, they may have saved his life but even before he attempted to kill them they always treated him as if he was going to anyway. His foster-mother Bryony, the only one who trusted him, considered this as a Freudian Excuse, but it didn't help. Worse yet, even at the end of the book and his life, he himself feels like he is evil or just born bad, even though he saved Bryony, sacrificing himself to do that. It's also notable for being one of the few books where Redwallians are portrayed in a less-than-sterling light. They're good in themselves here, but their actions toward Veil are ambiguous at best, just as he is ambiguously good or evil. Bryony also seems very uncertain about him even afterward, and both seem to think she should have let him go long before.
    • This trope also applies to Chickenhound of Redwall, who is kindly taken in by the Abbeydwellers after they find him lying muddy, bloody, and unconscious in the middle of the road. He repays the gesture by stealing a bunch of random trinkets and killing Methuselah, although in his defense the latter was mostly an accident. About the only thing he does do that's him being nice to the Redwallers is tell them about Cluny's plans to tunnel into the Abbey, which turns out to be incredibly useful, but wasn't entirely altruistic on his part.
    • Any vermin Redwallers ever take in or help fit this trope. Salamandastron has Dingeye and Thura, who eventually kill Brother Hal and then flee the Abbey, stealing Martin the Warrior's sword and infecting the place with Dry Ditch Fever in the process. Hal's death was accidental and the Dry Ditch Fever was inadvertent, but the sword stealing was their decision, albeit while in a state of panic. The Bellmaker has the Redwallers take in two wandering corsairs, a captain and his Minion with an F in Evil. The captain ends up killing Mother Mellus and stealing a trophy cup, but the trope is inverted when the minion ends up killing ''him'' and returning the cup to the Redwallers, whereupon he becomes a good friend of theirs and is allowed back to the Abbey for visits.
  • The Regeneration Trilogy: In The Eye In The Door, the "viper" character tells this fable to the "farmer" character in order to explain his actions.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle, Tal asks Nakor how he can swear an oath to serve the evil Duke Kaspar, who wiped out his people, as part of a ploy by the good guys to spy on him. Nakor tells him the "scorpion and the frog" version of the story and explains that he won't have to break his oath to Kaspar, because it's in Kaspar's nature to betray him first, which would render Tal's oath void. Sure enough, Kaspar turns on Tal and sends him to rot in The Alcatraz, leaving him free to enact his revenge.
  • In Wuthering Heights Nelly Dean comes close to invoking this when she says that Heathcliff was "harbored by a good man to his bane," implying that Mr. Earnshaw inadvertently ruined his family by taking pity on a homeless orphan.
  • In the fourth book of Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Simon the brown fish owl saves Kludd from death by drowning/having his face melt, nursing him back to health. As a pilgrim from the Glauxian brothers, it's his duty to help those in need, and he helps this murderous owl out of compassion, even catching mice and voles while he's used to catching mostly fish. Sadly, the very ungrateful Kludd murders Simon as soon as he's well enough to leave.
  • Referenced in ''Mara, Daughter of the Nile". "I plucked a lily from the gutter and it has turned into a viper in my hands." From Sheftu's perspective, he aided a fugitive slave girl and gave her a purpose and a future (and also fell in love with her)—only for her to turn around and betray him to the Queen. (Mara's side of the story is a little different).
  • Given an interesting twist in a chapter header in Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess - Baron Wulfenbach was wearing armor under his coat, and announced that the snake construct that was trying to change its nature and didn't bite him would be permitted to live.
  • The Doctor Who book Autumn Mist, set during the Second World War, has one at the end. Garcia, a young medic who has assisted the Doctor throughout the adventure, decides to treat injured soldiers on both sides because he just wants to save lives. The first German he treats uses his dying strength to stab him with his bayonet, killing him.
  • In the second book in The Wolf Chronicles, Kaala has a chance to kill DavRian, the human who's been nothing but trouble and a danger to the wolves for the whole book: he'd fallen down a hill and gotten pinned by debris on the edge of a cliff, and all Kaala would need to do is push him and Make It Look Like an Accident. When the opportunity is offered, she refuses because it would go against the Promise and it's just wrong. He repays her by killing TaLi's grandmother and framing the wolves for it.
  • In The Vampire Chronicles, Claudia hunts by posing as a lost waif, then draining any good Samaritan who tries to help her. Lestat also plays the viper in The Tale of the Body Thief when, while trapped in the body of an impoverished human, he rapes a waitress who feeds him.
  • Discussed in the novel Hannibal. Barney, Hannibal Lecter's primary handler during his incarceration at the asylum, defies any notion that he fraternized with Lecter. According to Barney, Lecter is nobody's friend. Lecter was civil with Barney, genuinely thanked him for treating him decently, and sent him a generous tip after his escape. Despite that, Barney had no delusions regarding Lecter's nature—at the end of the book, when he spots Lecter and Starling at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, he hauls ass out of town that very same night, knowing full well that Lecter wouldn't hesitate to kill him in order to ensure his freedom. Jack Crawford gives Clarice Starling a similar warning after Lecter's escape. In the end, Clarice decides to rescue Lecter from being tortured to death and in return Lecter brainwashes her with hypnosis and drugs in an attempt to reprogram her with the personality of his dead sister. Clarice is able to resist total Loss of Identity but still ends up with memories removed and a radical change in personality.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • A young Catelyn Tully saved her friend and admirer Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish from being killed by Brandon Stark in a duel for her hand. Years later he would repay her by betraying her husband Ned Stark and cause his death as well as her own. It is however implied her plea for Littlefinger's life came off as belittling to his character.
    • House Hollard was all but wiped out by The Mad King had it not been for Ser Barristan Selmy's plea to spare a young Dontos. Years later Dontos would help Sansa Stark escape to the Vale, only to be killed by Petyr Baelish who said he was going to sell her out to the Lannisters once the money to pay him off had been spent.
    • The Tyrells had been opponents of the Baratheons during Robert's Rebellion but bent the knee when the Targaryens fell. They weren't punished (but they weren't allowed at court) and Renly was even fostered at Highgarden. They repaid the Baratheons by corrupting Renly into trying to take the throne, leading to his death. They then allied with the Lannisters to defeat Stannis Baratheon at Blackwater Bay.
    • House Bolton (whose standard is a man being flayed alive) has apparently been the Viper for the Starks and the North in general for generations with it surviving by keeping its more heinous acts mostly quiet and relegated to mere rumor. By the time of the War of the Five Kings, the current head Roose Bolton is given a prominent command by Robb Stark, and immediately starts sabotaging his allies by sacrificing more loyal soldiers in battles, and making secret overtures to their Lannister enemies. It all culminates in the Red Wedding that sees Roose Bolton conspire to murder Robb and several heads of Northern Houses, in order to gain control of the North with the Lannisters' blessing. Though notably, later in the series, this earns House Bolton the hatred of all the North who no longer tolerate them and are ready to kill them off for good.
    • Roose Bolton's legitimate son, Domeric, was ecstatic upon finding out that he had a half-brother, not caring that he was a bastard, and decided to visit him so they could form a relationship. Unfortunately, said half-brother was Ramsay Snow, who quickly killed Domeric so he could take his place as heir to the Boltons.
    • Daenerys Targaryen saves Mirri Maz Duur from being raped by Drogo's khalasar after the destruction of the village. Mirri repays this by tricking her into making a deal that kills off her unborn son in exchange for resurrecting her dying husband into a vegetative state. When Daenerys demands answers for this, Mirri says that she had experienced horrors during her village's destruction and wanted to take revenge against Drogo and anyone associated with him. Daenerys saving her didn't change the fact that she is his wife, meaning she is a prime target.
    • Catelyn fears that Jon Snow is going to be this, thinking that a noble upbringing, instead of that of a bastard, would go to his head, leading him take over his legitimate siblings' inheritance as a Stark. Fortunately, Jon inherits his father's honor and has nothing but respect to all of his siblings. He even refuses to become the Lord of Winterfell after his brothers have all (seemingly) died, because his sister Sansa is still alive.
  • In Esprit de Corpse 5.13 in Twig a soldier takes pity on the Lambs (Sy, Mary, and Gordon) and doesn't kill them when he has the chance and instead takes them to a doctor to be healed despite likely having direct orders to do so. How do the Lambs reward such kindness? The moment Sy's confirmed okay the Lambs murder him, the doctor, and another soldier in the room before making a break for it.
  • Warrior Cats: ThunderClan decides to be compassionate to Brokenstar on account of his becoming blind and being the son of their medicine cat by taking him in as an elder, despite the fact that he's a murderous and insane cat who tried to raid their camp several times and caused the deaths of quite a few of their number. He thanks the Clan by conspiring with Tigerclaw to kill their leader Bluestar (which fails), after which his mother decides he's irredeemable and kills him herself.
  • In Ava XOX, a children's book targeted towards middle-grade audiences, the main character Ava often reads Aesop's fables and is disturbed by this one, noting that its moral, which seems to be that "no good deed goes unpunished," is actually the opposite of another Aesop's fable, The Lion and the Mouse.
  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi: Xiao Xingchen saves an injured man's life. Unfortunately, the injured man is Xue Yang. When he recovers, he tricks Xiao Xingchen into murdering people, including his own best friend. After Xiao Xingchen finds out, he's so horrified he kills himself.
  • Market of Monsters starts with Nita deciding to risk her mother's wrath and free her captive Fabricio rather than let her mother slowly kill him and sell his body parts on the titular market. She gets him out of the house, gives him her phone, and puts him on a bus to safety. Fabricio uses her phone to out her as an unnatural and sell her location to black market traffickers, leading to her capture and a living nightmare that lasts almost the entire first book.
  • Spinning Silver: When a human family found one of the malevolent Staryk Fair Folk badly wounded and nursed him back to health, he immediately murdered them all, dying in the process. It's later explained as Deliberate Values Dissonance: the Staryk are bound to repay all debts, so saving one's life without negotiating a price beforehand is effectively claiming them as an eternal slave, a Fate Worse than Death for them.
  • In The Faerie Queene, Sir Guyon releases Occasion and Furor at Pyrrochles' request, but as soon as he does, Furor starts to savagely beat Pyrrochles and Ocassion encourages everyone to get more and more violent. Guyon tries to intervene and capture Furor and Ocassion, but the wise Palmer advises him that Pyrrochles would only release the two captors again and that his pity is in vain. Allegorically, this represents the need to completely avoid moments of temptation and anger, since engaging with them only leads to more pain.
  • Who Is The Prey: At the start of the story, He Yan stops to help someone she thinks is in danger, only to end up nearly being raped and killed. She kills her attacker in self defense.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Untamed: Like in the novel, the Yi City arc. Xiao Xingchen saves Xue Yang, Xue Yang tricks him into murdering people, and Xingchen commits suicide when he learns the truth.
  • The Longest Day in Chang'an: Jiao Sui pulls Po Yan out of the river. Po Yan repays him by robbing and killing him.
  • Heroes: Due to Sylar's Heel–Face Revolving Door, he's frequently pitied by others who believe that he's turning good, only for him to later reaffirm his villainy and betray them.
  • Angel:
    • In "Disharmony", even after finding out that Harmony has become a vampire, Cordelia insists on giving her a fair chance, blowing off Angel's warnings that Harmony will eventually turn on her. He's proven right when Harmony betrays the team to the vampire cult she was supposed to be helping them investigate.
    • In the season 3 episode "Offspring", Angel's sire/ex-lover Darla shows up at the hotel, visibly pregnant. Seeing Darla's pain over her pregnancy, Cordelia throws Angel out of her room and tries to comfort her, to which Darla responds by covering Cordelia's mouth so she can't scream and biting her neck. Cordelia is only saved by Angel making a Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind. After Darla's escape, Cordelia apologizes to Angel, remarking that she let Darla's condition cloud her better judgment and forgot that pregnant or not, Darla is still a dangerous vampire.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy goes out of her way to be kind and welcoming to Faith, and even tries to help her after her Start of Darkness... and Faith thanks her by repeatedly trying to kill her or simply ruin her life. By the Angel episode "Sanctuary," Buffy is finally sick of it, refuses to accept Faith's Heel Realization, and fully intends to kill her.
  • Firefly:
    • In the pilot episode, after he accidentally shoots Kaylee, Lawrence Dobson is protected from Mal and Jayne's retribution by Shepherd Book. When Dobson makes his escape, the very first thing he does is attack Shepherd Book and beat him unconscious in a fit of rage.
    • "The Train Job" has the moment when Mal spares one of Niska's goons and hands him the money they were paid for the job the didn't do. Instead, the guy threatens him so Mal kicks him into a turbine.
  • Star Trek: In the two-part Star Trek: Voyager episode "Scorpion", Captain Janeway plans a temporary alliance with the Borg in order to combat Species 8472. When she asks for Chakotay's personal opinion, he relates the parable of "The Scorpion and The Frog" mentioned in the page quotes, though with a fox in place of the frog. Oddly, the story as told is more tragic than the normal telling, with the scorpion apologizing for being unable to help its nature, when the Borg would have no such compunctions.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Deja Q", Q actually uses this against the crew when he's turned mortal by the continuum, choosing a human form and going to them for help, assuming that their values and willingness to forgive "almost any offense" will mean they are willing to protect him from the variety of less-moral creatures he has tormented in the past, and who are willing to take advantage of his newfound humanity. He's not entirely right in this assumption, but he also subverts his own role as the viper; after Data risks his life to save Q, Q is moved to the point where he decides to risk his own life for the good of the ship.
  • Two episodes of Highlander: The Series featured an 800-year-old immortal named Kenneth, who is trapped in the body of a 10-year-old boy (Immortals stop aging whenever they are "killed" for the first time). Kenneth's standard procedure is to pretend to be a helpless immortal child who only recently found out he was immortal, and when he's taken in, he waits for an opportune time and kills his protector from behind, stealing their power.
  • On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert a snake decries the stereotype of the dangerous viper (only a small percentage of snakes are deadly to humans) and laments he has yet to find a woman that is as affectionate towards snakes as the one in the poem being read on stage.
    Snake: Where are all these ladies that love to kiss snakes? I have not found one!
  • In an episode of MacGyver (1985), the female antagonist is hanging from a ledge. MacGyver is all Take My Hand!, but the woman stabs him, causing him to drop her to her death. Pete tells MacGyver the tale of "The Scorpion and The Frog" to calm him when he questions why she would do that.
  • In Oz, Said's efforts to help his fellow inmates frequently end with them either manipulating him or blowing the opportunities he secures for them.
  • Invoked in the Chinese TV adaptation of The Prince of Tennis, where Hai Tang (whose nickname on the court is "Viper") recounts this story as the reason why his teammates shouldn't get too friendly with Long Ma.
  • In Being Human, after the resurrected, amnesiac villain Herrick gets his memories back, he considers killing Nina as revenge on George for killing him, then he changes his mind as she was the only one of the main characters who showed him any kindness while he was in their care. Just when it looks like this trope is going to be subverted, however, he decides "But then everyone would think I was going soft" and stabs her. She's pregnant, by the way.
  • The Bill. An elderly bank robber is caught in the act, and when asked why he'd risk the long prison sentence at his age relates the story. The episode ends with him saying "I'm a scorpion." (i.e. It's my nature).
  • Invoked (more or less) in the Smallville episode, "Prodigal". After Lex tracks down his half-brother Lucas, hoping for an ally against his father, Lionel tells him the story of the frog and the scorpion.
Lionel: "Why did you do it?" the dying frog asked him. And the scorpion replied, "Because it is my nature."
  • Supernatural:
    • In the "Pilot" episode, a ghost is killing men who see her hitchhiking and pick her up. The trope is averted because her victims have an ulterior motive — she is smoking hot and the drivers are hoping the pickup turns into a hookup and she seeks them out to punish them for trying to cheat on their significant others.
    • Later in the season, Meg, a frequent hitchhiker who it turns out is a victim of Demonic Possession, is shown killing men who pick her up and using their blood to communicate with other demons.
    • Eve uses a similar technique in Season 6 with a nice and very unfortunate truck driver.
  • In the Northern Exposure episode "Gotta Sing", Shelly performs a jazzy version of Al Wilson's "The Snake" while warning Maggie that you cannot and should not expect unpleasant, mean people to not be unpleasant and mean.
  • Lifetime Movie of the Week Bad to the Bone is an adolescent version of all those Film Noir capers featuring a (mostly) good man and an evil woman. A teenage girl wants her rich boyfriend dead so that she can get all his money, so she lies to her brother that the boyfriend is abusing her. The brother shoots the boyfriend dead in an alley, and soon afterward both brother and sister are arrested on suspicion of the murder. The brother makes clear early on that he is willing to take all the blame for the murder in order to save his sister from life imprisonment, or possibly even execution. The sister repays him by making bail and disappearing two weeks before the trial even begins, leaving her brother to stew in his jail cell while she's living the high life with various other gullible boy-toys. (Even then, the brother refuses to testify against his sister at his trial, and it takes him until almost the end of the movie before he realizes what a patsy he's been.) At one point we see the bad girl telling her "life story" to one of the rich male companions she's snagged (she's concocted a Multiple-Choice Past to go with the false identity she's assumed), and she says that she had a brother once, but he died!
  • In the backstory of Power Rangers Time Force, Big Bad Ransik was rescued and given life-saving medical attention by Dr. Ferricks. He responds to this kindness by setting the doctor's lab on fire and leaving him to die. This makes things rather awkward for the series' later attempts to sell him as a Magneto-esque Anti-Villain
  • An episode of Scrubs has J.D. pull a splinter from the Janitor's toe, and even bring up the parallel to Androcles' Lion (with the Janitor saying the story ends with the lion killing and eating the mouse anyway). The Janitor makes a show of offering unwanted payback and finishes off by pointing out that J.D. could have just asked for him to stop messing with him (and steals his stethoscope when he tries to).
  • On LazyTown, oftentimes when Sportacus rescues Robbie Rotten, Robbie's next act is to try to do something else to screw over Sportacus.
  • The scorpion variant was referenced by Kevin when dealing with a lawyer who was being particularly feisty on Shark Tank.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Played with Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Daxos was taken in by the city state of Qarth (which is usually closed to outsiders) and proceeds to work his way up to a position of leadership- at which point he has the other leaders killed and declares himself king. However, Daxos attributes his treachery to his love of Qarth- he agrees with the slain leaders that it is a great city but feels that it will grow stagnant if allowed to continue to be isolated from the rest of the world under their leadership.
    • Played straight in "Breaker of Chains". Arya and the Hound are given food and shelter by a kindly farmer and his daughter, who tells the Hound that he has silver to pay him to stay as a laborer and protector should he choose. Instead, the Hound robs the man the next day. When a furious Arya calls him out on this, he replies that kindly weak folk like them won't survive the winter, so there's no point in letting them keep the money when he can use it. In a nice Dramatic Irony, the Hound is later seriously injured and is robbed of the silver by Arya.
    • After quelling the rebellion of Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, Prince Doran Martell gives them a second chance, which they promptly use to kill Myrcella Baratheon, Prince Trystane's fiancée. And then they turn on him too.
    • Unlike in the books, Cat becomes aware of Petyr's involvement in Ned's death and wishes she had let Brandon kill him years ago.
  • The Daleks in Doctor Who. If someone holds a Dalek's life in their hands, the Dalek will always beg for mercy. As soon as you give them the chance though, they'll exterminate you without a second thought.
  • In an episode of The George Lopez Show, George finds himself desperately wanting praise from his particularly ungrateful mother, Benny. When his wife Angie suggests renovating her run-down bathroom might get him that elusive "thank you," he throws himself into it full-force, fixing up her bathroom until it's showroom-new. Benny walks into the room, looks around, and... tells George the hook on the back of the door for her robe is too high. Later, when Angie is telling George not to be mad at her, he says he's not, saying you can't be mad at the scorpion for stinging you, it's in their nature. Instead, he's mad at Angie, who told him to pick up the scorpion in the first place.
  • Discussed in the Masters of Horror episode "Pick Me Up". Near the end, Wheeler (a Serial Killer truck driver) relays to Walker (a Serial Killer hitchhiker) and their mutual victim Stacia the story in the form of a snake and a blonde woman. Walker already knows the punchline because he's heard the "scorpion and the frog" version. The point Wheeler makes is that he knows full well that he picked up another serial killer and expects him to show his true nature. The subversion, of course, is that he's also a serial killer, so it would essentially be a scorpion helping another scorpion.
  • In one episode of Gilligan's Island, a hardened criminal came to the island, and proceeded to kidnap Mrs. Howell, then Ginger, and then Mary Ann, demanding a ransom for their return each time. (This was one of the few times that chest full of cash Mr. Howell had brought proved useful.) When Mary Ann was released, she told the others that he told her he planned to do the same to the other four, and then start over again, so the Professor set a trap for the criminal, and it worked. As the castaways held the criminal in a makeshift cell while the Professor worked on his ship, Ginger felt sorry for him and asked if she could speak to him, remembering how she once acted in a movie about how a psychiatrist helped a criminal reform. Eventually, the others consented (except the Professor, who had his doubts) and Ginger's amateur therapy seemed to work; for a while, he seemed remorseful and willing to help. Unfortunately, it was an act; at the party, they had before they planned to leave, the guy proceeded to steal their jewelry and then escape on his own. That's when Ginger realized that that's how the movie ended.
  • In one episode of 24, a neighbor helps a character played by Kal Penn from being attacked by people who target him for his race, unfairly assuming he's a terrorist. Later, it turns out that he actually is, and he kidnaps the neighbor and his family.
  • Once Upon a Time.
    • Snow refused to execute the deposed Regina instead of giving her a Secret Test of Character which she failed. Regina was cursed to never be able to harm anyone in the Enchanted Forest, but Rumpelstiltskin manipulates her into casting the Dark Curse.
    • Snow's father Leopold set free a genie (Sydney). The genie's love for Regina would later cause him to kill Leopold.
  • On Gotham, Alfred's army mate Reggie Payne shows up at Wayne Manor on a rainy night. Alfred lets him in and Bruce further extends hospitality. Having him around puts Alfred on edge and before he leaves he steals files on behalf of the corrupt Wayne Enterprises board and stabs Alfred nearly to death.
  • Grimm: Monroe is captured by an underground gladiator ring. He pulls a nail out of an angry gladiator, much like the Androcles myth. Unfortunately, the gladiator is too far gone to remember anything but pain and violence.
  • The Umbrella Academy:
    • Resident Cloud Cuckoolander Klaus attempts to tell the frog-and-scorpion version of the classic fable, but gets distracted partway through and winds up telling a shaggy frog version instead. He concludes that the moral of the story is "Don't Negotiate With Terrorists".
    Alison: What the hell was the point of that story?
    • In season 3 Klaus discovers the alternate timeline version of his abusive adoptive father Reginald Hargreeves is being drugged into helplessness and taken advantage of by the Sparrow Academy and helps him get out from under their control. Unfortunately, this version of Hargreeves turns out to be at least as bad as the one he knew, and repays him by murdering his brother Luther and trying to sacrifice all of them to rewrite the universe to his advantage.
  • The Walking Dead: In "Always Accountable", Daryl is attacked by a small group of survivors, led by a man named Dwight, who tie him up and rob him. He manages to escape and take his things back, only to realize that one of them was diabetic and he had inadvertently stolen her insulin. He goes to return it and finds them being threatened by another group, that they had mistakenly believed Daryl to be part of. Daryl helps fight them off and eventually offers to let them join the community of survivors he's part of. They rob him again.
  • On The Wire, Avon could have spared himself trouble by killing String for having D'Angelo murdered instead of covering it up for their friendship's sake. String later betrays him to the police.
  • Alluded to in the You're the Worst episode aptly titled "You Knew It Was a Snake". Paul, having finally grown a spine, calls Lindsay out on being so selfish, immature, petty and an all-around terrible wife, to which Lindsay can only sadly but simply retort "You knew it was a snake when you picked it up", pointing out that Paul let his shallow attraction to her blind him to her many glaring flaws and the fact that she just simply was not "wife material" and he has no one to blame but himself for his own misery.
  • In an episode of My Name Is Earl where Earl and Randy go back to their old high school to get their GEDs, they encounter some of their old teachers who have become resentful of their jobs because of three students who go out of their way to make their lives a living hell. The teachers make Earl a deal: if he can convince them to stop their pranking, they will give him and Randy a refresher course so they can get their GEDs. The kids, of course, behave horribly towards Earl and Randy, but then the girl of the trio asks Earl for help on an assignment, Earl happily stays with her after class to help. When he leaves the school he learns that it was just a ruse to give her two friends a chance to vandalize Earl's car.
  • Creeped Out has an episode in which two boys befriend an alien who has crash-landed on earth and try to help him return home; only to find he was actually sent there as a scout for an invasion. The alien points out that he never claimed to be a harmless kid (they just assumed he was), and the closing narration implies the boys should have known better than to blindly trust him.
  • Stargate SG-1 season 8: Replicator Carter approaches the SGC and Carter in particular with a sob story about how poorly Fifth is treating her and asks for their help in stopping him, but warns that he's developed an immunity to the Disruptor and offers to help them overcome that immunity. They were rightfully wary, but in the end, Carter couldn't help but aid her Replicator clone. There never was a Disruptor immunity, the whole thing was a ploy to study the Disruptor in order to develop one. With the immunity in hand Replicarter lured Fifth into range of the Alpha Site where he was killed by a Disruptor Satellite so that she could take sole control of all Replicators, which she would subsequently make immune to the only real threat.
  • In the The Golden Girls episode "Brother, Can You Spare That Jacket?", the girls go to a homeless shelter to find a jacket with a winning lottery ticket in the pocket. Blanche catches a young man staring at her purse and snaps at him. He claims he just wanted some gum. She apologizes and they end up having a nice chat, but at the end of the conversation, he warns her to keep an eye on her purse—"I didn't want any gum", revealing that despite having grown to like her, he might very well still steal from her.
  • Motive: Discussed in "The Scorpion and the Frog" (as might be guessed from the title). Paula wonders what could have happened to make the murderer the way she was. Angie replies that she doesn't think anything happened, it was just her nature; like the fable of the scorpion and the frog. Some people are just born bad.
  • The Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation episode "Enemy of My Enemy" has Splinter discover that the Turtles' nemesis the Shredder has become a derelict ever since his defeat in the Five-Episode Pilot "East Meets West". While the Turtles don't like the idea, they are forced by Splinter to help out Oroku Saki and try to rehabilitate him. In the end, the Shredder shows no gratitude and presumably gets back to being one of their enemies.
  • Midnight Caller: Jack's father J. J. tells the story, with himself as the scorpion and Jack as the frog, to explain that it's in his nature to gamble even when it hurts himself and everyone around him.
  • Sneaky Pete: When con artist Marius is trying to get Julia to trust him for real, she references the frog and scorpion version. Marius says that he wishes people would stop quoting this story at him and consider that the scorpion wouldn't be dumb enough to drown himself.
  • In the How I Met Your Mother episode "The Scorpion and the Toad", Barney takes newly single Marshall to bars, including one called The Scorpion and the Toad. But every time Marshall gets a girl interested, Barney charms her away and goes home with her instead.
  • In the Cold Case episode "The Badlands", a young man let's his junkie brother into the restaurant where he works after hours when the latter shows up begging for something to eat, despite the argument they had earlier that evening. He promptly tries to rob the place and when his brother and the owners angrily confront him, he kills them all.
  • In the Millennium episode "Somehow Satan Got Behind Me", a demon starts a relationship with a stripper, who accepts him even though he eventually reveals his true form to her. Just when the demon looks like he's going to make a love confession, he instead dumps her in a humiliating fashion so she's Driven to Suicide and he can claim her soul. He then expresses his contempt for the Puny Earthlings who need to form such connections out of physical and emotional need.
  • Elementary: Sherlock takes in Cassie Lenue, a teenage con artist, and tries to help her change her ways. She responds by trying to blackmail a suspect in the murder that he was helping her investigate out of two million dollars. She was actually trying to help catch the murderer. She blackmailed the suspect to bait him into a trap.

  • Given a Perspective Flip in Nick Cave's song "Fable of the Brown Ape", where the snake is portrayed as a victim rather than a threat.
  • Al Wilson's "The Snake" is a variation of the trope-naming story set to music. A "tender-hearted woman" finds a "poor half-frozen snake", and takes it home with her and warms it up, but is bitten in much the manner of the farmer.
    "I saved you," cried the woman, "and you bit me, but why?
    You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm gonna die."
    "Oh, shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin,
    "You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in."
  • Megadeth's song "The Scorpion" alludes to "The Frog and the Scorpion" in the refrain. The lyrics are otherwise more about a figurative scorpion rather than a literal one.
  • The song "The Snake" by Mediaeval Baebes is sung in Old Spanish and matches this trope almost completely with the difference being that the snake starts growing dangerously big and when the farmer tries to kick it out of his house, it squeezes him to death instead of stinging him. The lyrics apparently come from a fable from El Libro de Buen Amor (The Good Book of Love) by Juan Ruiz, Archpriest of Hita from the 14th century AD/CE.
  • In ASP's "Die kleine Ballade vom schwarzen Schmetterling", the Black Butterfly twice says "Kann nichts dafür, ich bin doch nur ein wildes Tier" (It's not my fault, I'm just a wild animal) in order to excuse torturing (and maybe killing) the protagonist.
  • In the old Scottish folk song "The Fair Flower of Northumberland," in Northumberland (just south of Scotland), a prisoner from Scotland is locked up. The chief magistrate's 15-year-old daughter unlocks him after he promises to marry her "and make [her] a lady of high degree." Once they're in Scotland, he displays nothing but contempt for her— beginning with "Get down from that horse, you're a brazen-faced whore."

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Scorpion and the Frog, an ancient African & European fable commonly misattributed to Aesop is equally if not more popular than the trope namer, but also deals in how evil is ultimately unconsciously self-destructive. Sometimes the moral is slightly more digestible.
  • A variation involves the Lion and the Unicorn. The two were enemies, but the Unicorn agreed to let the Lion borrow its horn. The Lion then ambushed the Unicorn and stabbed it with the horn. When the Unicorn asked why the Lion did this, the Lion responded by asking why the Unicorn trusted its worst enemy in the first place.
    • The Lion and the Unicorn are respectively the heraldic supporters for England and Scotland, by the by. It's probably best not to elaborate on this point.
  • A version of the story from the American South comes from the collection that became Song of the South. In it, Brer Possum helps Brer Snake out of one jam after another, only to be told at the last, "Well, you knowed I was a snake when you put me in your pocket!"
  • A Zen parable tells of two monks who were washing their bowls at a river. One monk saw a drowning scorpion, and saved it, only to be stung — again and again. The other monk asks why his brother keeps saving a creature whose nature is to harm, and the first monk replies that his nature is to help.
  • In addition to the Trope Namer, Aesop also told a fable in which a wolf starts hanging around a shepherd's flock but doesn't seem to be causing any trouble and in fact helps manage the flock. The shepherd then makes the mistake of leaving the flock in the wolf's care, and you can guess how that works out. This is where we get the phrase "once a wolf, always a wolf."
  • In India there is the story of "The Tiger and the Farmer." The gist is that a farmer was traveling on a road, when he saw a tiger in a cage, the tiger promised that if the farmer opened it, he would flee into the jungle. The farmer was suspicious but let the tiger go, only for the tiger to try and eat the farmer, who blamed the predicament on the farmer for trusting a hungry predator. Just then a wise man came upon the scene and asked what happened. When they told him, the wise man insisted that the tiger was too big to fit in the cage, the tiger got inside to prove he could fit, the wise man locked the cage and he and the farmer left the tiger to his fate.
  • Japanese mythology has a kind of Youkai called the Konaki-jiji, which normally looks like an ordinary baby and poses as a baby someone abandoned. As soon as someone tries to pick it up, it grows really big and crushes them. in the stories Konaki-jiji doesn't even gain anything from this, so it's just crushing people For the Evulz.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Many times, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin would act friendly to somebody else only to kick them in the gut and then stun them for the hell of it. Sometimes, he even lampshaded it by saying "DTA! Don't trust anybody!" right after.
  • Happens again and again whenever the heel is a Dirty Coward. You can bet farthings to fritters that as soon as the face has overpowered the heel, he'll be on his knees crying: "Nooo! Noooooo!" Any face who is not savvy enough to just hit the guy anyway after that will be deservedly punished with a thumb to the eye or an even more painful indignity. (If Ric Flair is the heel, the odds of this not happening are nil.)
  • Jake The Snake once referenced the Aesop in a story as well, demonstrating that the concept has been in the ring for decades. However, in his version, the man asked the snake why he betrayed him as he lay dying, and the snake spoke "Oh, come on. You knew I was a snake the day you found me."
  • A rare example of a Heel doing this to another Heel:
    • During the build to ECW Barely Legal, April 13, 1997, a masked man who was believed to be Rick Rude was threatening "The Franchise" Shane Douglas and promised to unmask if Douglas successfully defended his ECW World Television Championship against Pitbull #2 (w/Pitbull #1) at the PPV. Douglas won his match, and what was believed to be Rude's voice came over the sound system, saying that he'd take his mask off, but Douglas has to "give up the girl" (Francine) or he'd give Douglas "the ass-kicking of a lifetime." The masked man then walked out in Rude's trademark robe. Shane pushed Francine toward him. The masked man kissed Francine, who, believing it was Rude, appeared to pass out in delight. Then, one of Douglas' riot guards took off his helmet, revealing himself to be Rick Rude. The masked man unmasked and took off his robe, revealing, instead, Douglas' Triple Threat ally "Bulldozer" Brian Lee, who then choke-slammed Douglas. Douglas, Chris Candido, and a clearly disgusted Francine ran off, vowing revenge.
    • After a few more months of making trouble for Douglas for his own amusement (including pulling up Francine's dress to reveal her panties during Douglas' match with Chris Chetti at Buffalo Invasion on May 17th), he surprisingly turned on Tommy Dreamer and the Sandman in a six-man-tag against Rob Van Dam, Sabu and Jerry Lawler at Heatwave on July 19th, giving the Triple Threat hand sign. Douglas defeated ECW World Heavyweight Champion Sabu and Terry Funk in a three-way-dance to win the title at ECW's second PPV, Hardcore Heaven, on August 17th. This led to Rude becoming a manager for the Triple Threat (now, Douglas, Candido, and Bam Bam Bigelow, w/Francine) and handpicking opponents for him, as thanks for Douglas giving Rude one night with Francine. Douglas defeated Al Snow, Balls Mahoney, and Phil LaFon. Then came the October 16th show at the Elk's Lodge in Queens, NY. Rude told Douglas that he had found him an opponent who "ran roughshod over the WWF." Douglas asked, "You got me the Boy Toy?"note  Then, "Welcome to the Jungle" started playing, with Douglas doing a great Eye Take, as BAM BAM BIGELOW was revealed to be Douglas' opponent, meaning that Rude had tricked Douglas TWICE in SIX MONTHS.
  • In Ring of Honor, CM Punk started as a heel, turned face, and was receiving massive cheers by the time he won the ROH World Heavyweight Champion, at which point he made a promo referencing Aesop's story and declared "I'm still a snake, you idiots!", declaring that he was going to take the title belt with him to WWE, and signing his WWE contract on the ROH title belt. Of course, as an indie darling and a good performer, he was face for over a year (and not just with indie fans) since hitting WWE...and then he assaulted fan favorite Jeff Hardy and stole his title after Jeff had been champion for about five minutes.
    • As part of a Continuity Nod, he did basically the same thing in WWE. This time, with a very interesting result.
  • Edge did something similar in 2010. Returning from injury during the Royal Rumble, he came back to a huge ovation as he won the match and went into Wrestlemania as the challenger for the World Heavyweight champion. After coming up short too many times and then getting traded to Raw, Edge revealed his true nature in rant, going on about how switching shows ruined his opportunity to be the top face of Smackdown.
  • Torrie Wilson fell victim to this in a match where she teamed with Sable against Dawn Marie and Nidia (w/Jamie Noble) on the May 1 (taped April 29), 2003 WWE SmackDown. Torrie started for her team, and the heels worked over her leg...and that was pretty much the entire match, as Sable stepped off of the apron and started walking away from the ring, deliberately avoiding Torrie's attempt at a tag. Torrie eventually submitted to Dawn Marie's single-leg crab and could only lie there on the mat in pain visibly saying over and over, "You bitch!"

  • In a 2014 episode of The Now Show, John Finnemore updates "The Frog and the Scorpion" as "The Business Secretary and the Hedge Fund Managers", with the moral that hedge fund managers (who are definitely not scorpions) can't be expected not to manipulate shares of public services to maximise their profits if they have the opportunity to because that's their job, and it should be the job of the government not to give them the opportunity if doing so would be bad for the country, instead of just trusting they won't. It's also mentioned that the hedge fund managers aren't vindictive, just uncaring; rather than trusting a scorpion not to sting, it's more like trusting a fire not to burn.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • ComStar Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht relates the Scorpion and the Frog version to Primus Myndo Waterly as a warning that her attempt to play the Clans and Inner Sphere against each other with the intent to usurp both of them will only lead to ComStar's ruin. Myndo completely misses the point, and names her supposed masterstroke to bring the Great Houses and Clans to their knees "Operation Scorpion." It fails miserably, and does indeed leave Myndo's successor as Primus working overtime to keep ComStar relevant, despite the shattering victory of the ComGuards over the Clans at the Battle of Tukayyid.
    • ** Count Nicholas Fisk is this in the later Fed-Com Civil War timeline. Despite supporting Katherine Steiner-Davion, who at this point has lapsed into full tyranny, and participated in a couple of war crimes himself, Fisk is pardoned by the victorious Victor Steiner-Davion and allowed to remain Count of Odessa. Later, Fisk actually caught working with the fanatical Word of Blake splinter faction despite being spared worse punishments earlier. Adam Steiner, now Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth, is both too Genre Savvy and too cranky to tolerate the shenanigans of the Fisk family and strips the entire line of their noble titles and assets, nipping further potential betrayals in the bud.
  • In the game Legend of the Five Rings, the classic story of the frog and the scorpion is told, but when the frog asks the scorpion why he doomed them both:
    Frog: Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?
    Scorpion: Little frog, I can swim.
    • In fact, "I can swim." is literally the family motto of the Bayushi, the primary Scorpion Clan family.
    • Specifically, Bayushi smiled after he heard the story, telling Shinsei that he understood the meaning of the story. His eyes revealed that he didn't really have enlightenment. So Shinsei hit him in the mouth. Bayushi then covered his mouth, because it was what had lied. The Scorpion Clan wear masks in memory of the event, and to make it easier to lie. It's hard to believe that a spymaster and the man that taught an Empire to deceive somehow couldn't stop smiling.
  • Defied in Princess: The Hopeful: A Mender Princess' first Oath states they are supposed to heal and help anyone who requests it, regardless of who that person is, but it also points out they are allowed to take precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones should this trope be a possibility. After all, just because you must help everyone doesn't mean you have to be stupid about it.
  • The Imperium of Man loves this fable, since their state religion is founded on Absolute Xenophobia.
    • The Tau, meanwhile, are xenophiles, so they tend to be more willing to coexist with aliens (including humans). Sometimes, such as with the Kroot, it mostly kind of works. Other times, not so much; for example, the human population of Kronos rewarded the Tau for their public works projects and Ork control efforts by siding en masse with Lukas Alexander's Imperial Guard. If the Tau win the Dark Crusade campaign, it's implied that a covert sterilization program is deployed to make sure they don't pull it twice, which is certainly a harsh option, but given that in the reverse circumstances the Imperium would have either scoured the planet from orbit or put most of them to the torch it's hard to view it as too over-the-top.

  • Variant in Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess, a novelization of Girl Genius; Emperor Scientist Klaus Wulfenbach takes in vipers all the freaking time, as most of his enemies are crazy and/or evil and he wants some vague semblance of peace. He just takes precautions first.
    One day the Baron was out a-walking, when by the side of the road, he found two injured constructs.
    They possessed the faces and torsos of beautiful women and the bodies of deadly serpents.
    "Help us, kind sir," the creatures begged.
    "Of course," said the Baron. He took them to his castle, and patiently nursed them back to health.
    And when they were both once again sleek and strong, the first one bit him with her deadly, poisonous fangs.
    "Why did you do that?" screamed the second construct. "He helped us!"
    The first construct shrugged. "He shouldn't be surprised. He knew we were monsters when he took us in."
    "But we don't have to act like monsters," said the second. "I have chosen not to!"
    "And that," said the Baron to the second construct as he revealed the armor beneath his clothing and drew forth his terrible sword, "Is why you will live."
  • Subverted in Bob and George, in the Mega Man 3 storyline, everyone is telling Dr. Light he's an idiot for trusting Dr. Wily. As expected, Dr. Wily betrays them and steals Gamma and the power crystals, only for Gamma to fail as Dr. Light had the power crystals replaced with faulty ones, and Dr. Light saying he wasn't stupid and took precautions.
    Dr. Light: Just because I gave Dr. Wily the benefit of the doubt doesn't mean I didn't have a back-up plan.
  • Bob the Angry Flower tells it as it is.
  • In Drowtales, Ven'nedia accepts the highly demon tainted Creepy Child Kharla'ggen into their "clan" (a loose conglomerate of tainted drow seeking mutual protection and understanding) to try and help her adapt to her condition and live a normal life. She and her daughter treat her like family and even normalize her enough that, while still incurable, she settles down. Then their clan is attacked and nearly destroyed, and she kills all the invaders singlehandedly. When rival Sene'kha proposes using Kharla'ggen as a figurehead leader she is opposed, and when voted down tries to run away with her daughter Kiel'ndia ... only to have Kharla'ggen turn her into a living puppet, put on display over their main entrance to scare enemies (and allies).
  • Freefall has this happen to Sam in this strip.
  • Another frog-and-scorpion version shows up in a Sunday special of Kevin & Kell where the scorpion subverts the tale and lampshades this by saying the story doesn't take into account ethics, moral compasses and free will firmly fitting the scorpion on the nurture side of the Nature Versus Nurture debate.
  • The parable is used as the basis of a weapon's backstory in Keychain of Creation. This is Exalted, even the swords have cool histories and vendettas. And since the Farmer here is called "The King of the Uncloaked Steel," it should come as no surprise that he basically finds eventual betrayal to simply be a bonus to their relationship. And they also fall in love, with the eventual betrayal still staying the same. They're just weird, crazy people/Exalted/Snake-swords.
  • The Scorpion and the Frog parable, above, inspired Vriska Serket in Homestuck (or rather, she inspired it), as her motif is arachnids and has a self-destructively malicious nature. Appropriately enough, she dies (again) by trusting her worst enemy, Terezi, not to kill her when her back is turned. Terezi, having foreseen the consequences, stabs her in the back.
  • The frog-and-scorpion version shows up in-story in Sinfest, found in a book by Fuchsia, who doesn't like it. Fortunately, Criminy refutes it.
  • Used as a motif in a side adventure in Sluggy Freelance.
  • The parable was implicitly referenced in this Penny Arcade strip (appropriately titled "Parabolic") about a developer and a games journalist, with the journalist represented by an actual scorpion. True to the trope, the developer makes the mistake of trusting the journalist in an unguarded moment and tells them the truth about their game, and is betrayed in response.
  • Wonderlab: This is the backstory of the Servant of Wrath. She used to be a Magical Girl named the "Magical Girl of Courage", and she made friends with the Hermit of the Azure Forest, who was an enemy of her homeworld. The Hermit used this friendship to take advantage of her, and destroyed her homeworld. The Magical Girl of Courage was so filled with guilt over what she had done that she transformed into the Servant of Wrath.

    Web Original 
  • In Twig, Sylvester, a Child Soldier Human Weapon created by an Academy of Evil which is fighting against a rebellion, is trapped by advancing elite rebellion troops who use a new agony inducing bullet to drive Academy warbeasts mad with pain. Sylvester is captured but spared due to an enemy soldier seeing him as a child in pain, and is taken to a medical tent, where he and his companions receive treatment, but they promptly kill the medic and the soldier before going on to attack the rebellion forces from the rear using their own incendiaries.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender. While Aang, Sifu Thou Shalt Not Kill, consistently saves Zuko, Sokka, who's spent his whole life in a war, asks why they should help him in the first season finale, given that all the previous times they've saved him or shown mercy he's tried to capture Aang. This is brought to a head when Katara bonds with him over their (supposedly) dead mothers and offers to try healing his scar... only to face him battling alongside his sister in a battle that temporarily cost Aang his life.
    • In the third season Aang was ultimately proven right, though - he needed a firebending teacher at the exact same time Zuko did his Heel–Face Turn.
    • In a less extreme example, during Zuko's exile in the Earth Kingdom, a woman and her mother take him and Iroh in for dinner. As they leave, Zuko steals their Ostrich Horse.
    • Also, in "Imprisoned", Haru uses his Earthbending to save an old man from a cave-in. Later that night, the old man rats him out to the Fire Nation and gets him arrested.
    • In "Zuko Alone", Zuko has a brief stay with a poor farm family after covering for their son and driving off some extortionist Earth Kingdom soldiers. In the end, after the boy is taken hostage by the soldiers (admittedly in part because of a keepsake Zuko gave him), Zuko fights them to save him from conscription. Unfortunately for Zuko, a combination of his firebending in battle and his own declaration of his identity sees him shunned by everyone in town, even the boy who saw him like a hero not 3 minutes ago.
  • In Season 3 of The Legend of Korra, the heroes meet an orphan named Kai, who claims that his parents were killed fighting a gang of bandits. The law enforcement officers chasing him say that he actually was adopted by a wealthy family, and "thanked" them for their kindness by clearing them out of all their valuables and making a run for it. Kai ultimately proves to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold following some Character Development in later episodes — he notes he probably deserves the suspicion he received up to the final episode of the season.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Killer Croc escapes while escorted by train to prison, Batman in hot pursuit. They fall off a cliff and are knocked out. Croc wakes up in a secluded home owned by former circus performers. It's Croc's perfect chance to start a new life. Naturally, Croc claims Batman is evil to get their help in capturing him. Then Croc captures everyone and plans to kill them and run off with their retirement money. When he's eventually foiled, he does seem a little regretful as he's taken away.
    Eddie Deacon/Billy (the seal boy): Why Croc? Why'd you turn on us like that? We could've helped you, we could've done something.
    Killer Croc: You said you could be yourself out here, remember? I guess that's what I was doing. Being myself.
  • The Simpsons
    • In "The Old Man and the Lisa", Lisa makes it her goal to help Burns rebuild his lost fortune in a socially responsible way. He takes to her teachings with zeal but in his efforts to follow her instructions, he creates a recycling plant that strips mines ocean life into an all-purpose slurry. It ends with the memorable scene of Lisa running house to house begging people not to recycle!
    • It then happens again, many seasons down the road, when Burns is brain-damaged and has lost his memory. Most of the Springfieldians take advantage of this to get revenge on him for everything he did to them. Lisa takes pity on him and ends up restoring him to his former evil self, with the added lesson that hatred is the only thing keeping him alive.
    • "Pokey Mom" has Marge take an interest in reforming Jack Crowley, a prisoner convicted of armed robbery (voiced by Michael Keaton) by encouraging his casual interest in art. The warden agrees to let Marge take Jack into her home and help him find a job as a mural painter. When Marge hears that Principal Skinner wants a mural painted for Springfield Elementary, she suggests Jack for the task. But Skinner forces him to paint a treacly, cutesy scene instead of what he actually wanted to paint - and then, to add insult to injury, Skinner has Jack take all the blame when the mural proves unpopular. Jack has to be restrained from physically assaulting the principal, and soon afterward the mural is burned down. Marge finds Jack hiding in the playground and accuses him of going back to a life of crime; Jack lies that he's innocent, prompting Marge to believe him and to help him escape. Marge's reward for this is seeing Jack pour gasoline on Skinner's car and light that on fire in full view of everyone, laughing diabolically. Jack is quickly arrested and finally confesses to indeed starting the school fire, but not the car fire, leaving Marge disgusted.
    • In "Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily", Homer and Marge lose custody of the kids, who are adopted by the Flanders. They show Rod and Todd an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon where Scratchy adopts Itchy only to be killed. The dying Scratchy asks Itchy "Why?"
    • The "Night of the Dolphin" Treehouse of Horror segment has Lisa removing bottle rings from a dolphin, with the dolphin then biting her.
  • The episode "Action Figures" of Superman: The Animated Series featured a couple of kids sheltering an amnesiac Metallo, who they think is a good robot who can be like Superman. In the beginning, he does do good and helps save the kids and trucker, but as more of his memories return he reverts to his evil persona. In "gratitude" for helping him, he tries to kidnap the kids and leave the volcanic island their parents are researching. When one of the children tries to appeal to goodness, he replies "Steel Man? Steel Man is dead! And so are you, Superman!" Lois Lane later consoles the children with "He was good, when he was with you. Now all the goodness in him is buried, along with the rest of him".
  • An episode of Mickey Mouse Works involved Mickey rescuing Pete from the cold and warming him up inside the mouse's cabin. Being the greedy prick he is, Pete reveals he only pretended to be freezing to death as he and his cousin take over Mickey's cabin. Of course, being a cartoon about Disney's beloved mascot, Mickey not only managed to turn the two against each other but, in the end, tricked the criminal dimwits into turning themselves in to the police.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy agrees to care for a weavil he believes to have injured, despite Beezy's warnings that weavils are Always Chaotic Evil. Indeed, the weavils take full advantage of him, slowly transforming him into one of them.
  • King of the Hill: In Season 8, Episode 13 "Cheer Factor", when Peggy replaces Jo Rita as cheerleading coach, Peggy offers her the job of assistant coach out of kindness and goodwill. Jo Rita repays Peggy by undermining her and getting her fired to get the job as cheerleading coach back.
  • In the oft-disputed third season of Gargoyles, a common tactic the villains used was having someone pretend to be in danger in order to lure the heroes into a trap.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Lois finds out she has a brother (voiced by Robert Downey Jr.) who was put in a sanitarium by her parents after a traumatic event and kept a family secret. Lois, assuming her awful parents were just being awful again, brings her brother home to live with her. It turns out he's a dangerous psychotic who kills fat people. He goes on a killing spree that ends with him trying to kill Peter.
    • This was also the point of the episode where Peter befriends OJ Simpson. The Griffins come to the conclusion the OJ is really an O.K. guy who deserves the benefit of the doubt, only for him to stab a woman in plain view of everyone and go running off on a mad killing spree.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "Fugitive Flowers", the Flories repay Posey's pity and kindness by destroying her garden and attempting to destroy Dream Valley.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
      • "Griffon the Brush Off": Pinkie Pie declares that she'll have to do something about Rainbow Dash's False Friend Gilda. We're led to believe this involves provoking Gilda with party pranks until she loses her temper and Rainbow can see how bad she is, but it turns out Rainbow herself set up the pranks and it was only chance that Gilda ran into all of them; Pinkie's plan was simply to throw a party for her in the hopes that it would get her to lighten up. Needless to say, it fails miserably, but at least Rainbow does learn Gilda's true nature and kicks her to the curb. Four seasons later, it ends up subverted when Gilda reappears and gets her redemption.
      • "The Hearth's Warming Club": In an in-universe fairytale told by Smolder, a cunning dragoness is taken in by the kindly old Dragon Lord and responds by exploiting his kindness to usurp and banish him. Because dragons believe that Might Makes Right, this is considered a happy ending.
  • The Smurfs (1981) episode "All Creatures Great And Smurf" has the adult Nat Smurf getting his fellow Smurfs to help get Azrael's paw out of a bear trap by bringing him into the village. At first, Azrael seems grateful, but upon hearing his master Gargamel calling out for him, he reverts back to his own evil nature and is almost ready to tear Nat Smurf to shreds when he gets chased off into the forest by a larger creature. Nat Smurf mistakes this situation for an Androcles' Lion.
  • A skit on Robot Chicken referenced the famous Scorpion and the Frog story. The skit lampshades how insanely nonsensical and Stupid Evil someone would have to be to act like the scorpion. This time, the Frog catches the scorpion just before it stings him and is not happy with him.
  • In one episode of Evil Con Carne, the title character and Cod Commando are marooned together on an island, and Hector successfully uses this trick on Cod three times in the same episode. (The fourth time he tries it when success is vital to escaping, Cod wises up, and leaves him behind.)
  • X-Men: The Animated Series
    • Early on, when Sabretooth winds on at the X-Mansion's doorstep, Professor Xavier takes him in and attempts to help him overcome his bestial urges, with Wolverine being the only objector. It goes about as well as you can expect: when Jubilee attempts to help him out with his hospital restraints so they won't be too uncomfortable, Sabretooth breaks loose and attacks her, forcing Wolvie to fight him off, which also results in him getting injured in the process.
    • Fully subverted in an episode with Juggernaut, so it ends up being more akin to Androcles' Lion. The X-Men help Juggernaut as he's convalescent, and when he wakes up Wolverine gets ready for a fight. Instead, Juggernaut leaves, saying he doesn't feel like it today.
  • Adventure Time has the Magic Man, who teaches us all an important lesson about not giving sugar to jerks.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness averts this to some extent in the 'Po Picks A Pocket' episode, wherein Po is initially tricked into being kidnapped by a group of adorable, seemingly-innocent child thieves, even as young as toddlers. During Po's imprisonment, the kids attempt to justify this by explaining that they have no other option besides this, due to being held captive by their thieving leader. Po offers to break them out of their situation, and leads them back to the Jade Palace, where they appear to be settling in just fine...that is until they trick Po again, by imprisoning him in the Palace's dungeon so that the leader thief can steal a precious ruby. It isn't until Po points out they cannot split a single ruby between each other for profit, that the kids turn on their leader once again, now having completed the aversion of the trope.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): Referenced by name in one of the Fast Forward episodes. After saving his Psycho Ranger counterpart from danger and while helping nurse him back to health, Leo tells him (and the audience) the "Frog and Scorpion" version of the fable. However, the episode deconstructs the dynamic in two different ways; first, Leo isn't stupid, and fully anticipates Dark Leo's betrayal. The second is that, while Dark Leo does betray the turtles, he still develops as a result of Leo's lesson and starts treating his brothers better at the end of the episode (much to their bewilderment).
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Hamato Yuta took Oroku Saki in as a baby and raised him as his own son, despite him being of the Foot Clan and the son of his sworn enemy. How does Shredder thank him for doing so once he finds out his true heritage? By destroying/corrupting the Hamato Clan and spending nearly two decades of his life trying to kill Hamato Yoshi, his adoptive brother.
  • Total Drama:
    • In Total Drama World Tour, the show's resident backstabbers, Heather and Alejandro, recognize each other for what they are and agree to work together. Despite knowing Heather has betrayed everyone else who allied with her (including him in a previous episode), Alejandro continues to trust her...a mistake which singlehandedly loses him the game.
      Heather: Boys are okay, but a million dollars is way better.
    • In Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race MacArthur saves Josee from drowning. Pretty much as soon as they're back on land, Josee trips her up so she and Jacques can get ahead.
  • Steven Universe
    • In the episode "Message Received", it seems like all Steven's efforts to befriend Peridot and make her see the beauty of Earth were in vain, as it seems she still intends to betray them and contact Yellow Diamond. Garnet tells Steven that some people aren't worthy of being patient with. As it turns out, Peridot does not betray them, nor did she ever intend to. Her plan (which could have been articulated better) was to convince Yellow Diamond of the Earth's value. Unfortunately, Yellow Diamond turns out to not be the person Peridot thought she was. As a result, Peridot defects to the Crystal Gems entirely.
    • The episode "Bubbled" has Steven floating in space with a Ruby Soldier he calls Eyeball. After her gem gets cracked—which can be fatal—Steven pulls Eyeball into his protective bubble and uses his powers to fix her gem. Using that healing power makes Eyeball realize Steven really does have Rose Quartz's gem, as he'd been trying to tell her, so Eyeball pulls a knife and tries to carve Steven's gem out so she can be a hero for capturing Rose Quartz.
    • In the episode "Room for Ruby", the character Navy crashed in front of Steven's house from space, begging for forgiveness and asking to join the Crystal Gems, claiming the other Rubies were mean to her. Steven and Peridot let her join with no hesitation, while Lapis has suspicions. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Lapis is right, when Navy steals her ship and reveals she enjoyed deceiving the Gems because she wanted to see their faces once she revealed her true motives.
  • In The Lion Guard episode "The Kupatana Celebration", the viper (in this case, a pack of thieving jackals) enjoys the good life for a time but is then beaten up and exiled again when the farmer catches on to what it's been doing behind his back. It turns out that hurting someone who is both big enough and close enough to easily hurt you back is not a great survival policy.
  • In the Mega Man: Fully Charged episode "Enemy of My Enemy", Fire Man and Namagem are locked in a grudge match. Mega Man ultimately teams up with the former to stop the latter, and as Fire Man prepares to finish Namagem off while he's weakened, Mega Man convinces him to spare him. Namagem repays Fire Man for this with a heavily-damaging charged blast to the back while his guard is down, then makes his getaway while Mega Man is occupied with Fire Man's well-being, leading Mega Man to stop him by any means necessary the next time they meet.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: After Kipo saves Jamack from being eaten by the Newton Wolves, he catches her to sell her to Scarlamagne. Ultimately averted, though, as her continued empathy and respect cause him to change his mind.
  • One episode of Taz-Mania has a well-meaning man attempt to take care of a wounded Taz, only for Taz to hurt him with each attempt. Every time, he jovially dismisses Taz's attacks by saying that he was a Tazmanian Devil, and it was in his nature, until the man, having reached his limit, demands to know why Taz has been so vicious to him when he's shown Taz nothing but kindness. Taz responds, "Well, I am a Tasmanian Devil. It's in my nature." The kindly man returns to his jovial state, saying Taz was absolutely right.
  • An aversion in Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo!. Under attack by seemingly mutated pumpkin monsters, Velma is forced to free The Scarecrow, citing The Scorpion Dilemma as she does so. Scarecrow doesn't stab Mystery Incorporated in the back, and instead helps fight a mutual foe.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Jellyfish Jam", Spongebob offers to take in a jellyfish that seems to have bonded with him. Said jellyfish then invites its kin to party in Spongebob's house, responding violently whenever he or someone else protests.
  • In Infinity Train book 3, episode "The New Apex". After Grace saved Simon's lifenote , he kicked her in the train lines. Fortunately Grace was saved by origami birds she helped before and Simon was killed by a Ghom.
  • In The Owl House episode "Follies at the Coven Day Parade", Luz tries to help Kikimora deal with some family issues despite Eda rightfully pointing out that she can't be trusted. While Kiki is initially willing to go along with their Faked Kidnapping plan, she turns on them the second she's given the false promise of a promotion and tries to kill Luz as a gift to Belos. In Luz's defense, she was clearly projecting her own familial problems that she was having at the time onto Kikimora and all of her past attempts at helping her enemies had worked out pretty well for her.

Alternative Title(s): Scorpion Dilemma, Frog And The Scorpion, The Scorpion And The Frog, Farmer And The Viper