What these three stories have in common is their function. The scriptwriters employ these brief narratives to create short-cuts, which add meaning but avoid lengthy digressions, while lending unity and depth to the plot.
1. The Mice and the Cream Story
"Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn't quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse."
In Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, this brief story is part of a speech made by Frank Abagnale Sr. at a NY rotary club. It tells us much about the conman protagonist Frank Abagnale Jr., by showing us how his fraudster father transmitted his survivalist view of the world, and his gigantic ambition to his son.
2. The Scorpion and the Frog Story
"Scorpion wants to cross a river, but he can't swim. Goes to the frog, who can, and asks for a ride. Frog says, 'If I give you a ride on my back, you'll go and sting me.' Scorpion replies, 'It would not be in my interest to sting you since as I'll be on your back we both would drown.' Frog thinks about this logic for a while and accepts the deal. Takes the scorpion on his back. Braves the waters. Halfway over feels a burning spear in his side and realizes the scorpion has stung him after all. And as they both sink beneath the waves the frog cries out, 'Why did you sting me, Mr. Scorpion, for now we both will drown?' Scorpion replies, 'I can't help it, it's in my nature.' "
In Neil Jordan's The Crying Game, Aesop's fable of the Scorpion and the Frog is told by Jody, the kidnapped British soldier, to Fergus, his IRA terrorist captor. It can be viewed as Jody's attempt to convince his captor that it is not in his nature to kill him. However, this is an odd choice since it doesn't end well for the frog. It may therefore just reflect the soldier's dire realisation that he may soon follow the same fate.
3. The White Horse
"There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, 'how wonderful. The boy got a horse' And the Zen master says, 'we'll see.' Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, 'How terrible.' And the Zen master says, 'We'll see.' Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't cause his legs are all messed up. and everybody in the village says, 'How wonderful.' Now the Zen master says, 'We'll see.' "
In Mike Nicols's Charlie Wilson's War, this tale is told by Gust Avrakotos, the shrewd intelligence officer. He uses it to explain that it may be premature to judge certain actions and events by their immediate effects, since these, in turn, set a chain of consequences in motion that are forever evolving, defying all prediction.