Spiders in literature: Man-eating monsters or pig-saving angels?

Ah, darling. She's got your eyes. Image: Pixabay

‘Ah, darling. She’s got your eyes.’ ‘Yes. Tell her to give them back, would you?’
Image: Pixabay

Well, what the hell do you think you’re doing there?

No, it’s not my reaction to the other half’s romantic overtures, but what I said to a spider this morning. I often speak to the household archnids and this one had just abseiled from the kitchen ceiling and was hanging a few inches from my nose.

Was she trying to get my attention? Was she just showing off her ability to weave silk from her abdomen? Was she about to wax lyrical on some subject of import – perhaps concerning the ongoing problems in Syria? I fear we shall never know, as after a few seconds she retreated to the flourescent tube.

Perhaps it was the worn down slippers and the felted surface of my favourite Winter jumper which has just emerged from its Summer holiday and will no doubt remain on my body until next April (barring occasional trips through the washing machine, natch). Perhaps those along with the bed head hair, made me resemble some terrifying creature that makes even an eight legged creature of nightmare retreat in horror. It’s possible.

Anyway, the encounter made me contemplate her kind in general. It is the season of the spider, after all. They’ve been strung, bloated and expectant like decorations nicked from the Addams Family’s Christmas Box, around my garden for weeks.

I don’t object to spiders  in the house or in the garden – and I’ll happily waste five minutes watching them spin their webby webs across the top of the kitchen window. We have a rather lovely, silky tunnel spanning it now and I rather like being able to pretend I live in a haunted mansion, complete with boas of webs and their inhabitants. 

It’s probably the old Goth on me.

Then, I remembered the scene from the film The Incredible Shrinking Man from 1957 (see below).

I watched a screening on TV when I was around seven and the scene where the hero fights off a ravenous spider had me fleeing behind the sofa more effectively than any Dalek, Cyberman or Sylurian could. 

The film’s based on the book, The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson – he of I Am Legend fame – and this got me wondering how many other fictional arachnids I could think of.

So, in honour of the season and as a terrifying taster for my Halloweeny-blog-a-thon next week, here’s some more lit-spids.

For arachnophobes …

Anansi in Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi is a spider god in human form, a mischief maker and teller of tall tales. The Anansi Boys of the title are Mr Nancy’s (Anansi’s) sons, Charlie and Spider who meet up after Nancy dies. Gaiman knows the arachnid is likely to terrify readers – young ones especially – which is probably why he compares the evil ‘Other Mother’ in Coraline to one. No one wants a Spider Mum.

Aragog in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling.

Giant, man-eating spider who lives in the Forbidden Forest with his brood. Raised by Hagrid – the daft lug – the thing is helpful at clearing up secrets, but still sets its kids to eating Harry and Ron, proving once and for all you just can’t house train a spider.

And for the arachnophiles amongst you …  

Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web by EB WhiteFinally proving that spiders are intelligent creatures willing to help others … As long as the ‘other’ in question is a pig called Wilbur.

And finally 

Incy WincyItsy Bitsy Traditional. There’s no denying Incy is hardworking, stoic, unbeatable. This little spider won’t let showers stop him from reaching his goal. But have you noticed the plot holes? What’s his motivation? Why is Incy so determined to climb that water spout? Is he just thick headed and a bit of a masochist?

Or is he heading for a secret rendevous with the spider from The Shrinking Man, so the two can implement their plans to enslave ant-kind and through them man? 

Think on.

Any inky spiders I’ve missed?

11 thoughts on “Spiders in literature: Man-eating monsters or pig-saving angels?

    1. Haha! Sorry, petal. You wouldn’t want to come to our house, then. They make themselves quite at home here.
      It’s weird they don’t bother me – aside from the Shrinking Man memory, I remember waking up in bed one night as a kid, screaming because I had a load (well, I remember a load – might have only been one) climbing up the wall behind my head.
      But then, ants don’t scare me either and I stood on an ants’ nest as a little kid – was bitten quite a lot.
      I think I’m just weird.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The most obvious ones I can think of straight off are the spiders in The Hobbit whom Bilbo and the dwarfs encounter in Mirkwood. And of course there’s their relation, old Shelob, in The Return of the King who confronts Frodo and Sam.

    There’s a spider-like creature in the Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away though I can’t remember if the anime is based on a book or not (as so many of the studio’s films are). By the way if you haven’t seen it, do try and catch it somehow.

    And of course there’s The Amazing Spider-Man, who gets bitten by a radioactive spider in some of Spidey’s origin stories. But I don’t know if you count comics (or, as we must learn to call them, ‘graphic novels’) as literature or not …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, what great examples! No, I’ve not seen all of Spirited Away, though I did watch Howl’s Moving Castle which I thought was fantastic. My other half (an animator himself) showed me Grave of the Fireflies years ago – not Ghibli, I don’t think – an animation about two children trying to survive WWII in Japan. Brilliant, but heartbreaking.
      And Spiderman most certainly counts – graphic novel or comic!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We recently watched Grave of the Fireflies too, and, yes, heartbreaking. Should be compulsory viewing for all dictators, both current and wouldbe, who harbour the wish to use the red button. And I include some leaders of the so-called Free World in that club.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. Should be compulsory viewing for everyone, I think. Especially the next time our country decides to send drones into a war torn country and the press start running gung-ho headlines. Let’s just think about the ‘collateral damage’ first instead of last.

      Liked by 1 person

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