Grandmother Spider

spider web

© Victor and Sarah Potter

“Grandfather, you let that creepy spider build her web in your kitchen?”

“Charlotte, don’t be unkind. Grandmother Spider is very important here.”

“But Grandfather, what if the spider tries to crawl on me?” The nine-year-old girl hadn’t visited Grandfather in years and didn’t remember spiders being in his house.

“She is very kind and keeps all manner of pests out of my house. Besides, she’s very old.”

“Will she die soon?”

“I hope not. She brings a very warm light into my house and into my world, just like you do. Now let’s see what we can make for dinner.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields writing challenge for 12 January 2018 (although she put “2017” in the title). The idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

The spider and vintage lighting fixtures reminded me both of an older person’s home and “house spider” myths. Supposedly, you’re not supposed to kill the house spider (though my wife has me do so on a regular basis), but a quick Google search didn’t yield any specifics. Finally, I looked up Spider Mythology and Folklore.

There are any number of legends that depict spiders in a positive light including this one:

Cherokee (Native American): A popular Cherokee tale credits Grandmother Spider with bringing light to the world. According to legend, in the early times everything was dark and no one could see at all because the sun was on the other side of the world. The animals agreed that someone must go and steal some light and bring the sun back so people could see. Possum and Buzzard both gave it a shot, but failed – and ended up with a burned tail and burned feathers, respectively. Finally, Grandmother Spider said she would try to capture the light. She made a bowl of clay, and using her eight legs, rolled it to where the sun sat, weaving a web as she traveled. Gently, she took the sun and placed it in the clay bowl, and rolled it home, following her web. She traveled from east to west, bringing light with her as she came, and brought the sun to the people.

The Hopi legends also attribute the creation of humanity to the Spider Woman and Sun god.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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92 thoughts on “Grandmother Spider

    • I almost turned my story into a “Charlotte’s Web” related tale but then I remembered I’d written one for a prompt previously. Mythology is such a rich source for modern stories. Thanks.

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  1. This is lovely. The warm relationship between a grandfather and his grand daughter. His gentle thoughts are beautiful. You can really see and hear them. Oh and her question about death suggesting her underlying worries about old age and death… and then on with the tea.

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  2. Please James save the spiders, just pop them outside. It sounds like the Cherokee Indians had a great story telling tradition. I enjoyed your use of the ambient? light in this prompt

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  3. I definitely picked up on the Charlotte’s Web ref, never fear! I love spiders and Granddad is right to try to teach his Granddaughter to be kind to them. They eat lots of nasties and give the house a wonderful, Gothic charm 🙂 Lovely tale, James

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  4. Great tale James. I’m with you in the not killing of spiders and I have a spouse that doesn’t mind. I do de cobweb but that rarely kills the spider. If we have guests I will sometimes relocate a spider because like Charlotte most people find it difficult to sleep with a spider in the room. Thanks for adding the Indian folk lore. I found that interesting.

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    • Thanks, Irene. During temperate weather when I do the yard work, I use a blower to remove the spider webs from around my house, but as you say, it doesn’t hurt the spiders. They just rebuild and very quickly, too.

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  5. I like your take, James! And yes, Grandmother Spider should be left to her own devices. But I can see why Charlotte doesn’t extend that to crawling right on her skin. In my apartment, the rule is that the spiders can live if they stay up in the ceiling and kill bugs. (If they’re not black widows; I do kill those.) If they come down to floor level, well, my cat refuses to sign my spider-peace treaty.

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  6. Loved the story, but loved the tale of the spider who carries the sun from the east to the west even more. There is something so warm and cozy about these old myths, across cultures, geographies, and religions.

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  7. Hah! James, re your comment about vintage lights and older people: you know that some younger folk like the retro stuff, too 😉 Come to think of it, my husband chose the lights and he’s older than me! That spider had its web over our kitchen table for the whole of Christmas and the New Year, and earned its keep by catching and consuming some miniature flies that had hatched out of a plant that I’d brought inside from out-of-doors. I like spiders in the house, except in the bedroom at night D:

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    • Sorry if I made a prejudicial comment about vintage lights, Sarah. I was relating to my childhood and the changing styles I’ve experienced. I must say you show remarkable tolerance for spiders and webs. My wife would have nipped that one in the bud.

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  8. I love this story. Grandfather is teaching a fine lesson to Charlotte. I wish I hadn’t grown up being afraid of all manner of bugs, but to me they were just ugly. And I hated the way they skittered across a floor or wall. Ugh.

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  9. James, this brought to mind perhaps the old man recognizing his and spiders mortality . Growing up, we were taught that if kill a spider, it will rain. Being in the Pacific Northwest. Obviously a lot of spiders must have met their doom.

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  10. My dad taught me to never kill spiders. There are some spiders that are poisonous and I wouldn’t want in the house but most are harmless to humans. I’ve had to laugh at the jumping spider we have here. They don’t make a web but go hunting and jump on their prey. I’ve seen one jump. I’m glad I’m a human and too big for them to be interested. Good writing and researched stories, James. 🙂 — Suzanne

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  11. Early in our marriage, we had a spider above our bed. Connie wouldn’t let me kill it. One day her egg sack hatched and we had hundred of tiny spiders all over our bed. Connie changed her mind at that point.

    Thanks for adding the Hopi legend in the epilogue. I always find those fascinating.

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    • Yes, exactly. The same thing happened in my grandson’s crib when he was little (fortunately he wasn’t in it at the time and I was able to clean all the critters out).

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