In ancient Greece legend tells of a weaving competition that took place between the goddess Athena and a girl called Arachne. Arachne’s father was a cloth dyer and she became quite adept at weaving cloth. Athena decided to challenge her to a weaving contest. Athena wove a scene depicting her victory over Poseidon. Arachne wove a tapestry depicting the infidelity of the Gods of Olympus. This displeased Athena but she admitted Arachne’s weaving was perfect. Still angered by her defeat Athena ruined Arachne’s tapestry and her loom. She then cursed Arachne to live forever with guilt. Arachne was so depressed she hung herself. Athena felt pity for Arachne and using the juice of aconite she allowed Arachne to come back to life as a spider with weaving abilities. Arachne therefore means spider in Greek.
Many people fear spiders in fact it is listed as one of the top ten phobias. Nearly 50% of women and 10% of men admit to fearing spiders. I am one of them.
The picture above is what my children and I believe to be an orb weaver. We have affectionately called her Charlotte. She has lived just outside the kitchen all summer and every single night she weaves a new and even more impressive web than the one she created the night before. Charlotte and I have developed an understanding. She can stay outside and eat all the flies she catches in her web as long as she herself does not come in the house.
Fear is a valuable tool in a writer’s arsenal. Using fear confrontation as a way to drive a character’s development forward or using fear to mark an otherwise flawless character allows readers to identify with those characters. It helps make them seem more human.
Spiders we almost love:
Obviously Charlotte from E.B. Whites’s Charlotte’s Web was depicted as a heroine and not something to fear. That ever persistent Incy Wincy Spider is still climbing up that water spout for the current generation of children. Spiderman from Marvel Comics has been a hero since the 1960s although the radioactive spider that bit him was rather creepy.
Spiders we never want to meet:
Aragog from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was one terrifying giant spider and considering it reproduced to make thousands of giant spider babies makes it even more scary. J.R.R. Tolkien used giant spiders in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. They lived in the forest area called Mirkwood and were said to be descendants of Shelob. I am cringing as I type remembering the horrible film Arachnophobia.
If you need to give your character a fear that is believable and one your readers can relate to perhaps arachnophobia is the fear you have been looking for.
Spiders – love them, hate them or tolerate them? Are there any other notable spiders that I have missed?