A Study in Spiders: Discussion!

KiriKiri Member
edited August 2013 in Kiri Callaghan
Eh, eh, see what I did with that title? Sherlock... Scarlet... other "S" words...

I know, I'm not that clever.

What are some of your favorite Spider Myths? Why do you think they're such a big part of our villain base (especially in the fantasy genre)? 

If you haven't picked up the Hobbit or Lord of The Rings, I highly recommend it, but assuming you've been there and done that...

The Forest Unvanguishable, Save for Sacnoth (By Lord Dunsany) is actually available on the wiki! You can even have it read to you... though I don't reccommend it because the audio is pretty disjointed and distracting.

Spider stories by Matthew Kirby is directed at young adult readers but gives a fairly straight forward view of various spider myths.

And if you’re craving a bit more of the mysterious and bizarre:

Abominable Science talks all about various cryptids.

In regards to the myths, I was a bit general regarding origin and for that I apologize. I wanted to go a bit more in depth about both Anansi (Ashanti deity) and Grandmother Spider (Cherokee legend) but it became the typical fight of time vs relevant information. I highly encourage you to look up both and share some of your findings and/or other lore you run into.

I first read about Anansi when I was a child with this book by Gerald McDermott (Btw, he has a fantastic collection of children's stories that revolve around similar themes of myth and legend) and it's still one of my favorites.



  • BingoBardBingoBard Member
    edited August 2013 PM
    I have one and only one theory as to why spiders are a big part of villain… Well villain anything to be honest. I think because there are a lot of poisonous spiders. I don’t mean here in the United States. I actually think there are few poisonous spider in the United States. But globally if you looked at the world wide population you would find a lot of poisonous spiders. Someone I know got bit by a poisonous spider. And now they have a zero tolerance for any and all spiders.

    As for spider myths, I don't know any. Except for something I saw in tv show had a creature that was a giant spider version of a centaur. They replaced the horse body with a giant spider body. But I have no idea if that was based on anything or not.
  • Fiendish_ImpFiendish_Imp Member, Moderator
    My favorite spider is Charlotte. She was my first spider. All other spiders are mean.
    Viva la Retrolution!

    Steam ID: fiendish imp
  • @Kiri “Eh, eh, see what I did with that title? Sherlock... Scarlet... other "S" words...”
    Wait a second. Are you trying to parody the title a Study in Scarlet? If so, that completely went over my head when I first read it.
  • MaxMax Member
    I have an average level of arachnophobia; I'm not going to stand on a chair and squeal but I will get a little freaked out if there's one hiding in my bedroom. But as you said in the video, this was almost "pushed upon me" when I was a child. I was sitting on the floor, age 6 or something, playing with a spider (however you play with spider...). My mother came by with a vacuum cleaner, and vacuumed up the spider.

    Since then, I've been afraid of spiders.
  • OakspoorOakspoor Member, Moderator
    'Itsy,bitsy spider' was made even more creepy when I discovered that most arachnids are too small to easily see.


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  • I can't help but wonder if the Anglo spider-fear got a bit of a start when they ventured out of the Northern frosty spiderless spaces and went "Ahh! These things are pointy and they burn! Kill!"

    Though, maybe there are plenty of nasty spiders up North and my Australian brain is just discounting them because ours are better. Or, I guess worse.
  • You know, every time I see that clown spider, I just giggle and think, "Aww. It's kinda silly looking and cute."

    @BingoBard I was! Because of "going Sherlock" and investigating and... things. I have no idea where my pipe and magnifying glass were during filming this though. Moving kinda mucks up where all your stuff goes.

    @DailyDael Huh! I never thought of it that way. 

    It's interesting that they became symbols of evil later in Christianity as I think in one story David was saved because a spider made a web over the opening of a cave and his pursuers passed by because the web would have been disturbed had he gone in. Not sure when that shifted or if that was the exception to the rule?

    When I was researching I got really distracted by some of the modern myths we've created about spiders--including the lethality of the black window bite. I thought the venom was enough to kill you but apparently most bites go unnoticed and a lot of the cases of death were because the venom agitated a pre-existing condition such as heart disease.
  • BingoBardBingoBard Member
    edited August 2013 PM
    @Kiri Wait. Black widows’ don’t have enough poison to kill a man? I figured the speed of how fast they kill a person could be misunderstood. But I always thought black widow spider bites, without treatment, equals death.
  • For some reason I'm reminded of the story of Robert the Bruce, hiding away in Ireland, who saw a spider working at building a web, having it fall apart, and patiently rebuilding it. That's a childhood story I heard from my grandmother, who was of Scottish descent, and the moral of the tale was, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." So for at least one medieval King of Scotland, a spider was a source of inspiration.

    Of course, that wasn't a giant attercap threatening to devour him. :}
  • @BingoBard @Kiri The Redback (quite common in Australia) is our equivalent of a Black Widow, and yes, they're venomous but not enough to kill an adult - mostly a redback bite may hurt a lot and it can get worse if not treated, but is rarely fatal.

    Funnelwebs, on the other hand...
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  • I was always attracted to the fringe theory that most people have such a visceral reaction to spiders because they are actually a foreign/alien organism and that the fear/loathing many people feel is a subconscious reaction to that.
  • @Molokov Out of curiosity I decided to compare pictures of redback spiders and black widow spiders. This resulted in me making an unexpected discover of black widows. I always thought black widow spiders had a red hour glass on their backs. Actually the red hour glass is on their bellies. And that’s just the females. The male black widows have a line of red spots with each spot being with in a white circle.

    Well now knowing that black willows are less poisonous then I originally thought, I would still personally be carefully around them. Because maybe I’ll be one of those people that’s more sensitive to their poison.

    @Thing When you say foreign/alien organism do you mean foreign to this planet? Or do you mean foreign to our house, or something else altogether?
  • You asked me to tell the story of Robert the Bruce and the Spider.  It's semi-legend as in it could well of happened but its maybe a bit too neat.  Robert the Bruce was a medieval Scottish king and either a hero or a villain depending on whether you believe Braveheart or not.  Anyway...

    Robert had been given a pasting by the English (boo, hiss, we're always the bad guys) and was on the run.  His army was defeated and scattered and Robert was about ready to give up and hid from the English and the Scottish weather in a cave.

    He was having a good old wallow in his misery when he noticed a spider building a web in the corner of the cave mouth.  Whenever it was part way finished, however, the wind and the ran would tear it.  So the spider would gather up its silk and start again.  No matter how often the web was destroyed the spider would simply start again.

    Robert thought that if a little spider can be that determined so can I and so the next day he set out with renewed vigour and raised a new army that pushed the English out of Scotland (for a while). 

    NB In some versions he realises that the spider has been sent by God but I prefer the secular version.

  • So @Kira said in her video “Spider-Man was probably one of the first times in western culture that a spider was good thing. Wonder why that is.” Spider-Man is actually my favorite superhero so I found myself pondering this. I do not have an explanation. I do not even have a theory. What I have is an observation. An observation base completely on something I have done. Maybe that’s a little narcissistic of me. I don’t know. Something I have tried to do with things that scare me is make them less scary in a story. For example zombies freak me out. So in an attempt to combat this fear I tried to create a story with a friendly, heroic, day saving zombie. This doesn’t always work proven by the fact that zombies still freak me out.

    So it is possibly someone that else tried something similar. Make spiders seem less scary by making a spider like superhero. Now I actually highly doubt that being the real reason. I think a more likely reason is that Spider-Man was made by someone who just thought spiders were cool. (Did Stan Lee make Spider-Man or was that someone else?) But I thought it was an interesting thought to throw out there. Again I’m wondering if that makes me a little narcissistic.
  • I got bit by a Brown recluse once. that's the worse thing a spider has ever done to me. Personally, I think spiders are creepy, but cool. They are excellent architects, cunning hunters, and sneaky bastards. As long as they don't dangle in front of my face on a web, or crawl in my hair I am okay with them. In fact, I am putting together a fun little video response to show how I track down the secret to why they are so prevalent in our shared concience, but some of the editing tricks are taking some time to nail down :( It was surprisingly easy to find some spiders to interview though.
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  • This video deserves a time consuming, cheesy video response...soo here.

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  • Something I just recently remembered involving giant spiders in video games and thought I would share. A long time ago I had the temporary use of a Macintosh computer. With this Macintosh computer I played the demo of a game called Exile III Ruined World. (No I actually never played the full version, but you could do a lot with just the demo.)

    Brief description: You controlled a party, and combat was turned base. While you are just walking around you just see the icon for you party leader and can move freely, but at any time (except on the world map) you could push a button to switch to combat mode. In combat mode your party will split up onto their own spaces and everything moves to turn based movements.

    In this game demo I find an island that is infested with giant cockroaches. Seriously infested. There is a city on the island that was destroyed by the cockroaches, that how bad the infestation is. So anyway, I eventually discovered a cave on the island. I go into the cave and find a wall, a open gate, and a sign. Before I get a chance to read the sign I see giant spider in the distance. I switch to combat mode and move in to attack the spider. I get into attack range and try attacking the spider, but a message pops up saying something to the effect of “You are about to attack a friendly unit. Are sure you want to do that?” This confused me. I clicked no and tried again. Same message. I exited combat mode and walked right up to the spider. If you do this to a hostile unit they will just one of your party members. But the spider did not attack me. Instead a window that is used to chat with N.P.Cs opened. I could talk with the giant! And the giant spider could talk back to me! No longer feeling in danger I went back to the read the sign I passed. The sign said “Welcome to the friendly giant spider city.” Exploring the rest of the cave I found giant spiders everywhere. All of them friendly and their main source of food were the giant cockroaches that infest the island. And yes can have a conversation with all of them. So there is an example giant spiders in a video game that are not scary.
  • There are other animals that have strange association.

    Owls in western culture are seen as embodiments of wisdom and knowledge, Athena/Minerva was often depicted with an owl. Then in other cultures, in Some parts of the Americas, the owl is seen as an omen of death or ill fate.

    We see snakes as evil and deceptive, but the Romans and the Celts saw the snake as a symbol of healing and fortune.

    In England, the presence of phantom hounds can be found in quite a few places. Thinking of such things as Black Shuck or the Bargest, signs of ill omens and misfortune if they cross your path at night. Yet to us they are seen as loyal companions.

    Europe actually does have a trickster like animal, similar to the Coyote trickster of the Americas, a shapeshifting fox often called Reynardine.

    Perceptions of such things, as seen with the above, change from time to time and are experienced differently depending on the social group.

  • OH MY GOD @RESTRYN that's amazing! I wish I'd seen this sooner!
  • :)
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