Spider-Spun Tales:
A Bibliography of Spiders in Literature and the Visual Arts

The works included use to spiders as major symbols and/or characters or in significant cameo appearances. My awareness of how frequent and important these appearances are in the literatures of cultures world-wide began as I researched an essay on Spider Woman. Whether as Grandmother Spider, creator, or as Black Widow, destroyer, this ancient being has inspired creative artists in all mediums in all the habitats she has shared with humans. Understanding why that is so lends insight to the place of humans in the web of nature, a web she is credited with creating by peoples around the globe.

“The spiders, honeybees, yellow jackets, and mud daubers: these insects still speak—a language that is older than humans. The buffalo, elk, wolf, coyote—they still talk, too. It's we, the people, who have forgotten how to listen.”
--Osage storyteller Archie Mason (www.jillmax.com/Spider.html)


Primary Sources:

Aftandilian, David. “Spider Woman.” In NILAS Newsletter . Summer 2008: 40.

Alexie, Sherman. The Summer of Black Widows . New York: Hanging Loose Press, 1996.
Acknowledges spiders as the source of stories: “In the corners of our old houses/we still find those small bundles.” (Joy Porter and Kenneth M. Roemer, eds. The Cambridge Companion of Native American Literature , p. 157)

Applegate, K. E. Animorphs: The Android . New York, London, Toronto, Auckland, Sydney: Scholastic, 1997.

Baring-Gould, Sabine. 1887 Red Spider . Dublin, Ireland: Nonsuch, nd.
According to popular superstition, the red spider has the power to spin money in the pocket of the person who secures its services. In this 1887 novel by folklore anthologist Sabine Baring-Gould, Devinshire native Hillary Nanespian squashes one of the red spiders, which has surprising consequences for his brother-in-law Taverner Langford, and indeed their entire region.

Basho (1644-1694). Selected Haiku. In Bestiary: An Anthology of Poems about Animals . Ed. Stephen Mitchell. Berkley: Frog,1996. 16-20.
What voice,
what song, spider
in the autumnal wind. (18)
Bidgood, Ruth. “Spiders.” Selected Poems . Seren Books, 1992.

Bowles, Paul. The Spider's House . Black Sparrow House,

Carle, Eric. Very Busy Spider . New York: Philomel, 1998.

Claremon, Neil. Calendar of the Animal Messengers: Teachings from the Desert . Tucson, AZ: Harbinger House, 1989.

Cooke, Rose Terry. “Arachne.”

Coraline . Director Henry Selick. Focus Features, 2009.

The frightening metamorphoses of the Other Mother late in this
animated film based on Neil Gaimon 2002 novel of the same
name, suggests the stereotype of the deadly Black Widow still haunts American society.

Cristopher, Nicholas. A Trip to the Stars . Dial Press, 2000.

Cronin, Doreen. Diary of a Spider . Ill. Harry Bliss. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.

deCamp, L. Sprague. Conan and the Spider God . 1980.

Dickinson, Emily. #513 (#606 in Johnson): “The Spider holds a Silver Ball” (1863). In The Poems of Emily Dickinson . Ed. R. W. Franklin. Cambridge, MA and London: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 232.

________. #1138: “A Spider sewed at Night.” In Skies in Blossom: The Nature Poetry of Emily Dickinson. Ed. Jonathan Cott. Ill. Mary Frank. New York, London, Toronto, Sidney, Auckland: 1995. 58.

“Emily Dickinson…obviously saw something of her own poetic activity in the movement of the spider, as in the famous poem which starts ['A Spider sewed at night'….And in other poems, for example, 'The spider…--dancing softly to himself/ His Coil of Pearl—unwinds.' She elsewhere calls the spider an artist of 'surpassing merit' whose tapestries, wrought in an hour, are 'Continents of Light'; but also very ephemera, 'He plies from Nought to Nought /In insubstantial Trade'.” (Tanner 26).

________. #1373: “The Spider as an Artist” (1875). In Franklin. 527.
The Spider as an Artist
Has never been employed –
Though his surpassing Merit
Is freely certified
By every Broom and Bridget
Throughout a Christian Land –
Neglected Son of Genius
I take thee by the Hand –

Dostoyevski, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment . Trans. David Magarshak. New York: Greenwich House, 1982.
“Spiders may be our most potent symbol of primeval life, yet they are associated not with expansive landscapes but with desplate crannies. This paradox is the basis of a vision by the perverse Svidrigaylov in… Crime and Punishment (first published in 1865-66). Svidrigaylov picture eternity not as vast but as 'a little room, something like a village bath-house, grimy, and spiders in every corner…' (305)” (Sax 242).

Duncan, Lois. Ill. Shonto Begay. The Magic of Spider Woman . Singapore: Scholastic, 1996.

“The Navajo legend of how a stubborn girl learns from Spider Woman how to keep her life in balance by respecting its boundaries; explains…why Navajo blanket weavers include a spirit pathway in their creations to this day” ( www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/405 ).

Edwards, Jonathan. “Of Insects.”

“Of all Insects no one is more wonderfull than the Spider especially with Respect to their sagacity and admirable way of working.' Edwards was particularly struck to see spiders apparently 'swimming in the air'…, and he describes how he watched and experimented to see how they managed to sustain themselves in space. The secret…was the way they 'put out a web at their tails' which was so light that the wind took it, and held up the spider at the same time' (Tanner 25).

________. 1734. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader . Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach, Kenneth P. Minkena, and Douglas A. Sweeney. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999: 49-65.

“As chthonic figures, spiders are constantly linked with the dead and the realm beneath the earth….Jonathan Edwards preached…that 'the God that holds you over the pit of Hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over a fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked' (57)” (Sax 242). Frost, Robert. 1936. “Design.” www./starve.org/teaching/intro-poetry/design2.html

__________. 1912. “In White.” An early version of “Design.”

Gaiman, Neil. Coraline . New York: HarperTrophy, 2002.

Gardner, Lisa. Say Goodbye . New York: Bantam Books, 2008.

Gear, M. Michael and Kathleen O'Neill Gear. People of the Wolf . Dorrerty Tor, 2005.

In an era when the religious loyalties of the people seem to be shifting, Badgertaill, who has a “blue spider tattooed on his cheeks,” learns from Old Woman North that “Spiderwoman waffles, unsure where her loyalties lie” (25, 40). In the newly renovated kiva “Spider Woman now dances in new plaster” on the east wall, dressed in “a bright yellow dress” and carrying “a feather praying fan” (51). Originally, she “led the Hero twins out into this world,” casting her “web into the sky…..Then, as the people died, she would pull the souls of the worthy up with strands of her web. They became Star People” (63). Spider Woman's constellation rises “several hands before dawn” (300). “She is angry because “the First People don't look up to her the way they used to and, now, “'only the strongest strands of silk tether the web….Spider Woman wants all of the flies in the web before” those who, like Badgertail, are loyal to her strike and regain her power (310).

Homer, Heinrich. The White Spider .

Hovey. Kate. Arachne Speaks . New York: McElderry Books, 2000.

Howitt, Mary. “The Spider and the Fly.” 1821: http://www.earthlife.net/chelicerata/s-man.html

Issa (1763-1827). Selected Haiku. In Bestiary: An Anthology of Poems about Animals . Ed. Stephen Mitchell. Berkley: Frog,
  1. 43-55.
  2. Don't worry, spiders,
    I keep house
James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction.”

Here “ the spider receives perhaps its finest transformation:

Experience is never limited and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind; and when the mind is imaginative…it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it convert the very pulses of the air into revelations” (Tanner 27).

Kimmel, Eric C. Anansi and the Magic Stick.
_________. Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock.

_________. Anansi and the Talking Moon .
_________. Anansi Goes Fishing .
_________. Anansi's Party Time . Ill. Janet Stevens. New York: Holiday House, 2008.

Kirk, David. Miss Spider's Tea Party .
________. Miss Spider's Web of Friends .

Le Guin, Ursula. Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight . San Francisco: Roe. 1990.

Maguire, Gregory. The Hamlet Chronicles: Seven Spiders Spinning . New York: HarperTrophy, 2005.

When seven deadly Siberian Snow Spiders from before the dawn of time, found frozen in a glacier, invade a Vermont classroom, they find a surprising welcome and become valued guests.

Martin, Patricia. Lulu Atlantis and the Quest for the True Blue Love .

New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2008. Max, Jill, ed. Spider Spins a Story: Fourteen Legends from Native America . Northland, 1998.

Collaborators Kelly Bennett and Ronia Davidson, inspired by Navajo weaver and storyteller Sarah Natan, draw together tales from, thereby “exploring the recurrence of the spider as a unifying thread in the literature of diverse Native American cultures” (a href="http://www.jillmax.com/Spider.htm">http://www.jillmax.com/Spider.htm).

Moffett, Thomas. “Little Miss Moffett.”
         Little Miss Muffet
        Sat on a tuffet,
        Eating her curds and whey;
        Along came a spider,
        Who sat down beside her
        And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Moorcock, Michael. Lord of the Spiders . 1975.

Mullet, G. M. Spider Woman Stories . Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1979.

Neruda, Pablo. “Bestiary.” In Bestiary: An Anthology of Poems about
         Animals . Ed. Stephen Mitchell. Berkley: Frog, 1996. 195-199.
The spiders have always been slandered
in the idiotic pages
of exasperating simplifiers
who take the fly's point of view,
who describe them as devouring,
carnal, unfaithful, lascivious.
For me, that reputation
discredits just those who concocted it:
the spider is an engineer,
a divine maker of watches,
for one fly more or less
let the imbeciles detest them.
I want to have a talk with the spider,
I want her to weave me a star.
Nimmu, Jenny. The Snow Spider Trilogy . Troll Communications, 1991.

Oliver, Mary. “Swoon.” From Winter Hours , 1999. In The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays . Boston: Beacon, 2008. 54-60.

Ortiz, Simon J. “Toward Spider Springs.” From Woven Stones . 1992: 63.

Patrick D. Murphy explains that the poem commemorates “stones of the walls near Spider Springs [which are] not cemented together but balanced in a woven pattern” which illustrates “a fundamental part of Spider Woman's wisdom,” wisdom that goes beyond the patterns of balance/weaving, necessitating ongoing renewal or “participation” by the walls' human builder ( Farther Afield in the Study of Nature-Oriented Literature [Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2000], 106).

Ovid. Book VI: “The Transformation of Arachne into a Spider.” Metamorphosis . Trans. Rolfe Humphries. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1955.

“Ovid traced the origin of spiders to the story of Arachne, a young girl so skilled at spinning and weaving that even the nymphs gazed on her with wonder. She had boasted that her skill exceeded even that of the goddess Athena. Upon hearing this, the goddess took on the shape of an old woman and went to Arachne, warning her against arrogance. When Arachne refused to retract her boast, Athena revealed herself and challenged Arachne to a contest in weaving. Even then, Arachne was not intimidated….On her loom, Athena wove pictures of mortals who had dared to measure themselves against the divinities and met their doom. On her loom, Arachne wove pictures showing the follies of gods and goddesses, especially in their affairs with mortals. Athena…became so furious that she began to beat Arachne until the young girl ran away…and tried to hang herself. 'Live,' said Athena, 'but hang forever,' and Arachne was changed into a spider suspended by a thread' (Book 4, 1-145)” (Sax 237).

Robert the Bruce

Piug, Manuel. Kiss of the Spider Woman .

Schaab, Susan. Wearing the Spider . New Canaan, CT: Galavant Press, 2007.

Sedaris, David. “April & Paris: Caught in the Web of Nature.” The New Yorker 24 March 2008: 38-41.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony . New York: Viking, 1977.

Spider Girl (Tom De Falco, Ron Frenz, et al) Issue 17 Marvel Comics June, 2008.

Swift, Jonathan. “The Battle of the Books.” In The Writings of Jonathan Swift . Ed. Robert A. Greenberg and William B. Piper. New York: Norton, 1973: 373-396.

Vinge, Vernor. A Deepness in the Sky . New York: Tor Books, 1998.

________. A Fire Upon the Deep . New York: Tor Books, 1992.

Vinge's “Spiders are the most lovable arachnids in American literature since Charlotte” (Curt Wohleber. Review in Science Fiction Book Reviews: www.scifi.com/sfw/issue99/books.htm ).

Warren, John Byrne Leicester, Lord de Tarley (1835-1905). “The
        Study of a Spider.” In Animal Poems . Selected and Edited by
        John Hollander. New York, Toronto: Everyman Library, 1994.
Wells, H. G. The Valley of the Spiders . (“Arthur's Classic Novels:

White, E. B. Charlotte's Web . Ill. Garth Williams. New York, Evanston, San Francisco, London: Harper & Row, 1952.

White, Randy Wayne. Black Widow . New York: G. P. Putnam's, 2008.

Whitman, Walt. “A Noiseless, Patient Spider.” In Animal Poems .
        Selected and Edited by John Hollander. New York and Toronto:
        Everyman Library, 1994. 222-223.

“We could scarcely hope to find a better image of the American Romantic writer, which is almost to say the American writer, than this. Isolated and secreting filament, filament, filament (think of Whitman's constantly renewed stream of notations and enumerations) to explore, to relate to, and to fill 'the vacant, vaste surrounding'. America is the 'measureless oceans of space'; the web is the private creation of the writer, constructed with a view of attaching himself somehow to reality, a world of his own making in which he can live on his own terms, assimilating and transforming what the outside world brings his way.” (Tanner 26)

Wilson, Colin. Spider World: A Quartet: Vol I: The Tower . ;Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Books, 2001.
________. Vol II: The Delta . Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Books, 2001.
________. Vol. III: The Magician . Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Books, 2001.
________. Vol. IV: Shadowland . Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Books, 2003.
Review: Kris Lawson. RAINTAXi Winter 2003: www.raintaxi.com/online/3002winter/wilson.shtml

Wu Cheng-en. Journey to the West .
“The Chinese novel Journey to the West…tells how the monk Tripitaka Tang was once captured by soider-woman…. He stopped at a mansion to ask for a vegetarian meal and was greeted by four pleasant young women, but the meal they offered turned out to be human flesh. When the monk tried to leave, they tied him with strings spun out of their navels. Only rescue by his animal companions prevented him from becoming their meal” (Sax 240).

Secondary Sources

Allen, Paula Gunn. Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman's Source Book . Boston: Beacon, 1991.
________. The Sacred Hoop: Rediscovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions . Boston: Beacon, 1986.
________. Spider Woman's Granddaughters . New York: Ballantine, 1989.

“Amazing Arachnids: Neurophilosophy”

“Art: Spider Woman.” In “Goings On About Town.” The New Yorker;30 June 2008: 8.

Bilger, Burkhard. “Spider Woman [Greta Binford].” The New Yorker;5 March 2007: 66-73.

Brown, Joseph Epps. Animals of the Soul: Sacred Animals of the Oglala Sioux . Rockport, MA and Shaftsbury, Dorset: Element,1992.

Carmean, Kelli. Spider Woman Walks This Land: Traditional Cultural Properties and the Navajo Nation . Walnut Creek, CA, New York, London, and Oxford: AltaMira Press, 2002.

Courlander, Harold. A Treasury of African Folklore: The Oral Literature, Traditions, Myths, Legends, Epics, Tales, Recollections, Wisdom Sayings, and Humor of Africa . New York: Marlowe, 1996.

Crompton, John. 1950. The Snake; The Spider . New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1987.

Curry, Andrew. “The World's First Temple?” Smithsonian November 2008: 54-68.

Fabre, Jean Henri. The Life of the Spider.
Grice, Gordon. The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predator . New York: Delacourt, 1998.

Haupt, Lyanda Lynn. Pilgrim on the great Bird Continent: The Importance of Everything and other lessons from Darwin's Lost Notebooks . New York and Boston: Little, Brown, 2006.

Hearn, Lofcadio. Japanese Fairy Tales . Mount Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1936.

Hillyard, Paul. The Book of the Spider: From Arachnophobia to the Love of the Spider . London: Hutchinson, 1994.
________. The Private Life of Spiders. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press,2007.

Hyde, Lewis. Trickster makes the World: Mischief, Myth, and Art . New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.

Lauter, Estelle. Women as Mythmakers: Poetry and Visual Art by Twentieth-Century Women . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

Lawlor, Robert. Voices of the First Day: Awakening the Aboriginal Dreamtime . Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1991.

Lee, Nathan. “Portrait of a Haunted Artist Who Befriended Giant Spiders.” The New York Times 25 June 2008 (movies.nytimes.com/2008/06/25/movies/25loui.html?ref=movies)

Leeming, David. Oxford Companion to World Mythology . Oxford University Press, 2005.

Lauck, Joanne Elizabeth. The Voice of the Infinite in the Small: Revisioning the Insect-Human Connection . Mill Spring, NC: Swan Raven. 1999; Boston: Shambala.

Mullet, G. Martin. Spider Woman Stories: Legends of the Hopi Indians . Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1979.

Niegmann, M. “Re-visioning the Spider Woman Archetype in 'Kiss of the Spider Woman.'” Journal of Analytic Psychology 49, 3(June 2004): 397-412.

O'Connor, Patrick. Latin American Fiction and the Narratives of the Perverse: Paper Dolls and Spider Women. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

“The emblematic figure of spider woman inspires his readings of homosexuality, fetishism, sadism, masochism, transvestitism…in the works of many of the greatest writers of the [19]50s, 60s, and 70s” (Robert McKee Irwin).

Patterson-Rudolph. Carol . On the Trail of Spiderwoman: Petroglytphs, Pictographs, and Myths of the Southwest . Santa Fe, NM: Ancient City Press, 1997.

Reichard, Gladys A . Spider Woman: A Story of Navajo Weavers and Chanters . New York: Macmillan, 1934.

Sax, Boria. “Spider.” The Mythical Zoo: An Encyclodedia of Animals in World Myth, Legend, and Literature . Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford, England: ABC Clio,2001: 237-243.

Schwartz, Sanford. “Daring and Disturbing.” The New York Review of Books 23 October 2008: 31-33.

“Spiders and Man” http://www.earthlife.net/chelicerata/s-man.html

“Spider-Woman (comics). Comicvine, the Comic Book Encyclodedia (http://www.comicvine.com/spider-woman/1453)
“Spider-Woman.” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_Woman)

“Spinning Spider Stories” (http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/405)

Spooner, David. “Thoreau's Insect Science.” The Insect Populated Mind: How Insects have Influenced the Evolution of Consciousness. London, Boulder, New York, Toronto, Oxford: Hamilton Books, 2005. 130-135.

Tanner, Tony. Scenes of Nature, Signs of Men . New York: Cambridge University Press,1987.

Teotihuacan Spider Woman”

Topsell, Edward and Thomas Moffett. The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents and Insects . 3 vols. New York: Da Capo, 1967 (facsimile of 1658 edition).

Vogel, Carol. “Art.” In “The Week Ahead.” The New York Times 22 June 2008: Arts and Leisure, 4

Walker, Barbara G. The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets . San Francisco et al: Harper & Row, 1983.

Wiegmann, M. “Re-visioning the Spider Woman Archetype in Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Journal of Analytic Psychology 49, no. 3(June 2004): 397-412.

Yahya, Harun. The Miracle of the Spider Book .

Prepared by: Marion W. Copeland, 128 Amherst Road, Pelham, MA 01002: