A Story From: Scotland
Read Time: ["3 to 5mins"]
For Ages: 8 to 10yrs., 12 to 14yrs.
A defeated Scottish king is inspired by a spider. (from Scotland)
If You Like This Story You Will Love:
"Bruce and the Spider," from Favorite Tales of Long Ago, retold by James Baldwin (E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.: New York, 1955), pp. 18-20. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 55-6511
Adapted by Elaine Lindy ©1998. All rights reserved.
Robert the Bruce, known as Robert I after becoming king of Scotland, was one of the greatest kings of Scottish history. His achievement in rallying the Scottish nation behind him in resistance to the English is all the more remarkable by his lack of resources at the time of his revolt in 1306. The revolt was defeated, Bruce's lands were confiscated and he became a fugitive. The story of his wanderings is very much embroidered with traditions and legends: the best known is the tale of his watching the spider while he was in hiding on Rathlin Island (now in Northern Ireland), and drawing inspiration from the perseverance of the spider in spinning her web. Gradually he recruited followers again, and in 1314 won at Bannockburn the greatest victory that Scotland had ever won or was to win over England. Fourteen years later Bruce secured a treaty with England recognizing the independence of Scotland and his right to the throne.
The following poem about Robert the Bruce and the Spider is from To Read & to Tell, edited by Norah Montgomery (Arco Publishing Co., Inc. New York, 1964):
When Bruce, King of Scotland, was getting the worst
Of the war he was waging with Edward the First;
When most of his friends had been captured or slain,
And the sky of Scotland looked very like rain;
When he spent his days hiding in bushes and trees,
Getting thorns in his fingers and cuts on his knees,
And when nothing could lighten the gloom he was feeling -
He lay in a cave and looked at the ceiling.
He stared at the ceiling with thoughts that were black,
Till a spidery spider came out of a crack,
A spidery spider all bulging with thread,
Which she started to spin on the beam overhead.
She spun the web once, but the spider-thread broke;
She spun the thread twice - Bruce's interest awoke;
She spun the web three times with pluck unavailing;
She spun the thread four times but still went on failing.
She spun the web five times - "My goodness!" cried Bruce,
"Yon spidery spider must see it's no use!
O Spidery, spider, it's plan as a pike
We two are as like as two peas are alike!"
She spun the web six times - "How now!" cried the Scot,
"Don't you know when you're beaten?" The spider did not.
But calmly proceeded, as patient as ever,
To start on an obstinate seventh endeavor.
She hung and she swung and she swayed in the air,
While Bruce for the Spider could not help but stare -
Then he whooped with delight and he sprang to his feet,
For from one beam to another the web hung complete!
With hope he was filled and with courage he burned.
"O spider!" he said, "What a lesson I've learned!
Dear Scotland! Of English invaders I'll rid it!"
Then Bruce sallied forth and at Bannockburn did it.