Robert the Bruce and a Spider ~ Legend Stories for Kids
HUNDREDS of years ago there was a king of Scotland and his name was Robert the Bruce. It was a good thing that he was both brave and wise, because the times in which he lived were wild and dangerous. The King of England was at war with him, and had led a great army into Scotland to drive him out of the land and to make Scotland a part of England.
Battle after battle he had fought with England. Six times Robert the Bruce had led his brave little army against his foes. Six times his men had been beaten, until finally they were driven into flight. At last the army of Scotland was entirely scattered, and the king was forced to hide in the woods and in lonely places among the mountains.
One rainy day, Robert the Bruce lay in a cave, listening to the rainfall outside the cave entrance. He was tired and felt sick at heart, ready to give up all hope. It seemed to him that there was no use for him to try to do anything more.
As he lay thinking, he noticed a spider over his head, getting ready to weave her web. He watched her as she worked slowly and with great care. Six times she tried to throw her thread from one edge of the cave wall to another. Six times her thread fell short.
"Poor thing!" said Robert the Bruce. "You, too, know what it's like to fail six times in a row."
But the spider did not lose hope. With still more care, she made ready to try for a seventh time. Robert the Bruce almost forgot his own troubles as he watched, fascinated. She swung herself out upon the slender line. Would she fail again? No! The thread was carried safely to the cave wall, and fastened there.
"Yes!" cried Bruce, "I, too, will try a seventh time!"
So he arose and called his men together. He told them of his plans, and sent them out with hopeful messages to cheer the discouraged people. Soon there was an army of brave men around him. A seventh battle was fought, and this time the King of England was forced to retreat back to his own country.
It wasn't long before England recognized Scotland as an independent country with Robert the Bruce as its rightful king.
And to this very day, the victory and independence of Scotland is traced to a spider who kept trying again and again to spin her web in a cave and inspired the king of Scotland, Robert the Bruce.
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"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.