The Life of the Spider eBook

Jean Henri Fabre
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 249 pages of information about The Life of the Spider.
according to the conditions of the moment.  Place sand under her legs and the spinstress will knead concrete; refuse her that sand, or put it out of her reach, and the Spider will remain a simple silk-worker, always ready, however, to turn mason under favourable conditions.  The aggregate of things that come within the observer’s scope proves that it were mad to expect from her any further innovations, such as would utterly change her methods of manufacture and cause her, for instance, to abandon her cabin, with its two entrance-halls and its star-like tabernacle, in favour of the Banded Epeira’s pear-shaped gourd.


She is named Durand’s Clotho (Clotho Durandi, LATR.), in memory of him who first called attention to this particular Spider.  To enter on eternity under the safe-conduct of a diminutive animal which saves us from speedy oblivion under the mallows and rockets is no contemptible advantage.  Most men disappear without leaving an echo to repeat their name; they lie buried in forgetfulness, the worst of graves.

Others, among the naturalists, benefit by the designation given to this or that object in life’s treasure-house:  it is the skiff wherein they keep afloat for a brief while.  A patch of lichen on the bark of an old tree, a blade of grass, a puny beastie:  any one of these hands down a man’s name to posterity as effectively as a new comet.  For all its abuses, this manner of honouring the departed is eminently respectable.  If we would carve an epitaph of some duration, what could we find better than a Beetle’s wing-case, a Snail’s shell or a Spider’s web?  Granite is worth none of them.  Entrusted to the hard stone, an inscription becomes obliterated; entrusted to a Butterfly’s wing, it is indestructible.  ‘Durand,’ therefore, by all means.

But why drag in ‘Clotho’?  Is it the whim of a nomenclator, at a loss for words to denote the ever-swelling tide of beasts that require cataloguing?  Not entirely.  A mythological name came to his mind, one which sounded well and which, moreover, was not out of place in designating a spinstress.  The Clotho of antiquity is the youngest of the three Fates; she holds the distaff whence our destinies are spun, a distaff wound with plenty of rough flocks, just a few shreds of silk and, very rarely, a thin strand of gold.

Prettily shaped and clad, as far as a Spider can be, the Clotho of the naturalists is, above all, a highly talented spinstress; and this is the reason why she is called after the distaff-bearing deity of the infernal regions.  It is a pity that the analogy extends no further.  The mythological Clotho, niggardly with her silk and lavish with her coarse flocks, spins us a harsh existence; the eight-legged Clotho uses naught but exquisite silk.  She works for herself; the other works for us, who are hardly worth the trouble.

Project Gutenberg
The Life of the Spider from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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