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The Spider and The Fly - New Spins On An Old Tale

Updated on July 22, 2014

Halloween Enrichment: Literature, Music, Art, Science,and Math Activities

Halloween provides teachers an opportunity to use fun enrichment activities in their classes. Spiders have often given people the shivery creepy crawlies, and for good reason. One poem written almost 200 years ago about spiders and their prey has become a classic in literature.

"The Spider And The Fly" warns against trusting those who use flattery and charm to hide evil intentions. First published in 1829 by Mary Howitt, and included with the Aesop morality fables in 1912, the timeless advice applies as much today as when Howitt wrote it for her children.

Creative people since then have put their own "spin" on the story to enrich our experience with books, music, math, and art activities.

TEACHERS: Here are some activities and resources you can use to expand your spidery Halloween fun, become familiar with the classic tale, and help your students to become "Webmasters."

- READ the original poem.

- LIST some of the words or techniques of flattery the spider uses on the fly.

- LEARN about Spider webs.

- LOOK at the Caldecott Medal Book by Tony DiTerlizzi.

- LISTEN to Kristen Lawrence's song, "Arachnitect."

- DRAW or CUT OUT your own spider web.

- SOLVE the famous "Spider and the Fly" math problem.

The illustration is by Arthur Rackham for The Spider and the Fly, from Aesops Fables, published by Heinemann, 1912.

The Poem - The Spider And The Fly

Mary Howitt (1799 - 1888)

Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,

'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;

The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,

And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there."

Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "to ask me is in vain,

For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."

"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;

Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the Spider to the Fly.

"There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,

And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!"

Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "for I've often heard it said,

They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, " Dear friend what can I do,

To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?

I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;

I'm sure you're very welcome -- will you please to take a slice?"

"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "kind Sir, that cannot be,

I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!"

"Sweet creature!" said the Spider, "you're witty and you're wise,

How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!

I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,

If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself."

"I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you 're pleased to say,

And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day."

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,

For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:

So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,

And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.

Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,

"Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;

Your robes are green and purple -- there's a crest upon your head;

Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!"

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,

Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;

With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,

Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue --

Thinking only of her crested head -- poor foolish thing! At last,

Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.

He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,

Within his little parlour -- but she ne'er came out again!

And now dear little children, who may this story read,

To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:

Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,

And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

* * * * *


1. List some of the techniques and words the spider used to flatter and lure the fly into his web.

2. What human emotions and actions do the Spider and Fly exhibit?

3. What was the author cautioning the reader about?

The Book - The Spider And The Fly - Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi

Some literary themes are timeless and are based on human nature. This is evidenced by Mary Howitt's poem written the turn of the nineteenth century to her children, warning them (as every good mother should) of the often-evil intentions of those who use flattery. Artist Tony DiTerlizzi drew his inspiration from the Golden Age of the twenties and thirties. The naïve young fly in her beads and flapper dress are no match for the wily and sophisticated spider with his flattering words as he invites her into his parlour.

The clever illustrations brought the artist a Caldecott Honor Award in 2003.

The Spider and the Fly
The Spider and the Fly

This charming Caldecott Award winning book is illustrated with a flapper-dressed fly and a slicked-back sinister spider. Kids of all ages can learn from the timeless fable.


The Music - Arachnitect - Kristen Lawrence

Halloween composer Kristen Lawrence's "Arachnitect" presents a web-building spider song a' la "The Spider And The Fly." A wicked little harpsichord spindling through it portends flickering candles and a creepy mausoleum. Spiders and flies, oh, my! Electric guitar and bass create quirky spider sounds and also give the song its rock edge. Singing spiders swing from strings during the interludes. Soprano and Alto singing flies buzz in harmony, and full strings spin silky harmonies throughout. A chase scene across the web after a fly brings to mind something from a Keystone Cops silent film, followed by the self-satisfied spider with his prey.

Sing along with the spider as he carries his silken package back to snack. La la la la.

Science - Spider Web Facts

Did You Know.....

- Arachne means "spider" in Greek.

- All spiders produce silk but not all spiders spin webs.

- Spiders are able to spin both sticky and non-sticky silk.

- Spider webs are designed to catch food.

- Spiders do not have good eyesight, and have to use other spider senses and techniques to catch their prey.

- When the spider feels a vibration on the web, it scurries to catch and wrap their victim in silk, turning it around and around until it is a tidy package. Then the spider goes for the kill, injecting poison with it's fangs that turns the insect's guts into liquid. The spider then sucks out the juice. Yummm! A fly "smoothie."

Webs come in different designs:

- An Orb web is the most common type of spider web. It looks like a wheel with spokes with outer frame silk lines, spoke-like lines, and circular (spiral) lines to connect them.

- Tangled spider webs consist of a shapeless jumble of threads. Common house spiders, as well as black and brown widow spiders, make these types of webs.

- Sheet webs are flat sheets of silk stretched between blades of grass or branches. A net is also spun above the web. When an insect hits the silk threads, it bounces into the sticky sheet web--like a trapeze artist when he falls onto his safety net. Except there is no safety for the fly!

- The Horizontal Thread web - Some spiders sit on a horizontal silk thread they have spun while waiting for its prey. The Bolas spider spins another single line with a sticky tip that dangles from its leg. When a tasty morsel comes near, the spider swings the sticky strand in a circle and captures its prey, pulling it in like a cowboy using his lasso. Get along, little spider!

Now... DRAW and design your own spider web!


Art Project - Create An Origami Spider Web From a Black Trash Bag - Easy to understand tutorial

Supplies Needed: Black Trash Bag and Scissors

Clear visuals on how to cut an origami spiderweb from a trash bag. Web is large enough for classroom or haunted house!

With these easy directions, you can create webs of any size.

Math - The Spider And The Fly - Problem and Solution

Take your chance at solving the famous math problem.

Use geometry to find the quickest way for the spider to get to the fly.

Halloween Music - Halloween Carols - Kristen Lawrence

Every Halloween activity needs good music to stimulate the imagination. The music for these albums are based on Halloween history, traditions, folk tunes and poetry.

An "Arachnitect" is a spider who builds his web. Listen for the section in the music as the spider chases his prey. Who won - the spider or the fly? What do spiders do after they catch the fly?

Arachnitect - From the Halloween Carols
Arachnitect - From the Halloween Carols

"Arachnitect" - Vocal

"Blood Waltz" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"The Ghost of John - Bare Bones Version" - Vocal

"The Ghost of John - Dead Composers Version" - Vocal

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"
Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"

"The Raven" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"The Ghost of John - Bare Bones Version" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"The Ghost of John - Dead Composers Version - Instrumental Version

A Broom With A View - From The Halloween Carols
A Broom With A View - From The Halloween Carols

"Mostly Ghostly" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"A Broom With A View" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"Cats In The Catecombs" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"Vampire Empire" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"Souling Songs" - All Hallows and Samhain Versions

"Sleeping Dust - Death Lullaby" - Vocal

"Dark Glass" - Vocal

Vampire Empire - Radio Edits From The Halloween Carols
Vampire Empire - Radio Edits From The Halloween Carols

Radio Edits of Halloween Carols -

from Arachnitect and A Broom With A View

Dark Glass - Instrumental Version


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