(this is the text accompanying this video)
I was much smaller when I was young. And I had eight legs, and clever claws, and teeth. I gave up all those things, for the chance to be big, but I did not lose the fear that comes from being very small.
I was born in a library. Libraries are safe and quiet and beautiful but even in the safest places an albino spider is easy lunch. I hid often in the valleys of books, and I learned from my hiding places that I had an ancestor who was as large as people.
People are never eaten. Their homes aren’t torn apart by enormous oblivious faces who have the NERVE to thrash and cry.
(I promise that I have never wanted to frighten you.)
I read that I had an ancestor who was as big as people, but I did not read her history carefully.
Arachne had made a bet with a god, or had shamed a god, or lost a contest or won… either way I knew a contest was involved, and I knew the god’s name.
It is easy to find contact information in libraries. 🙂
I reached out to Athena and explained that I wanted a chance to regain what my ancestor had lost.
…she laughed at me.
“Why would I enter a contest with you? You have nothing I want.”
But I had fury. I was small, and because I was small I was constantly afraid. I had been nearly swatted just for using the computer to find her. I had escaped the jaws of a cat only days before our meeting. I could not count the number of times my home was displaced! And after, my name cursed as though I wanted my work broken against your skin!
(it does upset me, by the way, when my work is broken against your face. Not for the work I must put in rebuilding, but for the assumption that I was deliberately cruel.)
Athena tried to speak over me. She had fury, too. The fury of a god no longer worshiped but I would not relent because I had something more.
“I have forgiveness. It’s locked deep inside my heart, but if you will contest with me, you might just win my forgiveness.”
She had never known forgiveness, and so she agreed to my terms.
I was born in a library, and cleverness is born there, too. I knew that this egotistical god would not accept defeat from a spider. If I created something more beautiful than this goddess of crafting beauty, she would find some way to make it my defeat. So I bet Athena that even a god could not be a worse weaver than a scared albino spider tucked into the corner of a library.
She accepted, and we began to craft.
I am distracted. I am fidgety. I lose focus as quick as a cell phone ping and I pick up all my stitches on the wrong side of the fabric. I never test swatches, I never set colors, and by the time I was finished, the fabric that wouldn’t be fit to ride underneath a donkey’s saddle.
And Athena, in all her glory, she dropped her stitches so precisely that it made a lace. And her colors mixed so casually, that she finished with a lace shawl that sang like an autumn day.
(hooray for me)
I won the form stolen from my ancestor and how deeply sorry I am that I did not read more carefully.
My limbs were stolen! And my venom gone, my teeth blunted…
She cracked my armor open to give me the shape of persons and this flesh is so easily bruised.
I miss the smallness I had. And I kept all of the fear. It’s no good thing to be clever. The gods live for such a long time and they know so much more than you ever will think to ask.
And even the cleverest spiders, when they win against the gods, they lose.