Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My son is in 1st grade and reading pretty independently, but yesterday's book, The Spider and the Fly, was a bit out of his range. I don't mind reading the books he brings home. He loves anything scary or strange, and I often enjoy the books as much as he does. This one seems especially relevant for me at this point.

The illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi are exquisite, done in the style of a silent movie, and add so much to the original poem that I must recommend you give it a look the next time you're in the library.

I copied the original poem (no copyright issues; it's in the public domain) from Storynory, which also features a good dramatic reading if you prefer to listen. As you read along, ask yourself, "Am I the fly?"

Text of The Spider and the fly by Mary Howitt (1799 to 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 have many curious things to show you when you are there.”

“Oh no, no,” said the 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 that 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 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 have a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf;
If you 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 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 as 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 heed;
Unto an evil counsellor close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.

{ 7 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I've always loved that poem. I've only heard it once or twice, but it stayed with me.

    Yeah ... yeah, I gotta be fly. I'm so fly.

    ... Wait, that came out wrong ... .

  2. Really that's kind of a disturbing poem. Lots of imagery that implies such cheerful concepts as rape, pedophilia, and murder. :)

  3. Wow, I remember that. It's a good lesson. A bit much for a 6yr-old, and probably will only serve to make a male child want to watch spiders eat flies...

    What did he think?

  4. He thought it had cool, creepy pictures. And he liked the voices I used, and the danger aspect. The lesson, of course, went over his head. :)

  5. I have been the fly. Not anymore, however. :D

  6. Okay, I am now creeped out for the day.

    I took this lesson very seriously as a child, but perhaps not to heart.

  7. I didn't realize you were blogging again! I'm glad! I'll be back!


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