the cunning spider
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DESCRIPTIONa graphic children's story based on the fable by Richard Jefferies ' Wood Magic'
Written by Hilda SheehanArtwork by Jill Carter
cunning spidercunning spider
Published by Blue Gate Books
HS – For Michael, Aidan & Finley
JC – For Freddie, Finley & Thomas
Grateful acknowledgement to
Toby Carter, Susan Clarke, Tony Hillier,
Matt Holland, Nathan James, John
Richardson, Jean & Tom Saunders,
Finley & Mike Sheehan
First published in 2007 by Blue Gate Books
26 Mannington Lane, Swindon, SN5 7AT
Text copyright © 2007 by Hilda Sheehan
Artwork copyright © 2007 by Jill Carter
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction
in whole or in part in any form
Book design by Susan Clarke
Manufactured in Swindon by Warpton Creative,
Citrus Creative and Swin City Comics
The Richard Jefferies Society
Honorable Secretary, Jean Saunders
Pear Tree Cottage, Longcot, Faringdon, SN7 7SS
An old toad looked out from his damp holeunder a rotten seed box sheltered by arhubarb bush. He was always watching;blinking and winking and thinking.
Blinking andwinking and
thinking I am.
ONE SUMMER …
The toad noticed that a spider had spun a remarkableweb upon the iron railings at the back of the garden.The spider was catching a great number of flies.
I am the cleverest and most
cunning spider in thiswhole garden …
Cunning & clever and ever so crafty,
I am, yes I am!
The toad could not stopthinking of all the fliestangled in that incredibleweb. Flies that should beon the end of his long,sticky tongue.
I don’t like this spider with her cleverspinning and crafty
The toad climbedout of his houseand into thesunshine …
He liked the sun even lessthan he liked the spider.
Angry … jealous and very, very hungry.
I’ll visit that spider andher web of flies.
Oh rhubarb! I have to go out in
Day after day he sat watching the spider;blinking and winking and thinking.
The toad waddled alongthe grass to the spider’sweb, popping and croakingall out of puff. It seemed a very long way in the heat.
He stopped beneath thespider’s amazing web andlooked up at the deliciousand entangled flies.
His mouth began to waterand he felt so hot and dryin the sun that he becameeven more angry andjealous of the cunningspider.
The spider saw the toad beneath her greatweb and began to tauntand tease him with crueland cunning words.
Well, look who has come out of his damp hole …it’s old warty back! From up
here you look wartier and uglier than ever!
I’m saying nothing … just
going to blink andwink and think.
Have you come to admire me toad? Oh how
smart you must think I am tohave all these flies. Even waspsand bees are tied up so tightly
they cannot sting or wriggletheir little bodies. Cunning and
clever and ever so crafty I am, yes I am!
Oh indeed you are. I have been admiring you allsummer long and have comefar across the grass in the
hot sun to tell yousomething.
Tell me something! How dare you! I know everything!
Go back to your damp and gloomyhole, for you are spoiling
Oh I am sorry madam, you are so right. It is true that you know
everything about the sun and the moon, the earthand all its creatures, but you would hardly take
notice of the small world of a poor old toad.
Of course fine lady; I’ll not bother you again.
I should have known you kneweverything about everything.
I will return to the cool of my rhubarb.
Well, as I said, I know everything about
Toad turned to make his journey back home,blinking and winking andthinking as he went …
As you have come all this way and
carelessly almost dried up in the heat of the sun, I will allow you to tell me. But be quick! I have
webs to weave and flies to catch.
So why haven’t you eaten them up yourself
silly old toad?
Well, while sitting in my hole under the rhubarb, I
have noticed such a lot of flies going into the summerhouse and
onto the little round window. It is quite black
Because I can’t climb up there, dear lady. If only I was clever like you, with
eight strong legs and a fabulous web.
The toad bowed to the spider andturned again to go back home.
Blinking heck. What is that spider
The toad settled in his holeunder the rhubarb, watchingand waiting; blinking andwinking and thinking aboutwhat the spider might do.
Darkness came, bringing the moon andthe stars to shine and sparkle uponthe great web. The spider thoughtabout all the marvellous thingsshe knew about her world.
As she driftedoff to sleep, shebegan to dreamof all those fliesfrom thesummer housegetting caughtin her web,twiddling andwriggling, juicyand sweet.
When daylight came, the spiderleft her web to creep to thesummerhouse. She looked up atthe round window. Just as thetoad had told her, it was blackwith busy, juicy flies …
I hope that old toad doesn’t
but the spider was tooproud to go inside …
Cunning and cleverand ever so crafty
I am yes I am.
Mine, all mine! No one else will get a single one,
especially that silly old andugly toad. Yum, yum. I will
eat every single one!
The spider began to eat allthe flies quickly and greedily;fly after fly after fly.
The spider hurriedinside thesummerhouse andbegan to spin a web.When finished, it wasthe biggest and mostamazing web she hadever spun. And ittrapped more flies than she had seen inher whole life.
… until a splendid bluebottle landed on the summerhousewindow and made such atremendous buzzing that she could not help herself.
After a while, the spider wasso full and bulging with fliesthat she could no longer callout words of being cunningand clever. The spider wassick, bloated and could noteven move.
LATER THAT DAY …
A robin came to the iron railings and perched on thetop. He looked into the summerhouse window andcould see a big juicy spider with a belly full of flies.
The robin flew inside the summerhouse and snappedthe spider into his beak!
The old toad watchedfrom his hole; blinking andwinking and thinking …
So many times had toad seen spiders climb up tothat round summerhouse window never to return …
I knew that spider would come
to a sticky end.
Cunning and cleverand ever so crafty,
I am, yes I am!
It was … ‘a very pleasant garden: all grass anddaisies, and apple trees, and narrow patcheswith flowers and fruit trees one side, a low boxhedge and a ha-ha, where you can see the highmoving grass quite underneath you; and a roundsummer-house in the corner, painted as blueinside as a hedge-sparrow’s egg is outside.’
Richard Jefferies, 1881, Wood Magic
The Victorian writer Richard Jefferieswas born at Coate Farm, Swindon. Heis best known for his many writingson nature, rural life and agriculture.Growing up on a small dairy farm,Richard inherited his father’s
passionate love of nature and spent histime roaming and playing in the local
fields, woods and hills. The children’sclassics, Bevis and Wood Magic drew upon
Jefferies’ own adventures and imagination as a boy growing upin the North Wiltshire countryside. The Cunning Spider was basedupon a tale told by the toad to young Bevis in Wood Magic
published in 1881. In the fable, young Bevis talks to nature and allthe creatures of the fields and woods have their stories to tell.
Richard Jefferies wrote in The Story of my Heart, ‘How pleasantit would be each day to think, today I have done something thatwill render future generations more happy. The very thought wouldmake this hour sweeter.’
Hilda Sheehan, writer, and Jill Carter, artist, were commissionedby the Richard Jefferies Society to create a fresh adaptation ofan extract from Wood Magic. This comic storybook bringsJefferies’ works alive through playful words and imaginativeartwork, inspiring young readers to enter the real and imaginedenvirons of Coate.
For opening times and further details please call or visit
The Richard Jefferies House and MuseumMarlborough RoadCoateSwindonSN3 6AAtelephone 01793 466561 or 01793 783040
Richard Jefferies 1848–87