(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“And now the people where gripped by the ancient fear that the spider might carry off an unbaptized infant, the pledge of their old pact. The woman was beside herself, she had no trust in God, so her heart was all more filled with hatred and revenge.”
In a farmhouse along the Swiss countryside, a christening was taking place. The guests remarked how beautiful the house was except for an ugly jagged black window post that was too short for the window. The grandfather tried to make an excuse as to why it was never replaced, but couldn’t satisfy one cousin’s curiosity. He insisted that he heard unsettling rumors about its story and why it was still there. That is when the grandfather told the guests about what took place in this village over one hundred years earlier…
Swiss pastor and author, Jeremias Gotthelf weaves so much fear and suspense in this 1842 novella, that fans of classic horror will be glued to the pages, just like the guests were spellbound, listening to grandfather’s chilling story. Gotthelf reminds the reader of how evil and merciless humans can be, and how most are possessed by weakness and cowardice, as well as “vainglory and pride”.
Is this an allegory? What is Goffhelf trying to tell us? I have some ideas, but after reading the diverse opinions of numerous 19th and 20th century writers on this story, let’s just agree that The Black Spider— at barely over 100 pages–will make for many hours of stimulating discussion.
I was looking for the perfect book to read as we approach the day of legends and horror; and thanks to the recent release of this translated version from the New York Review Book Classics, I will be thinking about the eerie story of The Black Spider for days to come.