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Why is the bee busy and the spider sullen?

The Story of the Widow and her two Children.
There is still another story about the origin of the bee, totally different from those told hitherto.

ONCE upon a time there lived a very poor widow. She had only two children, a son and a daughter. When they had grown up, seeing that their mother could no longer provide for them, they left her house and went each one his or her way to find work. The girl went to a place where they were building houses, and there she worked day and night carrying bricks and mortar to the builders. The son went to a weaver and learnt there to weave clothes.

               Not long after that, the mother grew very ill, and knowing that her end was approaching, she sent for her children to come to her. When the message reached the daughter, she was carrying a heavy load of bricks in her apron.

               She did not hesitate for a moment, and saying, "I must not leave my poor mother alone," she dropped the load of bricks and ran home as fast as she could, and there she found her mother on the point of death.

               When the message reached the son, he was sitting at his weaving. He said, "Let her die. I cannot give up my work. Here I am, and here I stay."

               And there he stayed quite alone, working away, surly and grumbling all the time.

               When the mother saw her daughter, who had left everything and had come to her, she raised herself on her bed and, kissing her on the forehead, blessed her, saying: "Daughter, thou hast been sweet to me and a joy in my last hour. Mayst thou always be sweet to all."

               When she heard what her son had said, and why he had not come, she cursed him and said: "As thou hast said so shall it go with thee. Day and night shalt thou be weaving incessantly and never see the joy of it: what thou doest, others shall destroy. In a corner shalt thou sit, far away from everybody, and hated by everybody."

               And with these words she died, and her blessing and curse both came true. The girl was changed into the busy active bee, whose honey sweetens everything, and of whose wax candles are made to be lit before the ikons of the saints and in the churches, and put by the head of the dying and the dead. The brother was changed into the spider, who sits alone and sullen and spiteful in the corner and weaves his webs, never finishing: whoever sees a web brushes it away, and whoever can, kills the spider.


To this story I have not been able to find a parallel. A different kind of curse seems to rest on the spider, according to the legend of the "Lady Mary and the Spider," No. 54.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why is the bee busy and the spider sullen?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

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