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Rated: E · Short Story · Children's · #1568482
Overcoming fear, two woodland creatures work together to survive the Hobgoblyns.
“The Sow, the Spider, and the Hobgoblyns’ Boots”

In which Professor Proot teaches:

A number of natural enemies of spiders

Why Hobgoblyn’s have enormous feet

What the Wiggling Willies are

A Bog’s favorite food

A reason to like Shimmers

If I were to ask, by show of hands, how many of you like spiders, would there be any raised at all? Do you shudder at the thought of eight hairy legs and two-dozen eyes on a body bigger than a dinner plate? Now, if this sounds unlike any spider you have ever seen, then let me tell you the tale of the Shimmer Thread Spiders of Avalon.

In Avalon, just as I am sure it is in your town, spiders are feared to the point that many of the magical folk would rather squash them with a shoe than simply shoo them away. The spiders, of course, think this is most unfair. After all, they are the ones who trap the buzzing bluebottles and noisy houseflies. Why, if it were not for spiders, flies would have the run of the place.

Spiders were made the way they are so that people would leave them alone, and since their favorite feast is a fat fester fly, it is unlikely that you would have to make a place at the dinner table for them, if you were so inclined. Spiders would not come anyway, unless everybody at the table promised to put their shoes in a locked cupboard and to not take them out until after dessert was served.

Shoes, as you may know, are a spider’s natural enemy.

Fire is also one of the spider’s most feared foes, and that is where this tale begins. One day a Dragon, hunting for food, inadvertently set the woods ablaze with a blast of Dragon fire. Now this particular piece of woodland was the home of a spider named Araniella. As spiders go, Araniella was not particularly large, nor was she particularly frightful to look at. She was a weaving spider, and as those of you who study such things will know, weaving spiders spend their days creating wonderful webs with which to trap insects for dinner. Since this particular type of spider had hairs that shimmered through all the colors of the rainbow, they were known as Shimmers. Not only did the spider changed colors but so did the webs they weaved. Araniella was, like all Shimmers, pretty. What I mean by pretty is, pretty in a hairy sort of way. However, because they were small and colorful, Shimmers were the favorite sport of Hobgoblyns, who took great pleasure in bashing the spiders with their huge hobnailed boots (which is why, as you might have guessed, they are called ‘hob’ Goblyns.)

Now, before I continue, it would be most unfair of me to speak of Hobgoblyns without telling you a little about these creepy creatures. Like all Goblyns, Hobgoblyns are sickly green in color, with crooked, bendy limbs that look as though they go in all the wrong directions. Their face is a cross between a bulldog and a bug-nosed bat, which is to say it is flat and not at all pretty. They have big, pointy ears and little horns atop their heads, and nasty, crooked teeth. The only good thing that can be said of Hobgoblyns is that they are cobblers by trade and make the most wonderful shoes. If you were fortunate enough to find a pair of Hobgoblyn shoes, why, it would be fair to say that yours were the most comfortable feet around. Hobgoblyns loved their boots and tromped about wherever they went, squashing things--especially spiders--beneath the knobby tread.

Now, those of you who have traveled Avalon will surely say that this cannot be true. “Professor Proot,” you will complain, “how is it that Hobgoblyns are shod, for surely their feet are too large even for the most careful cobblers.” I would say to you that this is correct but that it was not always so, and I will explain the reason for this is a short while. If you should meet a Hobgoblyn in the meantime, however, do not ask him about his feet. Hobgoblyns hate to tell the tale.

Hobgoblyns also hate spiders. Now hate is one of those words that should only be taken out for certain occasions. It is never proper to use it when speaking of another person. For example, you must never say that you hate your little brother because he ate the last of the licorice allsorts, even though this would be a most dastardly thing to do. It is proper, however, to say that you hate to eat Brussels sprouts because there is nothing good to say about Brussels sprouts. One must be very careful when using such words.

Hobgoblyns know this, and to say they hate spiders is really to say they hate the Wiggling Willies, and it is always proper to hate the Wiggling Willies. It is one of the great misfortunes of life that where you have spiders you also have the Wiggling Willies. How so, you ask? Why, imagine how you feel when you are awakened from your favorite dream to find a spider crawling through your hair. How about that most wiggly of moments when, after trekking through the Darkened Woods, you take a spider web smack in the face. That feeling, at that moment, is the Wiggling Willies running up and down your spine and has nothing really to do with spiders. If there is anything more to say of Wiggling Willies and spiders, I do not know what it is.

Therefore, Hobgoblyns would bash the spiders with their boots whenever they could, and because of this there came a time when Araniella was the last of her kind. However, she had a secret, for on her belly she carried ten little sacks of babies. If only she could bide her time and hide from the clobbering Hobgoblyns, why, the Shimmers might yet survive.

At this moment, however, Hobgoblyns were the last of her worries. As I mentioned, a Dragon had set the woods afire. Araniella, being a spider, could not outrun the flames. She sat on a branch and wept at her fate. A falling tear landed upon the head of a fleeing Sow, and the Sow stopped to see what the matter was.

“I am the last of my kind,” Araniella said. “I fear the flames will feast on my babies, and the Shimmers will be no more.”

The Sow took pity upon the spider, because the Sow, too, carried babies in her belly.

“Climb upon my back,” she said, “and I will carry you to safety.”

Araniella was not used to such kindness. “Are you sure,” she asked. “For I am a spider, and most creatures fear spiders.”

The Sow smiled. “I am a pig,” she replied, “so I know what it is to be looked down upon, but because I am also a creature of the woodlands I do not fear spiders, only Hobgoblyns.”

Araniella, of course, agreed that Hobgoblyns were to be feared, and so she climbed atop the Sow’s back and was carried to safety.

“One day,” she promised the Sow, “I will repay your kindness for saving my children.”

“Fill the woods with Shimmers,” the Sow said as she left. “That will be payment enough.”

And so it was that Araniella nurtured her babies. She taught them to weave webs the color of leaves and mosses and lichens, so that they could live out of sight from the clobbering Hobgoblyns and flourish.

One day, Araniella was disturbed by a frightful sound of clumping boots on the forest floor. “Hobgoblyns,” she cried to her children, and they skittered away to hide. On a ridge, Araniella spied the Sow, and behind her a party of Hobgoblyns on the Hunt. The Sow, however, was slowed down because behind her were three little piglets, all pink with black splotches.

“Help me,” the Sow cried. “My babies cannot outrun the Hobgoblyns on the Hunt, and I fear we will soon be bacon for their breakfast pots.”

Araniella knew these woods well. “You must divert the Hobgoblyns on the Hunt. Head to the river and along the muddy path. They will see your tracks and wish to follow, but their boots will stick in the mud.”

“But what about my babies?” the Sow cried. “They are tired, and their little feet make them so slow.”

“Once, you saved me and my babies,” Araniella reminded her. “It is time my debt was repaid. Now go, there is little time. Do not worry about your babies, for they will be fine.”

The Sow, comforted by Araniella’s words, told her children to stay with the spiders, which they did.

“Quickly, children,” Araniella called out to her babies, “we must save the piglets. Gather around me and hear what we must do.”

From every corner of every tree, from the leaf litter on the forest floor to the burrows dug into the muddy ways, Shimmers came by the thousands until the forest was carpeted with them. They listened to Araniella’s plan then did exactly as they were told.

When the Hobgoblyns came to Araniella’s woods, they saw the biggest spider’s web they had ever seen. There, dangling in the middle of the web, were three piglets wrapped in cocoons. The Hobgoblyns were disgusted at the sight, and vowed to return that very night to rid the woods of the Shimmers who had built the web. First they would catch the Sow. They spied her by the river and gave chase. Just as Araniella had predicted, the Hobgoblyns’ boots stuck in the mud. As any of you who have stepped in a bog will know, bogs eat boots and this was a hungry bog. It slorped and slurped and sucked the boots right off the feet of the Hobgoblyns until they were unshod. Left with bare feet, they slinked off home without their meal, but vowed to return.

The Sow, returned to Araniella and rejoiced at the fact that the spiders had saved her children. It was at this moment that a Tree Sprite, seeing what had unfolded, appeared before them.

“Yours is a heart as pure as gold,” the Sprite told the spider. “For this, I will grant you Two Favors.”

Araniella thought for a moment, then spoke. “Shimmers are so small. I wish that we were larger and more fearsome, so that Hobgoblyns would leave us alone.”

“Ah,” said the Sprite, “this is something I cannot do, for this is how you were made. But I can enchant your hairs so any creature who looks upon you with malice will see a spider so huge and frightening that it will want nothing but a clear path down which to escape.” The Tree Sprite waved its hands and spoke its magic, and it was done. “Now, ask your Final Favor.”

Araniella thought for a moment, and said, “were it not for the Sow, the Shimmers would be no more. If it is possible, I would ask that the Sow be allowed to take my Favor.”

The Sprite, seeing that this was more evidence of a golden heart, allowed this.

“My only wish is that my family be free from Hobgoblyns on the Hunt.”

The Sprite thought about this for a while, and then, looking to the bog, came up with an answer. It waved its hands, spoke the magic, and it was done. When the Hobgoblyns returned to finish the spiders, they stepped onto the floor of Araniella’s woods and the magic of the Tree Sprite took hold. Suddenly, their feet began to bulge and grow. The Hobgoblyns howled with pain, but their feet swelled in their boots until the seams began to rip and tear. As I have said, Hobgoblyns are cobblers, and darned good ones too, and the seams on Hobgoblyn cobbling are not quick to tear. The howling could be heard throughout the forest, and when it was finished the Hobgoblyns’ feet were swollen to three times their normal size.

Angry at what had happened to their feet, the Goblyns picked up the soles of their horribly hobnailed boots and turned on the Shimmers. Again, the magic of the Tree Sprite took hold and before them, the Goblyns saw not the pretty little shimmers, but huge, carnivorous Gobbler spiders which, as you may know, are the most fearsome spiders in all of Avalon. The Hobgoblyns screeched with fright and fled the forest.

Never again would a Shimmer taste the sole of a Hobgoblyn’s boot.

“Thank you, Tree Sprite,” Araniella said. “You have given us all we could wish for.”

The Tree Sprite, however, pitied the spiders and that they were feared for no reason. “The Shimmers are free from the malicious,” it said, “but I will grant you a third favor. I will give the Shimmers a reason for the peoples of Avalon to like them, and to value them.” With that, the Tree Sprite waved its hands and spoke its magic, and it was done.

From that day forward, the web of the Shimmer became the most prized thread in all of Avalon. Stronger than steel, lighter than a breeze, and more valuable than a Gnome’s whiskers, Shimmer Thread can be had by any without a fear of spiders or thoughts of malice toward them.

If you go into Araniella’s forest in search of Shimmer Thread, however, it might be best if you also leave your shoes behind.

© Copyright 2009 Limeydawg (limeydawg at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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