Bruce and the Spider
At the risk of being anachronistic, you can see the modern day tabloid versions of the headline: EERIE ARACHNID INSPIRES WANNABE ROYAL...KING THANKS EIGHT LEGGED FRIEND FOR INSPIRATION. Everyone sort of knows the legend of Robert Bruce and the spider and it is sort of a shame to delve into the tale too deep and risk spoiling the charm. The basic story is that the exhausted king, on the run from the English after being crowned at Scone in 1305, was near breaking point. He took refuge (the story usually says in a cave) and watched a spider repeatedly rebuild its webs after it collapsed several times (six times, some say), giving him the resolve and courage to muster his strength and fight back once again against his foes. Since that time, it is advised, anyone with the blood of Bruce in their veins is committing a crime if ever they harm a spider.
Those who might be foolhardy enough to want to visit eevery site whetre Robert Bruce encountered his inspirational spider would be kept busy for quite some time. Here are some of the alleged sites where the story took place, in no particular order, most of them in the west of Scotland, with a proponderance in Bruce's home territory of Carrick, Ayrshire:
The Wrong Spider Man?
I spied a spider clymbing by his webb the height of an trie and at 12 several times I perceived his web brokeand the spider fel to the gound. But the 13 tyme he attempted and clambe up the tree.
Like the spider story, Douglas - although a bona fide hero - has been magnified in his deeds by tradition. Sir Walter Scott, who had a hand in weaving a version of the Bruce/Spider fable is his Tales of the Grandfather, has Douglas heroically perishing while fighting the Moors in Spain (in 1330), throwing the silver casket containing the heart of his beloved Bruce into the throng of the enemy as his last act and uttering, 'Go first into the battle, brave heart, as ever ye have done.'
Foreign Parallels (Worldwide Web of Folklore?)
Many good legends, especially those with a simple moral, have variants found in lands far and wide. Strangely, there are no exact replicants of the Bruce/spider story, but there are other tales associating spiders with famous men. When Frederick II, the Great (king of Prussia 1740-8), was at Sans Souci he went to fetch a drink. Momentarily distracted he left his cup to one side and when he returned found that a spider had fallen into it. he called for a fresh cup and at the same moment heart a gun shot. His cook, who had tried to poison his drink, shot himself. A ceiling in the place was decorated with a spider to commemorate the event. When Mohammed was hiding in a cave from his enemies, the Koreishites, at the entrance there miraculously appeared an acacia tree. A wood pigeon nestled in its branches and a spider had woven a large web between the tree and the cave mouth. Mohammed's enemies were deceived and passed onwards. An allied story is told of David who was saved by the agents of Saul when a spider covered the mouth of a cave in the desert of Ziph. A 12th century yarn has the japanese hero Yoritomo being saved in a similar manner while he laid hidden in a hollow.
A Fugitive King