The spider and the promise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am


A man and his wife had been travelling for two long and difficult weeks. They had walked along the edge of deserts, through lush jungle land and across wide empty plains. Each night, they had slept under the stars and each day the wife had complained endlessly about the journey.

The man ignored her shrill voice and boring protests, his mind fixed only on getting back to the village where he had been born.

After a long day of walking, the two came to the edge of a wide ravine. The man had no idea how they were going to get across. The bottom of the ravine was hundreds of metres below them, and it would take days to find an alternative route around this vast gash in the land.

'And now what do we do?' the woman asked spitefully. 'We turn round and we go home, that's what we do. There's no way we can get to the other side - unless we fly, of course!' The woman laughed, very pleased with herself.

The man didn't know what to do. He suddenly let out a short yelp, and turned around quickly. Something or someone had tapped him on the shoulder. His eyes opened wide in disbelief as he saw a human skeleton standing right behind him.

The skull opened its mouth. 'Don't be afraid. I'm not going to harm you. I need you and you need me. I, too, want to get to the other side of this ravine. I can fly across, but only if a human, dead or alive, comes with me. I will carry you both across, and then leave you. Is it a deal?'

For a few moments, the man and the woman said nothing. They knew the skeleton must belong to a man who had recently died, and they knew that any fresh skeleton-ghost searched for human meat to put back on its bones so it might return to life. But there were two of them and only one ghost.

The man agreed to let the skeleton fly them to the other side of the ravine.

In no time at all, the three of them were standing on the opposite edge of the canyon. 'I will walk with you a while, and then I will be on my way,' said the skeleton.

After five minutes, they came to a group of dilapidated huts in a clearing. Suddenly, the woman screamed as she felt a bony hand grab the back of her neck. The next moment, the clearing was filled with rattling skeletons, all wailing and chanting for meat. The man and woman both fell to the ground in horror.

'Get up, and go gather together some wood for a fire,' screeched the skeleton that had tricked them. 'We need a fire to boil the water in the cooking pot. Hurry!'

A spider crawled from under a dead branch and asked the woman what was going on. After she'd tearfully explained the trouble they were in, the spider thought for a moment. 'I will help you,' the spider said. 'But you must promise that you and your ancestors will never ever harm a spider again. Promise me that, and you will live.'

The woman nodded, and the spider began to spin a heavy web around the ghostly skeletons chattering in the clearing. Soon, the whole space was enveloped in a dense spider's web, and the skeletons were trapped.

Vowing to keep their promise, the man and the woman ran from the clearing. They would tell their story to anyone who would listen, and then all spiders would be safe from human harm as their promise spread throughout the land.


1 Why were the man and the woman travelling?

2 What was the woman's attitude to the journey?

3 Why did they have to stop?

4 What did the skeleton promise?

5 How did the skeleton trick the man and woman?

6 How did a spider save their lives?


1 They were returning to the village where the man had been born.

2 She hated every moment.

3 They came to a canyon and could not get across.

4 It promised to fly the man and the woman to the other side.

5 It led them into a trap.

6 The spider trapped the skeletons in a web and the man and the woman escaped.