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8th December, The Spider & The Cave

December 8, 2011
by Paul Bommer

When I was a child, my father, who is Polish, would tell me a traditional tale that he himself had been told when he was a boy.

According to legend, the Three Kings stopped at Herod’s palace in Jerusalem on their way to Bethlehem looking for the new-born king that the Star had prophesied. Herod, of course, knew nothing about this new-born king but was unsettled by the news. And, in the days following the Magi’s departure, the perceived threat to his sovereignty grew and grew until at last, in a fit of rage, he ordered his men to kill all new-born male children across the land .

Getting wind of this from the Three Kings, the Holy Family fled Bethlehem in Judea for Egypt and, at one point – as Herod’s men approached – they took refuge in a cave. There a spider, sensing who was hiding in his cave, quickly wove an intricate web across the entrance and Herod’s men, seeing the web, assumed that the cave had been unoccupied for some time and passed on without entering.

There is no mention of this story in the Bible but there is, I believe, a reference to it in the Quran. Tradition holds that the cave in question lies today on the outskirts of Cairo.

The moral of the story? Don’t kill spiders and look out for small miracles.

Illustration copyright © Paul Bommer

11 Responses leave one →
  1. December 8, 2011

    Yes! My father was Polish, so this story’s part of my childhood too. I’d forgotten about it for many years till Paul Bommer’s wonderful illustration reminded me. I so look forward to this particular Advent Calendar every morning. Thank you

  2. December 8, 2011

    Dziękujemy Margaret!

  3. Ree permalink
    December 8, 2011

    A great tale…Would make a charming animation…

  4. Sarah Lily permalink
    December 8, 2011

    Beautiful story and drawing. True there is reference to that in the Quran and I believe that spiders are considered scared in Islam, if I am not mistaken. If cave is on outskirts of Cairo perhaps Spider should weave its web nowadays as well – to protect those who want a modern Egypt!!

  5. December 8, 2011

    I thought you said that they stopped at Harrod’s palace on the way to Bethlehem – quite apposite really.

  6. jeannette permalink
    December 8, 2011

    such a beautiful story. perhaps next christmas you will do us a polish advent.
    this one may have to be recycled though. it is fab.

  7. andrea permalink
    December 8, 2011

    I look forward each day to these illustrations (which all of a sudden look really Polish) and the stories. Thank you, Paul.

  8. December 8, 2011

    I also am enjoying the advent calendar, and I am learning! Thanks so much!

  9. Sarah permalink
    December 12, 2011

    Love this, one year our school nativity focused on this story, I played a spider!

  10. John Parham permalink
    February 3, 2012

    There is a chapter, or Sura, in the Quran called ‘The Spider’ Sura 29, though it doesn’t contain this story, which is however well known to Islam. It concerns the Prophet Muhammed and his friend Abu Bakr hiding in a cave from assassins, who are searching for them between Mecca and Medina. They are not discovered because miraculously the entrance to the cave where they take refuge has been covered with a spider’s web – which puts their would-be killers off the scent.

    Interesting that it should also be a tale from Poland concerning the Magi and King Herod – though also not found in any scriptures.

    Such old stories have a wonderful universality and ability to transcend times and cultures.

  11. A. Kirby permalink
    July 3, 2023

    This is referenced briefly in Umineko no Naku Koro ni, and if you think about it, it is indeed a closed room mystery!

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