The Silkworm and The Spider

A Spider and Silkworm were spinning. Spider bragged how fast its web was built. Silkworm pointed out her web would be treasured while Spider’s swept away.

Fine work gets preserved and treasured.

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Silkworm and Spider

Ernest Griset (1874)

A Silkworm was one day working at her shroud: the Spider, her neighbour, weaving her web with the greatest swiftness, looked down with insolent contempt on the slow, although beautiful, labours of the Silkworm. “What do you think of my web, my lady?” she cries; “see how large it is, and I began it only this morning, and here it is half finished, and is very fine and transparent. See and acknowledge that I work much quicker than you.” “Yes,” said the Silkworm, “but your labours, which are at first designed only as base traps to ensnare the harmless, are destroyed as soon as they are seen, and Swept away as dirt and worse than useless; whilst mine are preserved with the greatest care and in time become ornaments for princes.”


[Note: The Northcote fable is the same fable as in the JBR Collection above. Only the illustrations and Application associated with the fable in the Northcote book are displayed here.]


The quality only of any work is to be considered and estimated, and not the time it has taken to accomplish it.

JN Fable 034

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: J. Jackson (1828)

JN Fable 034a

Wood drawing: William Harvey (1828)

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[Note: The JBR Collection has a second, quite similar, Spider and Silkworm fable displayed below.]

The Spider and the Silkworm

A Spider, busied in spreading his web from one side of a room to the other, was asked by an industrious Silkworm to what end he spent so much time and labour in making such a number of lines and circles. The Spider angrily replied, “Do not disturb me, thou ignorant thing; I transmit my ingenuity to posterity, and fame is the object of my wishes.” Just as he had spoken, the chambermaid, coming into the room to feed her Silkworms, saw the Spider at his work, and, with one stroke of her broom, swept him away and destroyed at once his labours and hopes of fame.