Much to the horror of arachnophobes, you’ll see a lot of big, scary eight-legged entities in both the real and fictional world. These monstrous and mystical creatures crawled their way to our lives throughout history— spinning their thread all over our favorite literature, philosophical metaphors, mythology, gaming, works of film, and even technology (World Wide Web).
Read further to learn more about the different fictional spiders that crept their way into fame in pop culture.
The spider that bit Spiderman
This spider without a name was responsible for the creation of one of the most famous superheroes in history, Spiderman. It doesn’t stop there, though. This nameless creepy crawly was also responsible for Silk in Earth-616 and many other spider-heroes throughout alternate realities.
This spider that got caught in a radiation test at a science exhibit in General Techronics Corporation bit Peter Parker before dying and caused his DNA to change and gave him super abilities. This arachnid also bit Cindy Moon and Gwen Stacy, turning the latter into Spider-Woman that’s now known as Ghost Spider on Earth-65 across the Spider-Verse. Cindy Moon’s classmate Carl King ate the spider’s dead carcass and transformed into a mutated spider hive-mind.
In Earth-1610, another spider mutated by Oscorp bit Miles Morales while Miguel O’Hara enhanced his DNA using Peter Parker’s genetic code as a foundation.
According to the Greek myth, Arachne was a daughter of a shepherd and was exceptionally skillful at weaving. She claimed that she was a better weaver than the goddess Athena, who offended and accepted the challenge. Arachne’s arrogance led to a weaving contest between her and the goddess.
Athena created a tapestry depicting the fates of mortals that challenged the gods, while Arachne made one that insulted the deities. Athena was angered and humiliated the boastful woman, who then hung herself. In death, the goddess turned Arachne into a spider to have her forever hanged on her web, forever weaving using spider silk.
Various versions of the myth have different accounts of which of the two weavers won the challenge.
Aragog is a magical spider species in Harry Potter called Acromantula, which originated in Southeast Asia. The species was bred to guard hoards of treasure for the wizards. The gigantic spider could speak the human language and was classified by the Ministry of Magic as a Rated XXXXX Beast, known to be impossible to train and a wizard-killer.
Aragog had a wife and a lot of children who lived in the Forbidden Forest with a preference for human flesh like his other species members. His mortal enemy was Salazar Slytherin’s basilisk, which Harry Potter encountered during his second year at Hogwarts. The spider ultimately died during Potter’s sixth year at school, and a small funeral was held while professor Horace Slughorn was taking his venom.
Ungoliant is a primordial force of evil taking the appearance of a spider. It’s called the Dark Spider in Tolkien lore. She is the ally of Melkor/Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, and a mother to Shelob the Great Spider. Ungoliant drained all the sap of the Two Trees of Valinor and poisoned the tress by her tremendous hunger.
She eventually betrayed Morgoth causing the Balrogs to attack her until the Dark Lord called them off. After escaping, Ungoliant plagued the land with her children. She was said to have eaten herself and ultimately died by her hand.
Shelob is a demon in the appearance of a spider from Tolkien’s Middle Earth lore, a distant daughter of Ungoliant. Her lair below the Cirith Ungol is Torech Ungol, meaning the pass of the spider and heads into Mordor. She was the primordial evil’s last offspring and was a large spider who spanned around 15 ft wide. Shelob uses a stinger that paralyzes her victims while her webs and hide can withstand the swords of normal men.
Her webs were managed to be cut through by the blade, Sting. Samwise Gamgee stops her while he attempts to save Frodo from her clutches. Shelob’s eyes are her major weakness. The Great Spiders of Mirkwood are her children. She’s also known as Her Sneak, Shelob the Great, and Her Ladyship.
Anansi appears in the form of a spider and is a significant figure in African folklore. Known as a trickster, many of his stories were carried on through word-of-mouth, telling of his prowess and cunning that usually reverses the fate of those who would trample on him. Anansi was also told to be the symbol of all the stories, using threads to join all the tales together.
He stole food from Death, attempted to steal all the world’s wisdom but dispersed it to the people instead, and rescued all the stories of the world from Akan Sky-Father Nyame. The spider myth became an inspiration for numerous depictions of spider character throughout literature, television, comics, and music.