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For 400 million years or so spiders have survived everywhere from underwater to cloud level. Though tiny and delicate, spiders spin and mend webs of astonishing beauty and complexity. Though light as air, spider silk is one of the strongest fibers on Earth. Spiders use their webs as nets for catching food, or as nests to protect their offspring. Some spiders use gossamer, their finest silk, for ballooning, letting themselves be carried away by the wind, even to faraway islands. Many traditional cultures revere spiders and impart secrets of survival to their children by telling stories starring spiders.

At my first storytelling conference in New Mexico, I wondered what my path as a storyteller might be. Then a Hopi-Tewa elder with long white braids told us that as a child, he was taught to listen for the quiet little voice of Spider Grandmother who whispers wisdom to young people on the risky road of life. Spider Grandmother always warns against four evil teachings which ruin lives: Fight, Hate, Hoard, and Gamble. Ever useful advice!

Having caught me by the ear, Spider Grandmother inspired me to learn and record my favorite spider stories from around the world in a storybook called Spider Secrets: Stories of Survival. The idea is, “Gain spider without getting bit.”

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