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cunning spider

Written by Hilda Sheehan Artwork by Jill Carter

Published by Blue Gate Books

HS – For Michael, Aidan & Finley JC – For Freddie, Finley & Thomas Grateful acknowledgement to Toby Carter, Susan Clarke, Tony Hillier, Matt Holland, Nathan James, John Richardson, Jean & Tom Saunders, Finley & Mike Sheehan

First published in 2007 by Blue Gate Books 26 Mannington Lane, Swindon, SN5 7AT Text copyright © 2007 by Hilda Sheehan Artwork copyright © 2007 by Jill Carter All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form Book design by Susan Clarke Manufactured in Swindon by Warpton Creative, Citrus Creative and Swin City Comics The Richard Jefferies Society Honorable Secretary, Jean Saunders Pear Tree Cottage, Longcot, Faringdon, SN7 7SS

An old toad looked out from his damp hole under a rotten seed box sheltered by a rhubarb bush. He was always watching; blinking and winking and thinking.

Blinking and winking and thinking I am.



The toad noticed that a spider had spun a remarkable web upon the iron railings at the back of the garden. The spider was catching a great number of flies.

I am the cleverest and most cunning spider in this whole garden ‌


Cunning & clever and ever so crafty, I am, yes I am!

The toad could not stop thinking of all the flies tangled in that incredible web. Flies that should be on the end of his long, sticky tongue. I don’t like this spider with her clever spinning and crafty catching.


Day after day he sat watching the spider; blinking and winking and thinking.

The toad climbed out of his house and into the sunshine …

Angry … jealous and very, very hungry. I’ll visit that spider and her web of flies.

He liked the sun even less than he liked the spider.


Oh rhubarb! I have to go out in the sun.

The toad waddled along the grass to the spider’s web, popping and croaking all out of puff. It seemed a very long way in the heat. He stopped beneath the spider’s amazing web and looked up at the delicious and entangled flies. His mouth began to water and he felt so hot and dry in the sun that he became even more angry and jealous of the cunning spider.


The spider saw the toad beneath her great web and began to taunt and tease him with cruel and cunning words. Well, look who has come out of his damp hole … it’s old warty back! From up here you look wartier and uglier than ever!

I’m saying nothing … just going to blink and wink and think.


Oh indeed you are. I have been admiring you all summer long and have come far across the grass in the hot sun to tell you something.

Have you come to admire me toad? Oh how smart you must think I am to have all these flies. Even wasps and bees are tied up so tightly they cannot sting or wriggle their little bodies. Cunning and clever and ever so crafty I am, yes I am!

Tell me something! How dare you! I know everything! Go back to your damp and gloomy hole, for you are spoiling my view!


Oh I am sorry madam, you are so right. It is true that you know everything about the sun and the moon, the earth and all its creatures, but you would hardly take notice of the small world of a poor old toad.

Well, as I said, I know everything about everything!

Of course fine lady; I’ll not bother you again. I should have known you knew everything about everything. I will return to the cool of my rhubarb.


Toad turned to make his journey back home, blinking and winking and thinking as he went ‌


As you have come all this way and carelessly almost dried up in the heat of the sun, I will allow you to tell me. But be quick! I have webs to weave and flies to catch. Well, while sitting in my hole under the rhubarb, I have noticed such a lot of flies going into the summerhouse and onto the little round window. So why haven’t you It is quite black eaten them up yourself with flies. silly old toad?


Because I can’t climb up there, dear lady. If only I was clever like you, with eight strong legs and a fabulous web.


The toad bowed to the spider and turned again to go back home.


The toad settled in his hole under the rhubarb, watching and waiting; blinking and winking and thinking about what the spider might do.

Blinking heck. What is that spider up to?


Darkness came, bringing the moon and the stars to shine and sparkle upon the great web. The spider thought about all the marvellous things she knew about her world.

As she drifted off to sleep, she began to dream of all those flies from the summer house getting caught in her web, twiddling and wriggling, juicy and sweet.


When daylight came, the spider left her web to creep to the summerhouse. She looked up at the round window. Just as the toad had told her, it was black with busy, juicy flies …

I hope that old toad doesn’t see me!

but the spider was too proud to go inside …


‌ until a splendid bluebottle landed on the summerhouse window and made such a tremendous buzzing that she could not help herself.

Cunning and clever and ever so crafty I am yes I am.

The spider began to eat all the flies quickly and greedily; fly after fly after fly.

The spider hurried inside the summerhouse and began to spin a web. When finished, it was the biggest and most amazing web she had ever spun. And it trapped more flies than she had seen in her whole life.

Mine, all mine! No one else will get a single one, especially that silly old and ugly toad. Yum, yum. I will eat every single one!


After a while, the spider was so full and bulging with flies that she could no longer call out words of being cunning and clever. The spider was sick, bloated and could not even move.



A robin came to the iron railings and perched on the top. He looked into the summerhouse window and could see a big juicy spider with a belly full of flies. The robin flew inside the summerhouse and snapped the spider into his beak!



The old toad watched from his hole; blinking and winking and thinking ‌

I knew that spider would come to a sticky end.

So many times had toad seen spiders climb up to that round summerhouse window never to return ‌


Cunning and clever and ever so crafty, I am, yes I am!



Toby Carter 2007

It was … ‘a very pleasant garden: all grass and daisies, and apple trees, and narrow patches with flowers and fruit trees one side, a low box hedge and a ha-ha, where you can see the high moving grass quite underneath you; and a round summer-house in the corner, painted as blue inside as a hedge-sparrow’s egg is outside.’ Richard Jefferies, 1881, Wood Magic

Richard Jefferies 1848–87 The Victorian writer Richard Jefferies was born at Coate Farm, Swindon. He is best known for his many writings on nature, rural life and agriculture. Growing up on a small dairy farm, Richard inherited his father’s passionate love of nature and spent his time roaming and playing in the local fields, woods and hills. The children’s classics, Bevis and Wood Magic drew upon Jefferies’ own adventures and imagination as a boy growing up in the North Wiltshire countryside. The Cunning Spider was based upon a tale told by the toad to young Bevis in Wood Magic published in 1881. In the fable, young Bevis talks to nature and all the creatures of the fields and woods have their stories to tell. Richard Jefferies wrote in The Story of my Heart, ‘How pleasant it would be each day to think, today I have done something that will render future generations more happy. The very thought would make this hour sweeter.’ Hilda Sheehan, writer, and Jill Carter, artist, were commissioned by the Richard Jefferies Society to create a fresh adaptation of an extract from Wood Magic. This comic storybook brings Jefferies’ works alive through playful words and imaginative artwork, inspiring young readers to enter the real and imagined environs of Coate. For opening times and further details please call or visit The Richard Jefferies House and Museum Marlborough Road Coate Swindon SN3 6AA telephone 01793 466561 or 01793 783040

The Cunning Spider  

a graphic children's story based on the fable by Richard Jefferies ' Wood Magic'