Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Then along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.
Some people are scared of spiders. Whenever they see a spider, they will become scared, either screaming in horror, or trying to swat the spider with a rolled-up newspaper or stomp it to death if it's on the floor.
Essentially, this trope is when spiders are portrayed as being scary monsters in different forms of media. Sometimes, they can be giant monsters
in horror movies, while they can be normal-sized, yet still retain the scariness that they are thought to have.
They're often portrayed as extremely venomous, capable of killing or incapacitating humans. This happens occasionally in Real Life
and near constantly in fiction. In fictionland, the sight of a creeping spider is comparable to that of an approaching cobra or tiger.
In reality, while there are indeed a number of deadly spiders on Earth, most of them are more likely to be found in relatively "remote" or exotic regions, such as Australia or Brazil. In America, the most notorious deadly spiders are the black widow and the brown recluse, and the very name will have an air of death and apprehension. In reality, both of these spiders are extremely docile, and their bites are rarely serious - most fatalities are children or people with weak immune systems.
In lieu of either of these spiders, however, the spider most likely to be used to inspire fear and revulsion is one of a wide variety of tarantula species. Despite being relatively harmless to humans, their size and appearance is a grade of Nightmare Fuel
all by themselves. Even when a spider really is dangerous to humans—such as the Sydney funnel web or Brazilian wandering spider—they won't aggressively attack people under normal circumstances (see Animal Assassin
for more information). The former, in fact, has 13 total confirmed deaths to its name
- all prior to the introduction of antivenom in 1981.
In reality, more people are killed each year by champagne corks or falling vending machines than spiders. A rather unimpressive record compared to, say, bears
, venomous snakes
, or even canines. However, those animals all have two eyes, internal skeletons and red blood. When it comes to narrative effect, otherness is always scarier than practical threat.
Compare: Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?
, Giant Spider
, Spider Swarm
, Scary Scorpions
Not to be confused with Demonic Spiders
, which is a gameplay trope, though the two can certainly overlap.
open/close all folders
Anime And Manga
- The first three seasons of Digimon had Dokugumon, a monstrous spider Digimon who served either as a guard to the bad guy's lair, or just as a typical spider catching other Digimon that get caught in its web.
- The second season also had Arukenimon.
- The first season had what's apparently named Kodokugumon. Those are the zillions and zillions of mini-Dokugumon that appeared with the first one.
- Or you can not bother with mini-mes and go for an army of the full-sized ones! That's what happened in season five. If Gaogamon's Mid-Season Upgrade hadn't shown up then, the team would have been screwed.
- The Johto episodes of Pokémon introduced Spinarak and its evolved form, Ariados, while the Unova episodes introduced Joltik and its evolved form, Galvantula.
- Even more frightening that both Joltik and Galvantula have the ability, Unnerve.
- Likewise, Spinarak and Ariados both have the move, Scary Face.
- Joltik, however, is viewed as a Ridiculously Cute Critter by the fandom. At this point, lots of fans consider it to be cuter than Pikachu!
- The spider-type pokemon should be considered more of an aversion to this trope due to their basic designs not being all that grotesque, especially what with Spinarak and Joltik being more cute and cuddly looking in appearance.
- Arachne from Soul Eater.
- Mentioned, but not quite seen in fruition, but in Episode 6 of the Little Lulu anime, Tubby is apparently scared of spiders.
- In the Animal Crossing anime, Ai gets a spider on her hand and freaks out.
- Subverted by Spider-Man who calls himself "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" and is loved (or at least tolerated) by everyone in New York but J. Jonah Jameson; but played straight by spider-motif enemies Venom and Carnage. Sort of.
- Even then, Spider-Man is supposed to be creepy. When shown from the villains' point of view, we're shown a guy who moves and stands nothing like a human being (putting him in the Uncanny Valley), can come out of freaking nowhere, and no matter how far you run or how sneaky you think you're being, you will find him hanging upside down in front of you with the giant bug-eyed eyepieces staring into your soul.
- According to Stan Lee, Marvel publisher Martin Goodman almost squashed Spider-Man idea for the reason that "people don't like spiders." This is why Spidey made his debut in the last issue of the cancelled Amazing Fantasy.
- Twisted and played with with Nightwing cast member Tarantula. The original was a Silver Age hero. The current day one was an Anti-Hero who raped Nightwing while he was having a mental breakdown after encouraging him to kill.
- In the Tintin book The Shooting Star, Tintin sees a meteorite through a telescope and nearly has a heart attack when he sees a spider covering the entire thing. It turns out it was just spider through the telescope, which causes Snowy to laugh at him... until he sees it himself and jumps three feet in the air (which blossoms a running gag through the series).
- Snowy is also shown being frightened by a spider in The Black Island.
Film - Animated
- Alex from Madagascar is spooked by a large spider on his shoulder. After it gives him a friendly "Well, howdy do."
- After all of his Death Traps fail to impress Roxanne, Megamind notices a spider dangling in front of her face and pretends it was intended. Then Roxanne nonchalantly blows on it and it lands on his face. Cue freak out.
- The Secret Of NIMH: A spider stalked Mrs. Brisby without her knowing it, before it got squashed by the Great Owl.
- In Treasure Planet, Scroop, one of the main antagonists, resembles a giant spider. He is the one that acts the most threatening of all the pirates.
Film - Live-Action
- Arachnophobia was a film about a group of hybridized spiders that invaded a California town and began killing the inhabitants that lived there.
- The duology of horror films: Spiders & Spiders 2.
- The late-1970s William Shatner film Kingdom of the Spiders was about a Southwestern town that was overrun by a bunch of killer spiders.
- Similarly, the 1950s sci-fi film Earth vs. The Spider was about a giant mutant spider that invaded a nearby city.
- No relation to a similarly-titled 2001 movie about a lowly comic book fan who injects himself with a serum in order to become a superhero with spider-like powers, but although it causes him to gain the powers of a human-sized spider, it also gives him the appearance of a human-sized spider and an endless hunger for human flesh.
- Also from the 1950s was Tarantula, a giant spider killed in the end by Clint Eastwood.
- The giant mechanical spider from the Will Smith movie Wild Wild West. Earlier in the film, Gordon is terrified of the desert tarantula that is crawling up Jim's arm. Jim, unfazed, comments "he's just trying to get warm."
- The movie Eight Legged Freaks is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, but it plays the whole thing for laughs with the siders' silly voices and antics.
- Ditto, pretty much, for Big Ass Spider.
- Annie Hall - Annie calls Alvy (Woody Allen) over late at night claiming an emergency (some months after they broke up, as an excuse to see him again) - when he finds out it's for a spider in the tub, he gets peevish and exasperated at her...he enters the bathroom and comes right out, saying "Very big spider. Lotta trouble, there's two of them!"
- In the film of Dr. No, a mook plants a tarantula in Bond's hotel room at night, clearly the most terrifying thing in the world. In the book it was a centipede known by Bond to be deadly - guess he hadn't read up on all the arthropods...
- One of the things trying to kill you in Jumanji.
- The Haunted Mansion had one of a pair of siblings who suffers from crippling arachnophobia. Predictably, he's forced to overcome his phobia to save his mom from an arranged marriage with a misguided ghost by opening a door crawling with giant spiders.
- Invoked in Home Alone when Kevin escapes from Marv by putting his brother's escaped tarantula on Marv's face. Marv freaks out and Screams Like a Little Girl.
- Enemy: This film is not for arachnophobes.
- In The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) a tarantula is left in the shoe belonging to Henry Baskerville, which promptly crawls up his arm to his shoulder, poised to deliver a deadly bite before Holmes sweeps it off with a walking stick and kills it. Partially justified later, when Holmes remarks that a tarantula’s bite is not always deadly, but Baskerville’s heart condition would have made it so.
- After brushing aside an enormous web, Indiana Jones and his guide Satipo find dozens of tarantulas crawling on them, but calmly brush them off. Tarantulas, of course, do not build webs.
- In Morganville Vampires mad-scientist vampire, Myrnin, takes a pet house-spider and calls him Bob. This is greatly to Claire's dislike, being an arachnophobe herself. Ada used Bob as a weapon as she blew Bob up to be the size of a stool and set him to attack Claire all because she was jealous of her. Eventually, Bob just exploded, unable to cope with the dramatic resizing.
- Averted in Charlottes Web, where Charlotte is actually kind and sympathetic towards Wilbur. That said, she is very frank about what her species does to survive, at one point casually mentioning how delicious the blood of insects is, which Squicks Wilbur pretty hard.
- The first couple of times wolf spider is used as a morph in Animorphs. Played straight in The Android, when Marco has to morph a wolf spider. He really, really doesn't want to.
- Initially averted in Harry Potter: Harry has lived in a cupboard long enough not to be bothered by normal spiders. Double Subverted by Aragog from The Chamber of Secrets, the giant Spider that was Hagrid's pet. Initially, he seems chatty and civil, and then he turned out to be scary as all hell. While he's thankful enough to Hagrid to not eat people himself, he doesn't care if his children eat anyone besides Hagrid himself. His children are even worse, as they had to be restrained from killing Hagrid by their parent.
- Ungoliant from The Silmarillion, who's less "Giant Spider" than "vaguely spider-shaped Eldritch Abomination." Morgoth was frightened of her. Her descendants include Shelob from The Lord of the Rings and the Mirkwood Spiders in The Hobbit, and while they're far less powerful than her, they're still pretty scary. (J. R. R. Tolkien was not a fan of spiders.)
- In Stephen King's It, Pennywise turns into a demonic Giant Spider.
- Also from Stephen King, in The Dark Tower, Mordred is described as a sort of were-spider. Fitting, given who one of his fathers is. The Crimson King, who is sometimes called the "Lord of Spiders," and is somewhat were-spider-like in the comic adaptations.
- Averted in the Miss Spider books, where Miss Spider is a kindly Maiden Aunt to a town of bugs. Adorable, albeit subject to Carnivore Confusion.
- They are robots, each fitted with a Brain in a Jar, but the brain spiders in Galaxy of Fear unsettle and frighten Zak, especially since they seem to be stalking him. When they finally corner him, they turn out to be on his side and trying to tell him something, which is hard to do when you're a meter-tall metal spider that can't talk. He's also alarmed later in the series when there are knobby white spiders around on Dagobah. Yoda tests him by forcing him to be near one that's pacified.
- A Noodle Incident in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor has Han Solo mentioning being uncomfortable when Leia was negotiating with a species which looked like giant human-headed spiders.
- Dave Barry's column "The Web Badge of Courage" tells the story of bravely setting out, on his 41st birthday, to subdue what he calls "a spider the size of Harold C. Crittenden Junior High School" that had set up a large web outside his front door, using a wooden stick and a peanut butter jar.
- The fire-spiders in The Quest of the Unaligned. Not only are they giant foot-long spiders that shoot strands of flaming web, they also attack in swarms of five hundred or more and tend to inhabit caves where the spilt web on the walls can cook their victims alive via a notable aversion of Convection Shmonvection. The scene where Alaric and Laeshana have to cut their way through a swarm of these things is one of the book's tenser moments.
- Annabeth, and all children of Athena, fear spiders in the Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus book series. With good reason, as Athena created the original spider by cursing a human woman named Arachne for her hubris, and since that time her descendants have all sought revenge. It's mentioned in the books that spiders can sense Athena's offspring and will seek them out to attack them. The climax of The Mark of Athena involved Annabeth versus Arachne herself, a half-woman half-spider immortal who is so powerful that the immortal giants are afraid of her even though she cannot possibly kill them.
- Played to the absolute maximum in Richard Lewis's novel The Spiders. Imagine a spider as big as a Goliath bird-eater with masticating jaws, venom that first paralyzes and then kills, a hard crabshell-like exoskeleton, and two evil eyes that you can see looking at you. Now imagine that's just the drone in a social system similar to an ant or bee colony — its job is to find food and bring it back to the hive, which consists of some even larger spiders and an enormous queen. This is what the protagonists of the book have to deal with in order to save England, where the spiders are slowly advancing from the country into the cities.
- Taken in a Bad Powers, Good People sense in The Lost Years of Merlin books, where the Grand Elusa is a white spider. A talking, ancient, size-shifting, teleporting, deeply magical, endlessly hungry white spider rightly seen as terrifying. She also patiently endures the main character's whining, has "love as strong as her hunger", and restricts her diet to evil things, even if she talks a lot about eating any visitors who show up.
- An episode of The Avengers entitled The Fear Merchants involved a group of people who would find out their targets' worst fears and phobias and use them to devastating effect. Guess what one of those phobias was?
- Stargate Universe: Episodes Human and Lost. Spiders didn't do anything but were scary enough for Greer to shoot on sight.
Col. Young: Why exactly was Greer "forced" to fire his weapon?
Lt. Scott: There was... a spider, sir.
Col. Young: A spider.
Lt. Scott: It was a sizeable spider, sir.
- The Eight-Legs of Metebelis III in the Doctor Who story "Planet of the Spiders". Mutated by blue Metebelis crystals from Earth spiders that stowed aboard a colony ship, they eventually grew to several inches across and gained mental powers that allowed them to dominate (and occasionally eat) humans. Their supreme ruler The Great One became a true Giant Spider, many yards across, and attempted to take over the universe. You can probably guess how that turned out for her.
- Power Rangers and all other Toku series have a spider Monster of the Week every so often.
- Kamen Rider makes a point of it, as Homage. The first two MOT Ws in the original series were a spider and a bat in that order, so many a modern KR will have a spider and a bat as the first monsters, or recurring enemies, or paired, or important to the story, or something. Spiders are really the ones they use to ramp up the creepy, though, so this trope is in effect whether homaging or not. Most KR monsters are People in Rubber Suits, but the spider in Kamen Rider ZO was a huge horrific Claymation drider with blood red eyes and unhingeable jaws on its otherwise human face (looks like a Glasgow Smile, then opens its mouth, and... uh, you should run at that point.) Kamen Rider Ryuki gave us a giant CGI spider that revived as a giant CGI drider. Kamen Rider Double has a Spider Dopant in the teamup with Kamen Rider OOO, and its design wasn't too scary but its effect was pretty horrible.
- The one thing that scares Budnick in Salute Your Shorts.
- Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a student has a waking nightmare of a swarm of spiders attacking him...it turns out he loves them, and this is a manifestation of his guilt at his pet spiders dying under the neglectful eye of his brother. Played straight by Willow, who is afraid of them. ("Why do they need all those legs anyway?")
- Played with on Angel, with the episode where Angel visits the goddess of lost things trying to find a way to locate Cordelia. She's big and spider-like and covered in spooky web-material.
- The Brady Bunch The Hawaii trilogy had one ep with a spider sneaking into the hotel room beds and scaring some of the kids. It was crawling on one of the boys.
- Averted on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Chief O'Brien tells Lieutenant Barclay at the end of "Realm of Fear" about how he overcame his own fear of spiders to work a repair in a spider-infested crawlspace. The episode ended with O'Brien's pet tarantula crawling on Barclay's arm.
- In The Wild Wild West episode The Night of the Poisonous Posey one of the bad guys uses tarantulas as murder weapons. West kills one when he sees it next to Gordon while he is taking a nap. Later, Gordon plants one in another bad guy’s glove. This bad guy spots it before it bites him, and he predictably thinks the spider guy is trying to kill him.
- "Boris the Spider" by The Who.
- "Spiders & Snakes" by Jim Stafford.
- "The Spider" by Flanders and Swann is from the perspective of a man who has defeated all manner of large predators, but is petrified by "the spider in the bath."
- A number of Garfield strips showed Garfield interacting with spiders before he swats them without remorse.
- The "Devil's Island" table of Balls of Steel has spiders scurrying around the playfield, as well as a black widow's web at the top of the table.
- The playfield for Metallica has black spiders with red guitar silhouettes all over the place.
- Lolth, Demon Queen (later goddess) of Spiders, is one of the D&D game's most long-standing epic Big Bad villains. Adventures featuring Lolth or her drow minions typically revel in this trope.
- Fully 10% of D&D monsters are spider-based.
- In Ravenloft, the leader of the Nightmare Court takes the form of an aged monk wearing robes made of cobwebs, with live spiders crawling all over him.
- In Warhammer the goblin armies can use giant spiders, including the massive Arachnorok spider which is bigger than some warmachines
- Baels in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones are giant spider monsters, and most notable in one stage where you have to keep some defenseless NPCs safe from being killed by one, either by clearing the map before it reaches them, or by rescuing them.
- Phantom from Devil May Cry is a giant spider demon that can light himself on fire and is a recurring boss in the first game.
- There's a level in Donkey Kong Country Returns where spiders chase you down for disturbing their nest. Should the player get caught they are dragged into the swarm in true Nightmare Fuel fashion.
- In SimAnt, the spider is especially scary from your ant's point of view, and is one of the biggest threats to your existence.
- City of Heroes has the recurring threat of Arachnos, and their leader, Lord Recluse. In City of Villains, you can work for them, if you want.
- Why do you think these are a staple of the Resident Evil games? When people were used to the tarantula and huntsman style Giant Spider they were given several redesigns to be made more scary, and included even when they weren't needed (Resident Evil 5 had realistic, normal but still huge ones in the background, and the Lost in Nightmares DLC had some bigger than Jill's ass.) Thanks, thanks a lot.
- In After The War, certain Aliens seems to be modeled after spiders, and usually they're the creepier ones.
- The tarantula in the Animal Crossing series, which is probably the closest thing to an actual enemy you'll ever encounter. It makes an unnerving scratching noise as it moves, and villagers will make some unsettled remarks if one is nearby. If it spots you it'll simply stare at you for a moment, then run off. However, if you have a bug net equipped when this happens, it'll instead hiss and start chasing you. If it catches you, its bite will knock you out, after which you'll wake up in front of your house no worse for wear.
- Earthbound lampshades the idea that spiders are particularly scary, as the spiders that you fight are called Arachnid!s and Arachnid!!!s.
- Dark Souls II features the Duke's Dear Freja, a massive, eight-legged abomination that nests on a hollowed-out dragon's corpse, and is accompanied by man-sized spiders. Her introductory cutscene makes a nightmarish close-up on one of her two heads, and she's none too happy about your intrusion on her territory. On New Game+, she'll even scare the crap out of seasoned players by making an appearance outside of her boss area.
- The Dragon Age series has had giant spiders since the first game, and regularly has them appear to fight the player in a Jump Scare. But in Dragon Age: Inquisition, during a sequence taking place in a nightmare realm, the Inquisitor and party have to fight off spider-like creatures sent by a creature called Nightmare. In-universe, each character is seeing something personalized, but the Inquisitor and Hawke are seeing spiders.
- The spiders are named for various fears, Death, Abandonment, Senility, etc.; amusingly, at one point, one of them is given the title "Ironically, Spiders."
- The Nightmare itself also looks like a horrifying giant spider to the Inquisitor. Seems like the Inquisitor is a bit of an arachnophobe.
- In earlier installments of xkcd, the characters are sometimes attacked by swarms of red spiders. They even attack Rob and Megan while they're in a hot air balloon, talking about how the timing is off for a romantic relationship.
- In Girl Genius, the one thing that Gil and Agatha hesitate to fight is a spider the size of one's face. Gil in all seriousness claims that handling a small army of Clanks is easier than handling one really big spider.
- Happens quite often in Princess Chroma. Averted with Spiders, who is actually a white rabbit nicknamed Spiders.
- In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo uses a fake spider to scare Eduardo so that he'll freak out and scare people away.
- Subverted on Static Shock by Anansi, who was a Zorro-type superhero who emulates Anansi the spider from African folk tales.
- Played straight then subverted in the Darkwing Duck episode, "Aduckyphobia" where the giant spider who gives Darkwing spider powers actually has the mind of a child and is being manipulated by the bad guy into doing his bidding.
- Adventures of the Gummi Bears also featured a Monster of the Week Giant Spider called the Spinster who captures the Gummis for dinner. Fortunately, they escape in the end.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy movie "Wrath Of The Spider Queen" had the titular duo facing off against giant killer spiders sent by the eponymous Big Bad herself.
- There's also Jeff, who Billy is absolutely terrified of, but he's really a nice guy, and just wants his dad to love him.
- In an episode of BBC kids' show Kerwhizz Twist is really scared of meeting Kaboodle's pet spider Cynthia, but being a boy he unconvincingly pretends not to be. Averted in the end when he actually meets Cynthia and discovers that she's cute and friendly.
- Optimus Prime apparently has a fear of spiders ever since the day both he and Sentinel accidentally left Blackarachnia behind on a spider-infested planet.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Princess Luna, formerly Nightmare Moon, in a rather misguided attempt to make the ponies of Ponyville no longer afraid of her, brings several large beanie baby-esque spider toys to life which doesn't help matters.
- Subverted in a later episode, with a spider who looks menacing... Up until it pulls out a flower and offers it up as a gesture of friendship.
- Fang from Teen Titans, who shoots paralysis-inflicting venom beams.
- His design is a doozy. Picture a giant spider... with a human body dangling from it and sorta swaying in the wind as the spider body does... stuff. He basically has a spider five times his size for a head.
- This is what Buttercup fears in "Power-Noia."
- The Venture Bros. parodied Dr. No when henchmen of The Monarch and Baron Underbeit both deposit a tarantula and a scorpion into Dr. Venture's bedroom, unseen by each other. When the two creatures meet on Dr. V's bed, they square off against each other, as he screams in terror.
- The sequel to Hoodwinked had a giant black widow spider attempt to attack and devour Red Riding Hood and her grandma before the timely arrival of the Woodsman and his team of yodelers. Subverted in the end where the spider is befriended by Granny's redeemed rival.
- In one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, Spongebob is sleeping over at Patrick's. Unfortunately for Spongebob, Patrick starts having a nightmare about spiders, and uses his house to start smashing the ground where Spongebob is sleeping.
- How does Patrick know about spiders???
- Beast Wars features two Predacons wo Transform into oversized spiders. Blackarachnia usually isn't particularly creepy, but Tarantulas tends to be creepy enough for three Predacons, so it balances out.