A retelling, of course. Done for my final project/semester exam for Creative Writing/Written Communications at school.
Most stories of the days of old begin with the line, "Once upon a time…" and then continue on with the plot and setting and characters and so forth. Well, this story isn't much different. Except it is different. How is it different, you may be asking? Because I said so, of course. That's a dumb question.
So, once upon a time, there was young woman. Now, this woman was very skilled in the art of weaving. People came from every corner of Greece to marvel at these pieces, praising the work of the weaver and commenting that surely the goddess Athena (for it had been she that invented the craft) taught her.
Now, before get too far ahead of ourselves, I think we should mention that this woman's name was Arachne. If you know anything at all about words and how we got part of our language, then you should be able to figure out that this woman has something to do with certain eight-legged creatures that not many people like. If you're like most of the people in this school and you don't, then just disregard anything I just said about spiders. Forget it.
There. It has been forgotten. Now we continue.
Arachne (for that was the woman's name, in case you forgot that as well, or perhaps just didn't catch on) didn't care much for this. She was, in her opinion, above the skill of Athena. And she would say this. Loudly.
"I have achieved this marvelous skill due to my own talent, hard work, and efforts!" she could be heard insisting to those who bothered her with praises to Athena for her gift. "Not by some intervention of a goddess! She doesn't even weave often!"
One day, Athena was traveling the countryside of Lydia, just having a grand old time. She had caught wind of a girl around the area that had talent that supposedly surpassed her own, so was going to see just who this girl thought she was. She had donned the guise of an old woman, traversing the paths with a crooked staff.
After much walking (it was only a few hours, really, but Athena had a thing for dramatics (she had been spending too much time with the Muses on Mount Helicon, you know.)) she finally reached the small home of Arachne (because Arachne was a simple girl, the daughter of a man who dyed the wool of sheep (Idmon of Colophon, I believe his name was. Most famous for the Tyrian purple he used.), her house was rather small.)
"It is foolish to pretend that you are like one of the gods. You're simply a mortal with talents that are paled in comparison to those of the goddess Athena," warned the old woman-goddess as soon as Arachne opened the door and bade her to enter. "Apologize now, and Athena might forgive you."
"Athena!" spat Arachne. "If Athena doesn't like my words, then let her show her skills in a weaving contest."
Athena was, of course, angry at these words. So she instantly dropped her disguise and showed herself for whom she really was. (Because apparently the tale of Zeus and Semele was entirely forgotten about and mortals could gaze upon the gods without fear of going blind or exploding, but whatever.) "Very well."
Arachne's eyes flashed in fear, but she quickly drew herself up. She had issued the challenge, and she meant to hold to it.
So goddess and mortal each brought out her loom and began to weave.
Not much time had passed until a relatively large crowd had gathered to witness the contest. Dionysus meandered about, supplying food and drink to the onlookers. Hermes stood in the midst of the throng, watching each contestant carefully. Even Nike, goddess of victory, was there; ready to bestow the laurel wreath to the winner.
They wove until dusk fell and Helios left the sky, to be replaced by his sister Selene. (Because Apollo and Artemis were also watching the contest and were too busy to go do their duties.) Then both stood and warily walked to the other's loom to inspect their work.
Athena wove into her cloth the many exploits of the gods, showing them at their best and brightest moments. First and foremost was the naming of Athens, when she and Poseidon had each done a deed to the then nameless city to see who would become the patron deity. Arachne snorted to see what Athena was implying: the gods always won.
Arachne, however, did quite the opposite, as Athena saw. Her cloth was covered in the tales of the many women that had been seduced by Zeus, the giving of the Golden Apple by Paris, the vengeful gods, the silly gods. It was plain to see that Arachne was more skilled than the goddess of the loom herself.
"The winner," Hermes announced, "is Arachne."
Overwhelming anger grew in Athena as Nike walked slowly towards her opponent with the laurel. She grabbed the loom and squeezed until it shattered into many splinters. Raising the largest piece high in her hand, Athena brought it down on Arachne and beat her mercilessly until the anger faded.
Arachne, desperate the get away and ashamed of her boasts, tossed her remaining thread around a tree nearby and hung herself from its branches until the life faded from her swinging body.
The crowd dispersed, disappointed to see such talent wasted in a fit of anger. Athena waited until the last person had left before allowing herself to gaze up at Arachne. Then she felt pity and guilt for what had happened.
So Athena called for a bit of Nectar, a drink of the gods that granted immortality. Reaching up to Arachne, she splashed a few drops on her forehead. Arachne's body quickly began to change shape, grow smaller, and gain extra legs. "If you believe yourself to be the best weaver, why not weave your designs into the world forever?"
Athena walked away, leaving the first spider to find her way. Looking around sadly, she dragged herself back to Arachne's broken loom to pick the fallen product from the trodden ground. She inspected it more closely, taking in every tiny detail. That was when she noticed something she had missed before.
There in a corner lay the image of a mysterious eight-legged creature surrounded by a silvery web, small enough to almost go unnoticed completely.
And that was when Athena understood. Arachne had foreseen her doom and wove it into her cloth to remind Athena of what she had done.
Athena could later be seen carrying a small bundle everywhere with her. Many speculated as to why it was worth so much to the stoic goddess, but not much attention was paid to it otherwise.
I never understood how Arachne had descendants. Who was the first male spider, then?
Please tell me what you think of it. I know I could do better, if only someone would tell me what they think about it and point out the mistakes I've made.