The black spider (novella)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The black spider is a novella by Jeremias Gotthelf from 1842 .

Embedded in an idyllic framework story , old legends are processed into a parable story about Christian-humanistic ideas of good and evil. The novella is subdivided into the framework action that occurs at the beginning, which, however, later becomes the internal action.

The story is carried by Christian conservative motifs and has a complex narrative structure that cleverly points out how the discerning Christian should keep the legends of the past alive. The symbolism of the narrative is understandable beyond the Christian sense, however, also under a more general moral question of good and bad. Gotthelf precisely describes the social dynamics of the village: mutual attribution of guilt, quickly forgotten collective guilt and the fate of outsiders who are carelessly scapegoated by the community make the book a topical read.

At first hardly noticed, many literary critics consider this story to be one of the masterpieces of the German Biedermeier period . Thomas Mann wrote about it in “ The Origin of Doctor Faustus ” that Gotthelf “often touched the Homeric ” and that he admired his Black Spider “like hardly any other piece of world literature ”.


Franz Karl Basler-Kopp : The black spider

The novella begins with a christening ceremony on a farm, during which a few guests take a walk in front of the house. One of the women present noticed that an old, black window post was built into the new farm building. At her request, the grandfather explains what the post is all about.

A few centuries earlier, the village belonged to the fiefdom of the knight Hans von Stoffeln, who forced the farmers to do the hardest labor. Incited by friars, Stoffeln demanded more and more ludicrous work, in the end, as a show-off, the transplanting of trees on a mountain as a shadowy passage; He tied this assignment to such a short period that the farmers could not possibly fulfill them without bringing their own farm work to a standstill and also suffering from hunger.

In this emergency the devil offers his help in the form of a wild hunter. As a reward he wants an unbaptized child. The farmers flee from the devil the first time they meet, when the devil reappears a few days later, all the farmers in a group flee again. However, one woman in this group stops and talks to the hunter. Christine, a farmer who has moved in, enters into the pact when she receives a kiss on the cheek to seal it. In fact, the hunter does the job with his demonic powers and demands his payment.

When a child is born, the pastor saves it through baptism immediately after its birth. Christine then feels a burning pain on her cheek: wherever the wild hunter has kissed her, a black spot appears, which swells and turns into a black spider.

After the next newborn child is baptized, a storm breaks out and many small spiders hatch from the cracking mark on Christine's face. The disaster spreads in the village, the cattle die in the stables. So the devil reminds of the fulfillment of the contract.

When the decision is made to sacrifice the next newborn, the number of livestock deaths initially declines. Christine, conspired with the villagers, wants to bring the newborn to the devil, but the priest sprinkles it with holy water at the last moment. Christine, also wetted by the holy water, shrinks into a spider, which the pastor hurls from the newborn. The priest ultimately dies through the touch, but the child was still baptized by him in the arms of the child's mother. Now the spider inexorably murders humans and animals, including the Stoffelns and his knights of the order; Escape and resistance prove to be pointless. Fear of God sometimes seems to be a protection, but one night the spider also invades the submissive mother's house. However, she had already put a consecrated tenon and hammer ready, as she assumed that even if the spider was not killed, it could at least be seized. Finally, with invocations to God, she seizes the spider and stuffs it into a hole in a post, which she closes with the pin. The woman dies as a result of contact with the spider, but peace and quiet return to the valley.

After this grandfather's story, the guests reluctantly return to the table, they are now afraid of the house. So the grandfather feels obliged to finish telling the story:

In the centuries that followed, people initially lived godly, but over time, many of the valley dwellers fell back into godless behavior. Finally, a depraved servant who wants to keep the maids under his knuckle frees the spider, and the spider kills almost all the inhabitants of the village. At the next birth, Christians, the lord of the responsible servant, saves the child from the devil, catches the spider and locks it up again in its old prison. He also pays for this commitment with his life, but he dies in “God's peace”. Peace and fear of God reign in the valley. Although the house was rebuilt several times, this post was built in again and again to keep the old blessing. When a new house was built again, grandfather also added the old window post.

The grandfather's story ends here. The christening party continues comfortably until late in the evening. The novella ends with an indication that God watches over everything.

People of the first internal narrative

Hans von Stoffeln , the knight who rules the peasants of the valley in his castle, is described as tough and aggressive. He leads a desolate life and relentlessly insists on all tax obligations of the serf peasant families. Its unpredictability inspires respect and fear in the farmer, as he does not tolerate contradiction and is not open to any argument. Criticism and ridicule from the knights who live with him at the castle challenge him to ever more presumptuous acts against the peasants, who are helpless and weakly subordinate to the will of the knighthood. In the end, indirectly through his malice, he calls the devil himself onto the scene, to which he and his knights and servants fall victim in the form of the black spider.

As a green hunter , the devil appears to the farmers. Through clever behavior, feigning sympathy for the plight of the farmers and directing threats against the castle, he learns the reason for their despair and offers them the diabolical trade.

Christine , the Hornbach farmer's wife, who came to the valley from Lindau on Lake Constance , enjoys little respect in the village. She complains that as a stranger in the valley she was badly plagued. The women would have persuaded her and the men would have accepted this without protest. Christine is the woman who turns against men's devotion to fate, ready to defend herself against the monstrous demands of the knight. She acts instead of men to meet the general need, but it becomes abundantly clear how much she overestimated her ability to outsmart or deceive the devil. The compliments given by the devil flatter her and encourage her to believe that she can use female weapons to mitigate or circumvent his demands. One can say that on behalf of everyone, Christine sealed the pact with the devil with a kiss on her cheek. In the further course she has to learn that she alone has to bear the consequences of this kiss and therefore tries to keep the trade by all means. She succeeds in robbing the third child through agreements and help, but the pastor who hurries up prevents the child from being handed over. Selfish reasons move her to do this, because she finally wants to get rid of the painful brand on her cheek. Nevertheless, their actions are also based on common interests; the village community has conspired behind her to use the unholy sacrifice to banish the curse that is wreaking havoc on the entire village. Christine and the village community have in common, with the exception of the pastor, the pregnant woman and their mother, a turning away from God and a tendency towards selfish prioritization.

People of the second internal narrative

After 200 years people are only concerned with property again. Christian was humiliated and humiliated by his mother. After a servant has released the spider again, Christians lock the spider again in the beam, thus losing his life, but thereby saving that of many others.

Overall, the people hardly gain individual traits. The point is to show the contrast between good and bad, with the bad being shown in more detail.

Artistic adaptations


First edition

  • Jeremias Gotthelf: The black spider. In: Pictures and legends from Switzerland . Bdch. 1. The black spider. - Knight of Brandis - The yellow bird and poor Margrithli. Jent & Gaßmann, Solothurn 1842. pp. 1–112. ( Digitized and full text in the German text archive )

Further editions

  • Jeremias Gotthelf: The black spider. Narration (=  Hamburg reading books ). Hamburger Reading Books Verlag, Husum [o. J.], ISBN 3-87291-050-7 .
  • The black spider. Elsi, the strange maid. Kurt von Koppigen. In: Jeremias Gotthelf: Selected stories. Part 2 (=  Gotthelf, Jeremias: Selected Works , Volume 10; Diogenes Taschenbuch , No. 170). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1978, ISBN 3-257-20570-8 .
  • Jeremias Gotthelf: The black spider. Novella (=  ... simply classic ). Based on the first print from 1842 for the school, edited by Diethard Lübke. Illustrations by Klaus Ensikat . 1st edition. Cornelsen Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-464-60948-0 .

Secondary literature, reviews

  • Sylvia Boehrnsen: The black spider by Jeremias Gotthelf, The visit of the old lady by Friedrich Dürrenmatt: a comparison (= Canadian theses on microfiche , No. 21241), National Library of Canada, Ottava 1975, DNB 810189690 ( Dissertation University of Calgary , Faculty of Graduate Studies, 1974, 2 microfiches , 107 pages).
  • Walburga Freund-Spork: Jeremias Gotthelf, The Black Spider (=  Reclam's Universal Library No. 15336: Reading key for schoolchildren ). Reclam, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-15-015336-9 .
  • Daniel Rothenbühler: Text analysis and interpretation of Jeremias Gotthelf, The Black Spider. All necessary information for the Abitur, Matura, exam and presentation. Plus sample exercises with possible solutions (=  King's Explanations , Volume 422). Bange, Hollfeld 2011, ISBN 978-3-8044-1911-7 .
  • Jannis Plastargias : "The black spider" today and the fainting around Fukushima . Review in the blog painless , 2011 ( ).

Web links

Wikisource: The Black Spider  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. "When [the mother] woke up and saw the child again, a delight flowed through her [...], and in the mother's arms the priest baptized the child [...]."
  2. Entry Die Schwarze Spinne , in the HörDat radio play directory .
  3. Patent Ochsner und Schwarze Spinne , TV report (4:28 min.) Of the news broadcast 10vor10 on May 22, 1998, accessed on February 3, 2018.
  4. ^ «Art also includes beating». In: Tages-Anzeiger , January 15, 2011.