The Greek myth Arachne the Spinner is perfect for teaching a number of Common Core literature standards. Read the myth. Then enjoy the mini-lesson covering vocabulary, comprehension questions, and writing. Look for a link to the handout at the bottom of the post.
Arachne the Spinner
A young girl named Arachne learned how to weave from the nymphs who would leave their groves and fountains to come and watch her work. Arachne’s weavings were not only beautiful, but watching her twirl the spindle with a skillful touch was a rare treat. One day Arachne boasted, “Let the goddess Minerva try to weave as well as I do. If she beats me, I will pay the penalty.”
When Minerva heard of this, she was displeased. Assuming the form of an old woman, she went and gave Arachne some friendly advice. “I have had much experience, and I hope you will not be upset by my words. Challenge your fellow-mortals as you will, but do not compete with a goddess. In fact, you should ask for forgiveness for comparing yourself to her.”
Arachne responded. “Keep your thoughts to yourself, old woman. I stand by what I said. I am not afraid of the goddess. Let her challenge me if she wishes. The loser of the contest will never weave on a loom again.”
Minerva threw off her cloak and transformed into herself. “I accept your challenge. You use one loom, and I will use the other. Let us see who is the best.”
Both wove scenes of the gods and goddesses. Minerva’s weaving showed the gods as arrogant mortals. Arachne filled her canvas with scenes of the gods’ failings and errors.
When Minerva saw Arachne’s weaving she could not help but to admire its beauty, but she also felt insulted.
She struck the weaving with her shuttle, breaking it to pieces. She then touched the forehead of Arachne and made her feel her guilt. Arachne hid her face and wept. She cried, “Oh, how can I live with this shame.”
A Spider is Born
Minerva pitied her. “Live, guilty woman,” said she.
Minerva sprinkled Arachne with the juices of a buttercup. Immediately Arachne’s hair came off. Next her form shrank up, and her head grew smaller. Arachne continued to change until she was a spider. Minerva then said, “You will forever weave.” Arachne ran up a tree and began weaving a beautiful web.
Arachne the Spinner
This handout includes a printable version of the story. You will also find vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, and a writing prompt.