To understand the short story titled, The Spider by Hanns Heinz Ewers; we must present an abstract outlining his life. Hanns Heinz Ewers (3 November 1871 in Düsseldorf – 12 June 1943 in Berlin) was a German actor, poet, philosopher, and writer of short stories and novels. He wrote on a wide range of subjects but he his most famous for his works on horror. Ewers most famous work is the trilogy of novels about the adventures of Frank Braun, a character modeled on him. The best known of these is Alraune published in 1911. The third novel in the sequence, Vampyr, written in 1921, concerns Braun’s eventual transformation into a vampire, drinking the blood of his Jewish girlfriend. During the period he wrote his major horror stories he also gave lectures on the topic of the religion of Satan. Ewers wrote short stories concerning pornography, blood sports torture, and execution-ultimately describing his style as graphic, violent and eye opening. Hanns Heinz Ewers influence on fantasy and horror is everywhere but his connection to Nazi party although he disagreed with the ill treatment of the Jewish people. The major literature circles around the world have excluded him from major writing groups and awards because of his association with the Nazis. The only work receiving lasting recognition in colleges and universities is the short story The Spider. The purpose of my journal analysis is to explore the tale researching witches, spiders, vampires and the symbolic meaning of names in short stories with regards to a basic outline of the tale for those who have not read the narrative.
The story opens like a detective mystery in that a series of murders or suicides occur in the same room any given Friday between 5 and 6 pm. The hero is Richard Bracquemont, a medical student. He convinces the chief detective he could solve the mystery through knowledge presumably of science and nature. Bracquemont reason to solve the mystery is a ruse he only wants to gain fame, notoriety and free meals by staying in the villa as long as he is permitted by the police department chief. Here is where we encounter our first clue to the mystery. Bracquemont keeps a diary of his account in the room. On March 7th he writes, ‘As for me, I hope to stay here as long as possible. I may not conquer Paris here, but I live very well, and I’m fattening up nicely. I’m also studying hard, and I am making real progress. There is another reason; too, that keeps me here. The mysterious woman he calls Clarimonde gives the story a striking spin. The dark hair pale skinned woman dressed in early black Victorian clothing weaving on a spindle, Bracequemont describes as one his Grandmother used handed down to her by her aunt. We the readers connect the strange black spider found on the previous victims to the pale skinned beauty renting the room across the street. What is the connection? The connection explores my first point in claiming that the woman is a powerful witch. I believe that the spider is a familiar. The term familiar refers to companions of witches, pagans or occultist. Each pagan worshipper has his animal familiar. I have seen Vincent price movies where he has a pet raven; you saw witches with black cats, other occultist using snakes, hounds, and vampires using people as familiars. Over the centuries the familiars have taken many forms, and the witch when powerful enough can transform into the spirit animal she has taken as familiar. The witch chooses an animal as a familiar because they are more in touch with nature A witch is a male or female, and witches can have as many familiar as they choose. In the tale of the spider, using a creature such as a spider is brilliant, because the witch Clarimonde emulates the spider in her movement her dress and her out-dated spinning. If you were to research the Black-Widow spider you would learn that she entices her male lover into the web for a sexual tryst-ultimately trapping them in her web to be used as nourishment. Clarimonde is a powerful witch who happens to use the spider as her familiar and weapon. The two work to entice the victim to let down guard under the pretense of love and when he is in too deep it’s too late to escape, and such is the case of all four victims in the tale.
We have a chosen a path to solve the mystery of the story. The third step is to research the name with connections to witches and demonic creatures. The name Clarimonde is a German baby name. In German, the meaning of the name Clarimonde is Brilliant protector. Clairemonde is also the name of a vampire in the story Clarimonde (“ La Morte Amoureuse”) by Theophile Gautier. In the story of the vampire Clairmonde, a priest falls for a beautiful woman just before he is to ordain into the ministry. He goes ahead with vows and little while after a soldier visits him on horseback who order him to follow him to a palace in the forest to meet his lady who is dying. The priest obliges and follows the knight to the palace where he sees the woman he envisioned during his passage to the priesthood. They fall in love, and the head bishop comes to visit and notices the priest his looking pale. To shorten the plot the priest reveals his love affair and to his terror, the bishop takes him to Clairemonde crypt. They open the crypt, and they see the youthful Clairmonde. The bishops yell drinker of blood and gold Drinker of blood and gold!’ And he flung holy water upon the corpse and the coffin, over which he traced the sign of the cross with his sprinkler. The blessed spray had no sooner touched poor Clarimonde than her beautiful body crumbled into dust and became only a shapeless and frightful mass of cinders and half-calcified bones. In our tale, the creatures always appear at sunset between 5 and 6 pm. The author mentions not being the summer months the story would have garnered more profit for the landlady. In the winter season of Paris an evening sky would have been appearing as opposed to the scorching sun. The story points to a woman being a witch as opposed to a vampire. However, the tale is one of the non-human vampire genres because of the succubi, witch or vampire uses the same skills to manipulate. The skills being telepathy, hypnosis, a connection to sunset and night, dark clothing, the earth and affirmation to old objects.
I see Theophile Gautier being an early influence to Hanns Heinz Ewers. Ewers reflects on the occult, Nazism, sado- machismo, blood sport, suicide and violent killings in his novels and short stories. One should not be surprised of the genius of the man to combine all the elements mentioned in one short story. In conclusion, Bracquemont documents the entire story finally realizing the entity is the one who is spinning the web and laughing at him. He is now the hunted, and he’s caught in the trap. All of the men fell under the spell of the witch. I would not characterize their act as suicide or madness. The spell is so powerful once it sets in the only escape is making peace with God. Bracquemont’s death is a revelation for the police department. They realize that the deaths are related to black magic. Bracquemont fought to the very end he destroyed the spider whose job would be to bring back a drop of blood to his sorcery queen the witch Clairmonde. Clairmonde can crush the spider in his mouth. The mystery remains is there something about the window itself, thinking back to what the policemen said. The window is positioning for the witch and her familiar to weave their deadly web. In wrapping up, I find the ending brilliant because it leaves a trace yet still no trace.