The Fall of the Ugly Master of Spiders
You mustn’t be afraid. Even if you are, don’t let it show. Fear is a bad companion. It is a rope they might tie you with. Little Ikonija, a girl resembling a dandelion, knew the secret of conquering fear. She overpowered the master of the dark island with soap bubbles. She saved the imprisoned children and the entire village. The last thing the dark master realized was that he was only a soap bubble himself

By: Nebojša Jevrić
Illustrations: Predrag Todorović

The spider tamer lived on an island in the middle of a swamp. His palace was guarded by big black spiders, which spread their nets all over the bog. Dragonflies, dwarves, ladybugs were caught in these nets. It sometimes happened that owls and herons fell into the traps of black spiders. Even they could not free themselves from the sticky threads. If they tried to break loose, they would become more entangled and more hopeless. Every night, screams, owl hooting, cries were heard from the cobweb palace. Everyone feared of passing by the swamp at nighttime.
Each autumn, the spiders came across the swamp and entered the village. They picked the longest autumn night, heavy with fog and rain, to kidnap a girl or boy from the village and force them to become servants at the Spider Tamer’s palace. They’d roll their victim into black, sticky cobwebs and roll it down the swamp towards the island.
They brought their half-strangled and horrified victims to the Spider Tamer’s palace, made of cobweb. There, at the palace, surrounded by black spiders, the children had to do the worst tasks, fed only with small pieces of bread and water – so as not to get fat, so as not to grow up, so their weight would not break the cobwebs onto which the ghastly palace was swinging.
In the vicinity of the swamp, in a wicker hut, lived little Ikonija with her father and mother. Her father was a soldier, he spent his days cleaning his weapons and preparing for war. Every time he left to warfare, there was no sign of him for a long time. Her mother was always worried and rarely smiled. Ikonija was a little girl and resembled a dandelion. She played in her playpen with a head of a clown whose nose was bit off by someone. And she always laughed.
Another war started and Ikonija’s father set off.
At his departure, he gave his daughter a fox paw. It was a paw of a fox caught into the trap of his father, a hunter, many years ago. Not wanting to wait for the hunters, the fox bit off her paw and fled.
– Those who hold this paw in their hand will never feel fear – said her father going to war.
Her mother was worried again and started looking at the stars, trying to find out when her husband will return from warfare. Only women and children were left in the village. All men went to battle.


And then, one of those long autumn nights, rainy and foggy, when the black spiders come out of the swamp looking for their next victim, everyone stayed at their homes, shut their doors, pulled down the curtains on their windows. Only the howling of frightened dogs could be heard.
Big black spiders started coming out of the swamp, one by one. When they reached the hut where little Ikonija lived, they climbed to the roof and climbed down through the chimney into the room. The girl was sleeping with her head leaning against the clown whose nose someone bit off. They splashed her with magical liquid made of mandrake, which spiders use to intoxicate their victims. Then, rolled into the sticky cobweb, dizzy from mandrake, they rolled her through the swamp towards the Spider Tamer’s palace.
The first thing the little girl saw when she opened her eyes was the horrible face of the Spider Tamer. Covered with flakes, feathers, hair, with a beak in the middle, used for ripping the meat of dead animals floating in the stinky waters of the bog.
After she had realized where she is, little Ikonija felt afraid. But then she remembered the fox paw her father gave her before going off to war, which she carried with her anywhere she’d go. She squeezed the fox paw, fearlessly stood before the Spider Tamer and told him:
– Mighty master of the swamp, winds and darkness, great Spider Tamer, allow me to, before I become one of your servants, take a bath. Your faithful servants, the big black spiders, smirched me while carrying me through the swamp.
No one has ever spoken like that to the Spider Tamer, so he looked at the brave girl, confused.
– Take a bath, take a bath! – he screamed and rushed through the palace.
That was the only thing little Ikonija was waiting for! She already had a plan how to escape the Spider Tamer’s palace.
As soon as she entered the tub, made of turtle shell, little Ikonija took out her hairpin, bent it to make a circle, made lather in the tub and started making soap bubbles. Since the walls were made of cobweb, the bubbles could not burst. Ikonija continued making them, until she filled the entire palace. There were so many bubbles, that they finally elevated the entire palace into the air, together with Ikonija and the frightened Spider Tamer. Not realizing what is happening, seeing that his spiders cannot help him anymore, the Spider Tamer screamed in vain.
Then the wind started blowing and took the palace towards the village.
When they reached the place above the village, Ikonija began piercing soap bubbles with her hairpin. The palace, together with the Spider Tamer and little Ikonija, slowly landed on the village square.
That morning, the soldiers have just returned from war. There was great sorrow in Ikonija’s house. Her father already began building ferries together with the villagers, preparing to attack the Spider Tamer’s palace.
When the palace landed on the square, the soldiers rushed to it, killed the Spider Tamer and set free little Ikonija and the other children. The cobweb palace was set to fire.
Running to hug her father and mother, little Ikonija was the happiest child in the world.


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