November 29, 2005

Why Nellie?

The last chapter of Charlotte’s Web finds Wilbur in a sad state. His beloved Charlotte has died. He has protected her egg sac and watched her babies hatch, only to see them sail away on balloons of spun silk. But three tiny spiders have stayed behind in the barn to remain with him. The first is called Joy, the second Aranea. As for the third:

“How about me?” asked the third spider. “Will you just pick out a nice sensible name for me--something not too long, not too fancy, and not too dumb?”

Wilbur thought hard.

“Nellie?” he suggested.

“Fine, I like that very much,” said the third spider. “You may call me Nellie.” She daintily fastened her orb line to the next spoke of the web.

Wilbur’s heart brimmed with happiness. He felt that he should make a short speech on this very important occasion.

“Joy! Aranea! Nellie!” he began. “Welcome to the barn cellar. You have chosen a hallowed doorway from which to string your webs. I think it is only fair to tell you that I was devoted to your mother. I owe my very life to her. She was brilliant, beautiful, and loyal to the end. To you, her daughters, I pledge my friendship, forever and ever.”

“I pledge mine,” said Joy.

“I do, too,” said Aranea.

“And so do I,” said Nellie, who had just managed to catch a small gnat.

[Yeah, I realize this extended metaphor places me squarely in the role of the pig. What can I say? Diabetes can do that kind of thing to a girl.]


  1. You know, I wondered about "Nellie" when I first read the name, but then thought, "Nah, it couldn't be that Nellie."

    You see, 6 1/2 years ago, I lost the cat who'd been with me for 19 years-- she died when Joseph was just 3 1/2. The book I turned to in order to help the two of us cope with both the loss, and Joseph's first real exposure to the death of a loved one, was Charlotte's Web.

    It was the first novel I'd ever read to him (still a favorite in this house).

    Wonderful choice, Violet. Just wonderful.

  2. I agree with Sandra -- Charlotte's Web was one of my favorite books as a child. And even now, as a quasi-adult. The mere premise of Charlotte spinning her web to save the sweet little pig ... the whole metaphor works, V.

    I didn't make the connection until now.

    Some pig.

  3. Well, the first insulin came from pigs... right?

    One of my favorite books also.