Scotland’s Legends – Robert the Bruce, a spider and the BBC (with poem)

Always one for a story, especially ancient myth or legend. But when something happens today that links to legend, I can’t resist.

Hollywood and that scary man Mel Gibson- a Palestinian hero,  Aussie embarrassment, actor of sorts and director who punished us with scenes of a bloke called Jesus’ torturous death, also gave us William Wallace with a Blue face yelling at the English “You can take away our lives but you can never take away our Freedom!’. The greater hero for Scotland was however Robert the Bruce, inaccurately portrayed in ‘Braveheart’ the movie as betraying Wallace. But Hollywood tends to re-write history. Even the name Brave Heart is believed to have been given to Robert the Bruce and not to William Wallace. The name “Brave Heart” actually refers to Robert the Bruce and not William Wallace. After his death, Robert’s heart was literally carried into battle, giving birth to the nickname. see here

For a Scottish history site  discussion titled ‘Braveheart- Fact or Fiction’ see here

Bruce went into hiding after being crowned King of Scotland in 1306 when the English invaded. One of his many places of hiding was a cave (or some say a ‘lonely hut, no matter, it was cold and lonely) in South West Scotland. He was obviously feeling like a refugee from his own land, hungry and despondent. In the cave he watched a spider spin its web it struggled to throw a thread across the cave roof and for anyone who has watched these amazing creatures it was diligent. Six times it tried and failed. Then on the seventh swing – success. In the story, the message Robert the Bruce took was to never give up his struggle to free Scotland from the English. And thus the legend lives on………….There are a number of caves in South West Scotland that claim to be the one where Bruce watched the spider. No one is certain which is the authentic cave or even if the incident with the spider ever really happened. See here

Eventually as history confirms that seriously outnumbered he gloriously beat the English army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.  A great site for the History of Bruce is the BBC Scottish history site here

So what’s recently happened to link to legend?


I think this is the new myth attachment to ‘Robert the Bruce and the spider’.  Its symbolic message (cleverly through the BBC) is that Scotland will have its day again…………FREEDOM!


And for all those mad poet bloggers who have so sweetly followed my blog, a wee bit of Scots poetry to warm the soul. See original article here

BRUCE AND THE SPIDER by: Bernard Barton (1784-1849)

For Scotland’s and for freedom’s right
The Bruce his part has played;–
In five successive fields of fight
Been conquered and dismayed:
Once more against the English host
His band he led, and once more lost
The meed for which he fought;
And now from battle, faint and worn,
The homeless fugitive, forlorn,
A hut’s lone shelter sought.

And cheerless was that resting-place
For him who claimed a throne;–
His canopy, devoid of grace,
The rude, rough beams alone;
The heather couch his only bed–
Yet well I ween had slumber fled
From couch of eider down!
Through darksome night till dawn of day,
Absorbed in wakeful thought he lay
Of Scotland and her crown.

The sun rose brightly, and its gleam
Fell on that hapless bed,
And tinged with light each shapeless beam
Which roofed the lowly shed;
When, looking up with wistful eye,
The Bruce beheld a spider try
His filmy thread to fling
From beam to beam of that rude cot–
And well the insect’s toilsome lot
Taught Scotland’s future king.

Six times the gossamery thread
The wary spider threw;–
In vain the filmy line was sped,
For powerless or untrue
Each aim appeared, and back recoiled
The patient insect, six times foiled,
And yet unconquered still;
And soon the Bruce, with eager eye,
Saw him prepare once more to try
His courage, strength, and skill.

One effort more, his seventh and last!–
The hero hailed the sign!–
And on the wished-for beam hung fast
That slender silken line!
Slight as it was, his spirit caught
The more than omen; for his thought
The lesson well could trace,
Which even “he who runs may read,”
That Perseverance gains its meed,
And Patience wins the race.

“Bruce and the Spider” is reprinted from Historic Ballads and Poems. Ed. Rupert S. Holland. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1912.



  1. It is common for the media to change history. I enjoyed the blog. I love any kind of history. We have our Custer’s here. Worst General ever and massacre of unarmed Native Americans. Helen Jackson wrote the real story “A Century of dishonor”. No-one read till later. Braveheart is one of my favorite movies. A new twist for me now.


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