Rukh was standing before a cage that contained nothing but a small brown spider weaving a modest web across the bars. “Arachne of Lydia,” he told the crowd. “Guaranteed the greatest weaver in the world — her fate’s the proof of it. She had the bad luck to defeat the goddess Athena in a weaving contest. Athena was a sore loser, and Arachne is now a spider, creating only for Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival, by special arrangement. Warp of snow and woof of flame, never any two of the same.”
Strut on the loom of iron bars, the web was very simple and almost colorless, except for an occasional rainbow shiver when the spider scuttled out on it to put a thread right. But it drew the onlookers’ eyes as well — back and forth and steadily deeper, until they seemed to be looking down into great rifts in the world, black fissures that widened remorselessly and yet would not fall into pieces as long as Arachn’s web held the world together. The Unicorn shook herself free with a sigh, and saw the real web again. It was very simple, and almost colorless.
“It isn’t like the others,” she said.
“No,” Schmendrick agreed grudgingly. “But, there’s no credit due to Mommy Fortuna for that. You see, the spider believes. She sees those cat’s-cradles herself and thinks them her own work. Belief makes all the difference to magic like Mommy Fortuna’s. Why, if that troop of willing withdrew their wonder, there’d be nothing left of all her witchery but the sound of a spider weeping. And no one would hear it.”
Excerpts from “The Last Unicorn,” by Peter S. Beagle
. . .
So much for the promises of this world. So much investment in the world’s guarantees to result in nothing; empty vanity. But the power seems to be in our belief in them, and this isn’t so far removed from Christ’s promises to believers:
“For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Close enough to promote lies and obfuscate truth. False horns are made of such as this.
But here is the work of faith, and a question for believers and nonbelievers:
If faith has the power to produce a false horn on Unicorns and white mares alike, which is better?
[The crowd] wondered at Arachne’s new web, which was like a fisherman’s net with the dripping moon in it. Each of them took it for a real web, but only the spider believed that it held the real moon.
So much for the love of the crowd. Even if it were the real moon in poor Arachne’s web, hanging tenuously by her silken thread but pulling waves from the tides, would the crowd know any better?
I suppose it depends upon your crowd. For whom does the weaver weave?
Perhaps a danger of the false horn is in its reflection and the cage that comes with it.
Only the spider paid no mind when the Unicorn called softly to her through the open door. Arachne was busy with a web which looked to her as though the Milky Way had begun to fall like snow. The Unicorn whispered, “Weaver, freedom is better, freedom is better,” but the spider fled unhearing up and down her iron loom. She never stopped for a moment, even when the Unicorn cried, “It’s really very attractive, Arachne, but it’s not art.” The new web drifted down the bars like snow.
Have you invested in a false horn? Are you ready to give it up? Are you able?
So they fled across the night together, step by step, the tall man in black and the horned white beast. The magician crept as close to the Unicorn’s light as he dared, for beyond it moved hungry shadows, the shadows of the sounds that the harpy made as she destroyed the little there was to destroy of the Midnight Carnival. But another sound followed them long after these had faded, followed them into morning on a strange road — the tiny, dry sound of a spider weeping.
When the break is made and freedom opens its maw, will you give up on the work you’ve invested in the false horn? Will you leave it behind for something better?
That is the work of faith. The kind that moves mountains.