What kind of spider is Charlotte?

My 7 year old daughter was watching the live action Charlotte’s Web yesterday, and asked me what kind of spider Charlotte is. I don’t know. I’m not even sure it’s ever been specified, so there may not be a factual answer. But when I told her I didn’t know, she said “ask the Dopers; they probably know” (that kid is smart!)

So, any of you guys know?

There’s no spider in existence that is that big, has a face, and can talk. :rolleyes:

On a serious note… it is a Araneus cavaticus. :slight_smile:

Barn spider (Araneus cavaticus):

Makes sense to me.

Charlotte introduces herself as “Charlotte A. Cavatacus.” We can assume the “A” stands for “Araneous.”

Araneous Cavatacus is the common “Barn Spider” indigenous to the Northeast and Canada, and particularly Maine where the Arable’s live.

The Barn Spider takes down its web each night and respins it, just like Charlotte.

As a great fan of E.B. White and having just finished rereading Peter F. Neumeyer’s The Annotated Charlotte’s Web, we note that Mr. White was very precise in his literary constructions, and was careful to make Charlotte behave and have the habits and lifecycle of an authentic specific spider indigenous to the setting. This commendable accuracy extends right down to the description and qualities of the egg sac that Templeton detaches.

And Aranea was the name of Charlotte’s daughter. (One of them…)

I know Charlotte was a good, sweet spider…but I googled barn spider, and man are they ugly.

OMG! Really? I. . .I. . .I don’t know what to say. You’ve crushed my childhood dreams! :frowning:

For those of you who took the time to try to give me real answers, thank you very much! The information has been passed along to my curious little girl! :cool:


If you watch the extra footage at the end of the live action DVD, you will also learn that while the Charlotte in the book was A. Cavaticus, the barn spider didn’t have the look that the film makers were going for. The CGI spider in the movie is a sort of hybrid based largely off of a wolf spider. They decided that wolf spiders were more expressive and cuddly looking.

Well, actually we were watching the DVD on a trip to an amusement park, aboard a charter bus. So they didn’t give us the option of watching the bonus features. But I appreciate the info.

Oh, yeah. You got no time to email me once in a while, but you’ve got plenty of time to drop into my threads and give smart ass answers, huh? :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes, I gave you a smart ass answer (in a joking manner), BUT, I was also the first one to give you the REAL answer as well. :wink:

Yes, it was a real answer. I’ll have to admit that. I’ll also say I thought the rolleyes were a little over the top, since one could assume that if I can compose a coherent OP and actually, you know, parent a child, I would have known all that to begin with.

Wasn’t she Charlotte A. Cavatica?

You are 100% correct! Cavatica as in singular.

Right. The real spiders who have a face and can talk are much smaller. :slight_smile:

I assumed that was because she was feminine. Cavaticus is typically the masculine (well, second declension), singular ending. And the same with Aranea, the daughter.

That was my reasoning as well.

They decided wrongly then. Shudder.

Between the spider and “She who shall not not beeeeeeeeeeeeeee named” I can’t bring myself to see it.

Really? They thought this was expressive AND cuddly looking?

I interviewed the animators for my next book which is a narrative natural science for adults on spiders. I am a recovered arachnophobe who overdid the cure and am now obsessed by them. I have quite a long quote from John Dietz, who headed the animation team, on how they went about doing Charlotte.

The dopers’ answers on the barn spider are quite right. That is one of the garden orb weavers, with different species found all over the world. Anyone who has seen one of those huge orb webs on a summer’s night that is gone in the monring, has a Charlotte there. They are stunning to watch, and almost everywhere in the world.

The animators did make some changes. John didn’t mention wolf spiders, but they did have to give her big eyes for expression. All orb weavers have eight tiny eyes and almost no sight. They used real garden orb weavers a lot, though, especially for the shape and movement. Garden orb weavers are clumbsy off their webs, so John said they made Charlotte move like she does on the web, even when on hard surfaces or pig’s noses.

To make her speak, they couldn’t give her a mouth. A spider’s mouth is underneath, so they made her chelicerae (the bits that hold the fangs) move in and out, which is what they do in ‘modern’ spiders like the orb weavers.

norinew, I have been talking to school kids, some as young as your daughter, about spiders. It’s a presentation I do using the images from the book, on getting to know your own spiders as individuals. I have had a huge positive reaction to it. There is a big differencce in the reaction to kids since Charlotte’s Web came out. I told the animators that, and John replied:

“What you’re saying about changing attitudes of children has really made a lot of people in the office very proud. Anytime we can transcend bounds of film making into an impact on society, it makes all the effort seem way more worthwhile.”

Long Live “Charlotte’s Web” and Long Die “Eight legged Freaks”. One has taken good research on spiders and ended up with a great book and film by extrapolating what is real. The other is arachnid rubbish from beginning to end.