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The Snow Spider (1988)

The first television program I can remember watching was called The Snow Spider. I always remember that I was haunted by this show and could never quite remember the plot—although I did remember that it was about a boy who had lost a girl in mysterious circumstances (his sister, as it turned out).

I watched this program so young that it sunk away from my consciousness so I never checked back on it on the Internet like other television programs down the years—although I remember how poignant the theme was for me, pan pipes played over an ice web; and I remember the strange feeling of emptiness the show created in me, the mystery of what happened to the girl.

It was the first way I came to understand death, the ultimate mystery (because I don’t think I ever completed the series, so I never found out if the girl was found or not—I was too young to make sure I watched all the episodes or to ask to watch them).

The reason I didn’t remember the show very well was because it was first broadcast in 1988, so I would have been 4 if I watched when it was first broadcast—but it’s likely I saw it on a rerun; even so, I would have been 6 or 7 when I first saw it.

Anyway, I looked it up today and it turns out it’s about a little Welsh boy who lives on a farm (my family is half Welsh) and he turns out to be a magician though he doesn’t know it. I clicked on the YouTube upload of the TV series and the first scene is the boy standing on a hillside looking up at the stars and he says, “The stars are singing, can you hear them? The stars are singing.” Just as happened to me on Hartsfell (when I asked them to teach me the language of the old ones and they murmur-gurgled at me).

In the story, he is related to the Welsh trickster-magician figure Gwidyon (the story itself contains elements of the Mabinogion). His grandmother gives him five gifts, four of which he must throw to the winds if he wants to become a magician (5 is the number of the Druids, the boy is 9—another number with esoteric significance). One object is a broach, a broach which turns into the “Snow Spider” that helps him (it glows white and has a Celtic design on it in a more recent adaptation). The bit that always haunted me the most was when one of the boy’s companions was caught in a wall of ice.

Well, this is clearly some synchronistic anticipation of my own life—my own poignant relation to that work related to what I would do later on in life (the boy, incidentally, is told by his grandmother that he will always walk alone). As stated previously, if you asked me consciously what genre fiction I like the best I would probably say science fiction; but, as noted, I didn’t own, for example, Star Wars, as a child—we always rented that. What I actually watched again and again until the VHS box fell apart was Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), which is about an apprentice witch.

And the TV show that was most significant to me was The Snow Spider—not Doctor Who or anything like that. Except I watched it too young to be able to consciously explore the themes in it—I was just left with this haunting impression. Now, consciously, I would say I wasn’t interested in magic and fantasy and “all that stuff”—but the actual record is that this is what fascinated me when I was young; and, indeed, The Snow Spider must have been a magical synchronistic anticipation of what I was to become—because I’m a devotee of that very Celtic institution, the SS (and the stars).


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