Jeremias Gotthelf, the pen name of Albert Bitzius (1797–1854), was a Swiss pastor and the author of novels, novellas, short stories, and nonfiction, who used his writing to communicate his reformist concerns in the field of education and with regard to the plight of the poor. After the success of his first novel, Der Bauernspiegel oder Lebensgeschichte des Jeremias Gotthelf: Von ihm selbst beschrieben (The Peasants’ Mirror; or, The Life History of Jeremias Gotthelf: Described by Himself; 1836) the author adopted the name of the story’s protagonist. Among his major works to have appeared in English translation are The Black Spider; Ulric, the Farm Servant; and The Story of an Alpine Valley.
In this unforgettably creepy story admired by the likes of Robert Walser and Thomas Mann, a bold peasant woman believes she has outwitted the devil until a horrible spider’s egg develops on the site of the kiss he gives her to seal the deal. The Black Spider can be seen as a parable of evil in the heart or at large in society, or as a Lovecraftian vision of the cosmic horror that underpins all life on Earth.