“Spider’s Web” – An American Folk Song

One goal of the Mama Lisa’s World sites is to help preserve traditional songs around the world. Sometimes songs have been remembered by a group through unexpected means. This seems to be the case with Spider’s Web.

Margaret B. was taught this song by her mother, who learnt it from her mother, who learnt it from her mother. In Margaret’s family, they sing it as a lullaby to the children.

According to Margaret, Spider’s Web originates with 19th century Kentucky settlers. The Girl Scout’s sang it as a camp song back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, thus helping to preserve it in many peoples’ memories.

Margaret recorded Spider’s Web and posted it on YouTube. Happily, she contacted me and let me post it on Mama Lisa’s World. Now we can all hear the song. Just click on the bar below to hear Margaret’s haunting rendition of Spider’s Web. I’ll post the lyrics below the video.

Spider’s Web

Down in the valley,
There is a mission,
By the old oak tree.
By the mission,
There is a fountain,
Where my love told me:

There’s a web like a spider’s web,
Made of silk and light and shadows,*
Spun by the moon in my room at night.
It’s a web made to catch a dream,
Hold it tight ‘til I awaken,
As if to tell me, my dream is all right.

In the evening,
I was leaving,
My love dreamt of me.
I was sleeping,
She was weeping,
When she said to me:

There’s a web like a spider’s web,
Made of silk and light and shadows,
Spun by the moon in my room at night.
It’s a web made to catch a dream,
Hold it tight ‘til I awaken,
As if to tell me, my dream is all right.

I met a stranger,
His name was Danger,
We rode side by side.
Down in Santa Fe,
I killed a man they say
Danger told me, “Ride!”

There’s a web like a spider’s web,
Made of silk and light and shadows,
Spun by the moon in my room at night.
It’s a web made to catch a dream,
Hold it tight ‘til I awaken,
As if to tell me, my dream is all right.

Now if I return,
They will hang me,
By the old oak tree,
Down by the mission,
Down by the fountain,
Where my love told me:

There’s a web like a spider’s web,
Made of silk and light and shadows,
Spun by the moon in my room at night.
It’s a web made to catch a dream,
Hold it tight ‘til I awaken,
As if to tell me, my dream is all right.

*This line can alternately be sung as, “Made of silver light and shadows”.

Many thanks to Margaret B. for sharing this song with us. You can see other YouTube videos by Margaret on her YouTube Home Page. Thanks also to Patsi for pointing out this song to me – which she remembered from Girl Scouts.

-Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Tuesday, July 24th, 2007 at 10:27 am and is filed under American Folk Songs, American Kids Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, English, Folk Songs, Languages, Spider's Web, USA, YouTube. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

45 Responses to ““Spider’s Web” – An American Folk Song”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    Thank you so much for having this song! I sang it at girl scout camp when I was younger (1980s/90s)–I’m 25 now. It was always a favorite of mine and every once and a while I still get the song stuck in my head, but I couldn’t completely remember all of the words. Thanks again! It’s a beautiful song!

  2. Melody Says:

    I learned this song at camp 30 or more years ago. But I only remembered the chorus, I guess the words to the verses kind of scared me back then! I love the chorus and have sung it as a lullaby to my three children and now to my grandchildren. I have never been able to remember the rest of the song, but I wanted to know it again. Thank you! Now I can pass on the entire song to my daughter and grandsons.

  3. Dina Says:

    I have had this song in my head since summer camp, 1975, but never even thought to look on the web for it until today-My counselor used to sing it to us before bed. You sing it just like she did (although she would play the guitar too) and now the mystery of what some of the lyrics were are solved. (I always wondered why Danger would tell her “Right”-but now I see it’s “ride.”(makes sense.) Such a dark song for a children’s song.
    Anyway, thank you for posting it. .

  4. Hinda Arbogast Says:

    Wow. Just was singing the chorus in the shower…wonderful camp memories with this song…thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  5. Chords Says:

    I love the song, someone dear to me wanted to hear that song again and I wanted to play it for her… do you know where I could find the chords or the notes to play for her?

  6. Alec Ravencroft Says:

    Thank you for posting this!! I learned this song at camp, two years ago.. I don’t suppose anyone else learned this song at a place called “Nature Camp”? It’s in Vesuvius, Virginia. I have many fond memories of singing this song at camp but could only remember the chorus.. Hearing the whole thing again really made me smile.

  7. Gabor Says:

    Dear Margaret,

    This was amazing! I love the song! I am an English teacher from Budapest, Hungary. I have a lot of elementary students who are actually adults, which means they have difficulties in learning words and intonation in a foreign language. Your voice and this beautiful song made them indeed happy, and helped a lot in their language development.
    P. S . Please sing us more songs from your childhood memories!

  8. meagan Says:

    If you wanted to play this on guitar i would suggest playing D, A, Em, G quietly… when the line comes “my dream is alright” switch quickly over to D to make it sound better.

  9. Cami Says:

    My dad and I have sung this song together ever since before I can remember.

  10. Karen Says:

    Thanks for publishing these lyrics! For some odd reason, this song randomly appeared in my brain & got stuck there the other day; something I remembered from some 30 years ago in girl scout camp. I remembered the end being “as if to tell me that dreaming’s all right,” rather than “my dream is all right,” but maybe it doesn’t make a difference.

    I’d love to get the guitar chords. Does anyone have them?

  11. Hope Says:

    Thank you for putting this on the web. I am 54 and when I was a girl, my cousins, who were lucky enough to go to Girl Scout summer camp, taught me this song. Since I played the guitar, they wrote down the words and chords for me. I had the guitar, case and words in the case until 16 years ago when my house was broken into and that was the only thing taken. Since then, I have been trying to find the song. The chords posted on this site seem very familiar. I will try them.
    Thanks

  12. Jen Says:

    OMG – I too remember this song from camp. I get in stuck in my head all the time. It was always one of my favorites. Thank you so much for posting it. I’ve been trying to find my old song book now that my daughter has started going to camp & I wanted to sing this for her. A million thanks.

  13. Stacey Says:

    Wow – thank you so much. I remember this song from Girl Scout Camp back in the late 70s. I had no idea it was so old. The chorus gets stuck in my head all the time, but this is the first time I’ve been able to find it online. It was so nice to hear it, not just read the lyrics. This version was a bit slower than I remember, but not by much and the tune was just the same.

  14. Jaylynn Says:

    Thank you so much for posting the lyrics along with the video. My boyfriend was at work and just remembered the chorus that him mom used to sing to him every night before he went to sleep. He couldn’t remember the verses or much of the tune. I jumped online and looked up the rest of the lyrics and your sight was the only one with the lyrics and video. Thank you so much for this! Since he has remembered the song, he has retaught the rest of his family and they are now passing it on to their kids. Thank you!

  15. Janet S Says:

    Thanks for posting this! My Outdoor School Counselor used to sing this to us – must have been 1971 or 72. I always remembered the chorus, but couldn’t remember all the verses. It’s great being able to sing this again!

  16. Lindsay W Says:

    Well I learned this song at a place called Nature Camp, and I actually have a chord book from the same place with the chords for the song. In camp version the chords are

    Am G
    Down in the valley,
    G Am
    There is a mission,
    Am G Am
    By the old oak tree.
    Am G
    By the mission,
    G Am
    There is a fountain,
    Am G Am G
    Where my love told me:

    C G
    There’s a web like a spider’s web,
    F G
    Made of silk and light and shadows,*
    Am C F G
    Spun by the moon in my room at night.
    C G
    It’s a web made to catch a dream,
    F G
    Hold it tight ‘til I awaken,
    Am C F G C
    As if to tell me, my dream is all right.

    repeat for each verse and chorus

  17. Robin D Says:

    I learned this at LDS Young Women camp (Camp Shalom) in the 80’s. I hated camp for many reasons, but this song is one of the few happy memories. I’m thrilled to find this site with the lyrics. Thank you.

  18. Gwen Says:

    I was trying to remember parts of this song I had forgotten. I learned it in the 70’s at Girl Scout Camp. Any idea how old it is?

  19. dale Says:

    This song, chorus only, sung by Odetta, was the theme for a public radio show in the late ’70’s. They broadcast audio versions of great children’s literature.

    Thanks for posting it here! it’s a lovely song. Wish I could track down the old radio shows….

  20. Mike Says:

    I recently began a search for this song because of the radio show “the Spider’s Web” from WGBH.
    Below is a link to one of the broadcasts of a Wind in the Willows.
    This song was the theme song to the weekly show.

    http://forum-network.org/lecture/spiders-web-wind-willows-part-1

    I loved this song as a kid and it frequently comes to mind to this day.
    I hope this helps.

  21. Lisa Says:

    That sounds a little like James Taylor singing.

  22. Sarah Says:

    Thanks so much for this! I learned this song at girl scout camp in the 80’s. It was in a songbook, but was called “The Dream Catcher”. It was supposed to be about a love triangle. A man falls in love with a Native American woman, she leaves him for another man, and he goes and shoots him down.

    I have only remembered the first verse and chorus, but sang it to my two children as a cherished lullaby. Now I can sing them all of it! Even though they are older, I can’t wait to share it with them. I believe it is Suzanne Collins’ inspiration for the song of Katniss’ father about the hanging tree in the Hunger Games book series.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    I went to a summer camp when I was young…and I remember that after camp that song would get stuck in my head. I really didn’t get the song but we sung it almost daily.

  24. Old Scout Says:

    Nice to see. My only comment is, the lyrics are in a different order. First you meet danger, then you leave, then you can’t return. I met a stranger…danger told me ride…on the evening I was leaving…now if I return. At least that is the way we sang it. Thanks for the memories.

  25. Brylee Says:

    I’m sorry but this is not correctly protrade. For all of you who have heard it in the ages, the lyrics are not correct. Think about a 14 year old is correcting you.

  26. Lisa Says:

    There are many variations of traditional songs. We’d love to learn the version you know.

  27. Nancy Says:

    I remember most of this song from girl scouts in the late ’70s. As with a lot of songs passed down by just singing, the words are different. Thanks for the posting.

  28. Cara Says:

    Thanks so much for posting this song! All the other sites I looked at had the lyrics a little off from what I remembered. When I was 4-6 I lived with my aunt and the only way to calm me down and sleep (I liked bouncing off walls all day) was to sing this song. I can’t wait to sing it to my aunt to see if she remembers it!!!

  29. Rebecca Says:

    Thank you for this song! I too learned it at summer camp (Camp Fire) in the late ’70s/early ’80s, though there’s an extra verse here (“In the evening, I was leaving…”) I don’t remember hearing back then. Oddly enough, from the story in the verses I always thought it was from an old Western movie…

  30. RJ Lewis Says:

    I learned this song at a YMCA/YWCA camp in Minnesota back in the early 70’s. Could never remember all the verses but the chorus has stuck in my head since those early years. Thanks for posting this and for the great memories!

  31. L Cousino Says:

    I learned this in the late 60’s in girls out camp. I could only remember the chorus and have sang it to all my children and now my grandchildren. Thank you for the lyrics!!

  32. Cameron Says:

    I learned this song at my summer camp. The lyrics were changed from “they will hang me” to “she will greet me” and the third verse wasn’t sung due to the young children at the camp. This song is beautiful and will definitely be sung to my children. Thank you for posting this!

  33. Terri Hemker Says:

    I was so excited to find this! I learned it in college in Theater class in 1978 in Holland, MI when we were doing ‘Spoon River Anthology’. We put in some songs that we thought would be appropriate to the feeling of that play. One girl taught us that song and we used it in the play with great success! I never forgot that song though I could never remember all the verses! So happy to have this now! Thank you so much!

  34. Susan Says:

    I learned this at YWCA camp in the 1960s. I, too, thought it was Danger told me right.”
    And I thought the web was “made of silk, and light of shadow.” I rather like that; pretty sophisticated!

  35. Carolyn Dixon Says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! I learned this song at Girl Scout Camp in the 60/70’s. I sang along with you, it’s the first time I’ve sung it with anybody in about 40 years! Wonderful!

  36. Sara S. Says:

    My mom learned this when she was in Girl Scouts in Pennsylvania. She would sing the first verse and chorus to me as a lullaby in the early 90s. Now I sing it to my daughter! I never knew there were more lyrics until now. Thank you so much for preserving it!

  37. Marla Says:

    I also sang this at gs camp. I as one of the earlier posts, sang it to my children as a lullaby. I love this song. Thank you for the post

  38. Denise Culton Says:

    I woke up with the chorus in my head. In the early 80’s I learned this in 5th grade when the 2 fifth grade classes got together periodically to sing and we almost always did this one. I’d forgot all but the chorus until I read here the lines I met a stranger, his name was Danger and I remembered it!! Wow what a memory. What a great surprise to find this. Am now ransacking memory for the other songs.

  39. Marilee S. Says:

    I have sung many different versions of this song, beginning at campfires at Girl Scout camp in 1968. My favorite verse goes like this:

    Spiders spin their webs, to last forever
    So a friend told me
    I said that I would dream
    Like a spider dreams
    Of things that ought to be.

  40. Celia B Says:

    It was so nice to hear this song again. I sang it at Campfire Camp in the late 60’s/early 70’s. We sang it as Margaret B does, “silk and light and shadows”, but we also only had the chorus. There’s a new melody version going around on the internet, but we sang it exactly the way Margaret does in her video. I’m a piano teacher, and I was looking for the song to teach to my kiddos.
    Thanks, it was awesome!

  41. Rachel Says:

    I sang this years ago when I was a girl scout. it was my favorite song and lately I have been trying o remember the words to sing to my 18 month old. Thank you so much for publishing this, it is really beautiful.

  42. Patty Says:

    I’m so happy to have found this song again. I was thinking of it just a few weeks ago. Same here, I went to girl scout camp in early 60’s and enjoyed this song among many others.
    Oh, those were the carefree days!

  43. Hazel Koorockin Says:

    I would like to reply to Maria. That riddle she asked for is—“Sisters and brothers have I none but that man’s father is my father’s son. Who am I looking at? Glad to be of help.

  44. Jade Says:

    My college roommate in the late ’70s was a music major. After she tuned in NPR to listen to classical music, she left the radio on and I heard the song as theme music for a children’s program. It’s nice every now and then to see the actual lyrics to a song, instead of having to come up with the words for when they didn’t sound correct.

  45. Karen Says:

    I sang this catchy song at Girl Scout camp outside Keene, NH in the mid-1060s. Every now and then it would pop into my head. It was printed in the Girl Scout Handbook which I kept for many decades. Unfortunately it was discarded during one of my moves. Does anyone know where I can get the piano music for this song?

    Thank you so much!

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