The Big Five is an Alliance of Five Nations and makes up the primary setting of Spider Stories:
Each Nation takes an animal as their emblem.
The Lion – renowned for their valor and wisdom. They rule with an even hand.
The Elephant – the second in the hierarchy. Known for being industrial and progressive.
The Leopard – Conservative and independent, yet completely loyal to the Lions
The Buffalo – Known for their skill in various trades. The craftsmen. The people are simple but strong.
The Rhino – Arcane and rustic. Their proficiency in ancient medicines and magic arts are unmatched.
In the Era of Chaos the five nations battled each other, but they were brought to order by the Spirit of the Spider and have since increased in wealth and splendor.
Five Nations connected by the Spirit of the Spider. It is customary that the head of the Alliance be blessed by the Spider Spirit and capable of wielding its awesome power. However Zahara was attacked before her ascension rites were complete, and Gamba has proved incapable of the task. The status of the Spirit remains in limbo.
Fleshing out the setting of Spider came somewhere in the middle of the process. We thought the idea of having multiple houses / nations / tribes was a cool idea. You see it all the time in fantasy. The houses of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, the Nations of Avatar, the various species in Lord of the Rings and Legend of Zelda.
The idea to use these five animals specifically as their emblems was actually inspired by the Big Five game animals in South Africa. They are often depicted in art together, and even appear on currency.
We decided early on that the Lions would have to be leader and the main characters [too much Lion King growing up], and then decided that their immediate rivals would be the Elephant. It was only later we learned that folklore and fiction is often divided on whether the Lion or the Elephant is the greatest of animals and some stories are even about this rivalry.
Both have been seen as powerful and majestic by many cultures even beyond Africa’s borders. With this knowledge we decided to make it an even more important plot point.