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Bluebeard

From Academic Kids

Bluebeard is the title character in a famous fairy tale about a dangerous husband and a curious wife, a cautionary tale against the dangers of curiosity and feminine disobedience told by Charles Perrault.

Bluebeard is a nobleman whose blue beard marks him as a figure of terror, but Fatima, the youngest of three sisters of a local lord, consents to marry him. Her fears are overcome by his spectacular household, silver plate, tapestries and carriages. She has the keys to all the chateau, even to one small chamber that she is forbidden to enter. As soon as Bluebeard is away, she is convinced to satisfy her curiosity to see what the chamber holds. Its floor reeks with blood, and Bluebeard's former wives hang lifeless upon the walls. Horrified, she locks the door, but blood will not wash off the key. Bluebeard returns unexpectedly and is about to strike off her head. The climax, as she and her sister Anne are at the top of a tower, with Bluebeard roaring for blood below, is condensed in her repeated plea

"Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"

True to fairy-tale form, the sisters cannot save themselves, but must wait for their brothers, who arrive at the last possible moment and dispatch Bluebeard.

Although best known as a fairy tale, the character of Bluebeard is believed to have been based on a serial-killing Breton nobleman of the 15th century, Gilles de Rais.

The themes of the mysterious absent husband, the sumptuous palace, the sister who encourages illicit curiosity and the One Forbidden Thing (a central mytheme: compare Pandora's Box and the story of Adam and Eve), all appear in the Hellenistic romance Cupid and Psyche. Though some have read in the Bluebeard story a diatribe against men who kill their wives legally, notably King Henry VIII, "Bluebeard" is really a woman's tale, passed from mother to daughter, with a subtext that a kind and gentle husband from the familiar circle well-known to kith and kin, is far safer than a glamorous marriage to a mysterious nobleman.

The Perrault version reappears retold in Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy book.

Operatic versions of the Bluebeard tale have been made by:

In 1979, Angela Carter published an updated version of the Bluebeard story, the eponymous story in her collection, The Bloody Chamber. Carter's work is written in first person narrative from the perspective of the young wife. It explores the feminist issues of the story. The setting is also modernized to a vague time period after WWI but before WWII.

Kurt Vonnegut's novel Bluebeard (1988) is only tangentially related to the folklore character.

External links

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