‘Bluebeard’ is a French fairy tale. It was first written down by Charles Perrault and published as part of his Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé (Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals). Even though it was included in the Grimms’ collection of fairy tales in 1812, it was removed from the latter editions for being ‘too French’. The Grimms were trying to compile an anthology of stories that were German in origin, they believed Germany was lacking in great works of literature compared to the rest of Europe and so wanted to fix this problem. The clearly French origin of ‘Bluebeard’ was obviously too much to ignore, thus it was removed. This is the most likely reason that the story is lesser known than many of Perrault’s tales other tales such as ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood’, ‘Puss in Boots’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.
Now let’s get down to the magic. If you take away the blue beard from the story then it is essential the tale of a mass murderer.
Bluebeard marries a young girl. He gives her a set of keys to all the rooms in his castle, but forbids her to enter one room at the bottom of a tower. Bluebeard is then called away on business and his new bride is left to wander the castle alone. Temptation gets the better of her, much like Eve in the Garden of Eden, and she cannot help but enter the forbidden chamber. Inside are the grotesquely bloodied bodies of all his previous wives. In her haste to leave she drops the key on the blood-soaked floor. Locking the room behind her she goes to wash the blood off of the key but finds it is permanently stained.
Bluebeard returns home early and demands his keys back. He notices one is missing and requests it. When the young girl brings it to him and he sees the indelible mark of blood he realises she has disobeyed him. Bluebeard decides that the only acceptable punishment is death – no surprise really coming from a serial killer. The girl pleads for a little time to say her prayers, which she uses to call to her brothers from a tower window.
Like most fairy tales it is not really a spoiler to say that all ends happily; she is rescued by her brothers, Bluebeard is killed, and since he had no heirs, all of his castle and wealth then belongs to her.
Like many of the canonical fairy tales, this has a very dark nature. Magical elements only include the blue hue of his beard and the indelible mark on the key. The former, I suppose, makes the story a little more fantastical, and the latter is not only symbolic of the story of the Fall, but is also a plot device; it allows Bluebeard access to the knowledge of what happened during his absence.
Angela Carter’s adaptation of the ‘Bluebeard’ story, ‘The Bloody Chamber’, printed alongside adaptations of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Puss in Boots’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in a collection of short stories entitled The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, has received much praise in the world of literary criticism. It explores similar motifs but, in typical Angela Carter fashion, incorporates a touch of feminism. In this story the young girl loses her virginity to the Marquis before he is called away on business and there is lots of imagery to mirror this loss of innocence. Other differences include her friendship with a blind piano tuner and the fact it is her mother who rescues her, using some kind of filial telepathy to realise she is in danger.
For a longer review of all the stories in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories please follow this link:
That’s all from me, over and out –