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Bluebeard is a French folktale written in the late 1900’s. The story begins with the introduction of a grand man, who has great wealth and fortune. But, his fortune failed him when it came to his blue beard, that made all of the women whom he wooed recoil in disgust. He had many wives before, but they all mysteriously disappeared.
This unfortunate man had a neighbor with two daughters, fair in both heart and beauty. The man sought for one of their hands in marriage, but neither wanted to marry a man with such a hideous blue beard and missing wives.
After a glamorous party, the youngest daughter started to think that he wasn’t quite so bad, and she agreed to marry him. They had only been married for a short time when the man told his new wife that in several weeks he had to leave for business, and she could do what she pleased with his wealth and country homes. He gave her the keys to everything, and told her to throw all of the doors open wide and enjoy. But he gave her the key to a closet and forbid her from opening the door. She threw grand parties and swell time, marvelling at the great treasures that the man had in his house. But soon curiosity overcame her and she opened the door to the closet. She was horrified to see the mangled corpses of his former wives hanging on hooks throughout the closet, blood pooling on the floor along with more limp bodies of unlucky women. The woman stood horrified at what she saw, and dropped the key to the door in the pool of clotted blood. She quickly grabbed the key and closed the door, but despite all of her methods the blood stayed on the key. The man came home that evening, and upon seeing the bloody key he flew into rage and told her that she will take her place among the ladies she saw there. He allowed her to go upstairs and say her prayers, and while there she called to her sister Anne to see if her cavalryman and musketeer brothers were coming as they said they would that day. After much stalling and no brothers in sight, she was forced to back down to the man, where he stood waiting with a saber. Though she cried, he took her by the hair and was ready to chop off her head. Then her brothers burst into the room and slayed the evil man. The now ex-wife now has all of the man’s wealth and uses it for herself and her family.
This fairy tale was written in France, with several versions. The most popular telling was written by Charles Perrault. Charles Perrault has a career in government service, and then became secretary to King Louis XlV’s finance minister. After a successful career, at the age of 67, he lost his place as secretary and used the remainder of his life to bring joy to his wife and children. Then, his book Histoires ou contes du temps passé, or in English, Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals was published in 1697. There are many weavings of this dark tale, but this is the one that is seen most often.
The folktale has many meanings, but the one I favor the most would be all that glitters isn’t gold. She was fooled easily by him flaunting his wealth, and didn’t think of if she loved him as a person. She only thought based on appearances and wealth. That also ties into the saying don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I personally enjoy this story because it has so many meanings to it, and it is also based on spine chilling truth. There are many things that this story is rumored to be based off of, but each of them are horrifying. One event that happened in Brittany during the 15th century was the serial killer nobleman Gilles de Rais, although his crimes were of the gory murders of little kids. There is another story that was found in the biography of St. Gildas, a 6th century monk. The details logged in his life story told about a Breton King, Conomor the Accursed and his little wife Tryphine. They were married, but the lingering spirits of his previous wives warned Tryphine that he would kill her when she bore a child, just like what he did to them. She ran away, but Conomor caught her and sliced off her head, only for her to be brought back to life with the divine powers or St. Gildas. Conomors castle then crumbles and kills the Accursed one. Interestly enough, Conomor the Accursed is said to be a mythology as described by folklore, and shrines are dedicated to his wife. Bluebeards hideous facial hair is said to indicate that he is not of our world, so it is very likely that the story of Bluebeard is based of off the story of Conomor and his wife.
Bluebeard is a fascinating short story, filled with hidden meanings and mysteries that seem to be viewed differently for each reader. I highly recommend reading this spooky story, it’s something that would really open your eyes to short stories of back in the day. You can find Bluebeard and many other old tales like it for free on http://www.gutenberg.org, where Project Gutenberg translates it from it’s original language into English, so that we can enjoy these classic works of fiction.
By Paris Shewfelt