Notes on Bluebeard
- Been around since 15th century
- Based on several real-life figures, both from the same area in France
- Many versions of the tale, and with Pirout, he is a French author, laid the foundations for a new and literary genre, the fairy-tale. Most of his works derived from folktale
- This story is from his collection of short stories of fairy-tales, past times with morals, Mother Goose stories. Sleeping beauty, Puss in Boots, Cinderella, etc
- Framing morals and lessons from the young done almost universally in stories
- Most recently, Philip Pullman does this
- His morals are outdated – in particular, the husband’s moral, don’t talk for too long before you kill the wife.
- Bluebeard is a lot bloodier than the other tales; his versions of the other tales are more neutered.
- Contrast with the Beast in Beauty and the Beast – archetype resolved.
- Another version with an oedipal prophecy that if his wife becomes pregnant, then a son will be born and will kill him.
- Pirout – oriental setting, Blue Beard in Bagdad, moved in a distance away in a foreign setting, the usual ‘other’ reflex, one of the foundations of orientalism, and another reason is the growing fascination with the near east and middle east – the same people capable of putting it down and projecting it as something to be feared also expressed fascination with it.
- Blue beard – a physical thing that sets him apart, that he is the ‘other’, distinct from everyone else. Abnormality is a prototype of all other forms of separating out individuals and marking them out as the other. People with defects pointed out e.g. feet that was problematic, would be singled out. The dwarf the oldest of these, and in a sense, the prototype of all our scapegoats, and projections of otherness. The first way you separate out anybody is to mark them off, usually signified what we are afraid of, and also we project evil and dislike onto as a consequence. Threat emanates from who is other. But Carter turns this on its head, and puts it back into France where Pirout is from. She still however sets is away from England.
- One of the big differences is the presentation of the mother, the concern for whether she loves him or not. Whereas in Pirout, the mother just wants her to get married and her daughter is just a commodity to her.
- The language is not just of an older period, elements of the gothic tradition, Berock literature in this, of the French decadence and symbolism writing of the late 19th century, so many of the artists she mentions were in that period. Gothic goes over the top, and making it spooky/leaving you hanging, etc. the progress of the arrival at the destination and the first encounter feels Rebeca. Then there is something in the sheer opulence of the vocabulary. Other aspects where she wades through the opulence of the language. Another aspect is like Hiessman’s Against Nature – at the decadence convictions, involved with talking about things and implying huge significance to them rather than talking about people and social settings and other everyday things. The book is an observation of that tendency – no plot, one person only describing the place he lives in. there is intense focus on something precious, things particularly choice and special. The collector mentality.
- Bluebeard the Frenchman, portrayed as someone who collects so much and knows so much, but is weary of it, almost as if there is no pleasure to be got even to take the virginity of this next virgin in his castle. John Fowl’s novel is also like this, with the collector mentality. Like the European powers collecting colonies, the rich taking on more wealth, etc.
Charles Perrault version
- first published by Barbin in Paris, January 1697
- the tale is about a nobleman who has a habit of murdering is wives
- a wealthy aristocrat, feared and created as the other due to his blue beard, is shunned and married several times but no one really knows what happened to his wives.When he visits one his neighbors one day, he asks to marry one of her two daughters, and the two daughters try to pass him on to the other. Eventually, he talks the younger one into to marry him.
- Her mother persuades her to marry him, due to monetary gain, and after their marriage ceremony, she goes to live with him in his chateau. Shortly afterwards, he announces he must leave the country for a while and gives her all the keys of the chateau to his new wife, telling her they open the rooms to all his treasures. He tells her she can use all the keys and enjoy herself while she is away apart from one room under the castle. Giving her the key to it, he stresses that she must never enter this room and she vows that she will not.
- Despite warnings from her visiting sister, the new bride abandons her guests during a house party and takes the key to the room. She immediately discovers the murdered bodies of his former wives hanging from hooks on the wall. She accidentally dropped the key into a pool of blood and flees the room, and tries to wash the blood that has stained the key. The blood, however, will not come off. Revealing the secret to her sister, they plan to leave the next day, but he returns home unexpectedly and asks to see the keys.
- Noticing the blood on the key, he knows immediately of his wife's broken vow. He threatens to behead her immediately, but she begs for time to say her prayers. He consents, and she locks herself in the highest tower with her sister. They wait, watching through the window to see if their brothers are on their way to save her. When Bluebeard is about to deliver the fatal blow, the brothers break into the castle and as Bluebeard attempts to flee, they kill him.
- The girl inherits his entire fortune. All of Bluebeard's wives are buried and she uses a part of the fortune to marry off her sister, and marries a gentleman who makes her forget about her terrible encounter with Bluebeard
Angela Carter's Bluebeard version; its differences from the original tale
- Called The Bloody Chamber
- All from the girl's perspective, she is not named
- Her mother tries to dissuade her from marrying the gentleman, it is clear she is not marrying him for love but for money
- The girl is young, naive, and flattered by money and expenses.
- The gentleman is not someone who is marked by a blue beard, but rather is a rich French Marquise. He is older than her, cruel and sadistic, cold like that of a lily, weary and tired of his new love object, enjoys embarrassing her and sadistic pornography.
- The piano tuner falls in love with her and she with him
- The mother saves her daughter; she shoots the Marquise before he delivers the fatal blow
- She marries the piano tuner, and converts the castle into a school
- At the end of the story, she has a bloody stain from the key on her forehead, marking her shame
I recommend Carter's The Bloody Chamber, it's great, and thanks for reading!