Wednesday, October 27, 2004


27 Oct 04 Blue Beard

Harry Clarke illus
title page

According to the commentary on Sur La Lune, the story of Bluebeard is based on the life of Giles de Rais, a Marshal of France who served under Joan of Arc. Retiring to his estates after her execution, he became an alchemist, sodomizing boys and dabbling in black magic as well as child sacrifices apparently. He confesed to over 140 killings, but may have killed as many as 300—for this he was hanged and burned alive on October 26, 1440 —an incredibly difficult combination of executions.

Harry Clarke illu
Bluebeard joins his other wives

In 1697 Perrault published Bluebeard, in Histioiires ou contes du temps passé / Stories or Tales of Past Time, making it equally justifiable to say that Henry VIII was the real life model with his domestic diplomacy of disposing with several wives. In some ways, Bluebeard is the inversion of Beauty and the Beast regarding the themes of fidelity and marriage. A man has two daughters whom he wishes to marry to a wealthy neighbor, but they are repelled by him having a blue beard. To engage their affection, Blue Beard took them to his country estate where nothing by pleasure could be found in hunting, fishing, dancing and feasting. No one went to bed as the parties lasted till early morn. The younger of the two daughters began to think that life was not so bad with Blue Beard. A month after their departure, the marriage was concluded between the young woman, Fatima, and Blue Beard.

And all the neighbors and friends were envious of the rich marriage. They visited the castle to see about the trappings and wished the bride well and left her to her fate. her huband departs on a journey, leaving her a key to a secret chamber in the cellar with the instruction not to enter. However, Curiosity overcomes her and she investigates, only to find the corpses of other slaughtered brides.

Contemporary interpretation like to moralize that curiosity killed the cat. The story has taken on the usual Freudian sexual connotations that the bloody key represents the bride's infidelity to Blue Beard, while past generations used it to moralize it on the sanctitiy of marriage and grave punishment for marital insubordination. Both views ignore historical environment at the time of Perrault. Whether Perrault based the story on Giles de Rais or even Vlad IV the model of Dracula, cannot be proven. He may have used Cunmar the Accursed, a 15th century tyrant who killed a succession of wives in Brittany. It seemed a popular way of disposing of them as Henry VIII did so himself. However the last of Cunmar's wives is more fortunate than Anne Boleyn. After being decapitated outside the castle, St Gildas, the abbot of Rhuys happened by and restored her head to body, thus resussicating her. The story is found in frescoes in St Nicholas des Eaux. Similar stories are Fitcher's Bird in the Grimms' collection, Silvernose in Calvino's Italian Folktales and the English, Robber Bridgroom.

But curiously, Blue Beard, usually appears in oriental dress, something of a Turk in illustration.

Dulac illus
Quiller-Couch version of Blue Beard
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863–1944). The Sleeping Beauty and other Fairy Tales. 1910.

Perrault first brought the story forth in 1697—just fourteen years after the Siege of Vienna. In 1683, Mustafa I with 250,000 Turks were at the walls of Vienna on Kahlenberg. Kahlenberg overlooks Vienna above Grinzing—where Beethoven didn't hear the church bells. It is about 25minute walk through the vineyards from the Grinzinger Church, less than an hour's walk to the Stephansdom. Mustafa's armies encircled Vienna, because the other major battle was just across from where the Sudbahnhof stands today—a mere 15minutes walk from the Stephansdom. The Poles under John Socieski attacked from rear and Prince Eugene of Savoy defended Vienna—hence Prinz Eugenstrasse leading to the Sudbahnhof. It wasn't the first invasion of the Turks to Vienna, but the last. An exhibition of the weapons, tents, arms and javelins is permamently in the Heeresgeschichte Museem near to the Sudbahnhof. The Viennese were shaking in their nightgowns. The theme or relief of the defense is picked up by Mozart in Cosi fan Tutte where the two women exchange lovers and in the Abduction where Constanza escapes. White slavery of western women was a flourishing trade, just as much as black slavery. Nearby Vienna lies a small town near a large rock, Hainburg—where the great Roman general Marcus Aurelius had fortified the Danube. This town was swept through every war since that time, withstanding the sieges of Swedes and Turks successively, but one very narrow alley leading precipitously into the Danube is called Blutgasse. Why? The Turks having overrun the town, slaughtered all the inhabitants and cast them down this street into the Danube.

All of Europe was torn by the bitter religious wars between Catholics and Protestants, not limited to their own borderlands. The Swedes battled in Vienna and fought at White Mountain in Prague whle England fought between Catholic and Protestant governments through successive rulers. Perrault living in the midst of political and religious chaos and persecution, may have equally well chosen the model of Henry VIII as Elizabeth survived, taking on the authority of the throne and immediately persecuting the Catholics she could find. The story might more realistically reflect the brutality ongoing in the world betwixt the political and religious powers with the warning not to look into the bloody past of either. Both the church and state always wish to represent themselves as innocent maids, but in reality both were grotesquely barbaric hiding bloody carcasses behind the doors, while offering a golden key.

The Blue Fairy Book
a searchable version of the Blue Fairy Book

Sur La Lune: Bluebeard
annotated story

Sur la Lune Book Gallery
Bluebeard and spin-offs incl Eudora Welty

Tracy Ann Bernson
Castles, Moats, Roses, and Thorns: A Study of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and the Fairy Tale Tradition of Bluebeard

Terri Winding Bluebeard and the Bloody Chamber

Gustave Dore, illus
bio at Weslyan with illustrations from fairytales
Blue Beard is toward bottom. Takes time to load.

Gilles de Rais
a fairly long biographical account of Gilles de Rais. The account differs from Sur La Lunee's in that he was first strangled and then burnt, after being tortured by Inquisition.

Crime Library: Legend of Bluebeard by Mark Gribben
extremely slow in opening

Man More Than Myth by Joseph Geringer
Vlad Dracula


Blue Beard
has a list of links

Fitcher's Bird

Robber Bridgroom

Bartok Opera

Blaubart Schloss Bluebeard's Castle by Bartok
with the
Hungarian State Opera
well worth seeing this production

Bluebeard's Castle
a short history of the opera production
"Librettist Béla Balázs, influenced by his peer Endre Ady, embraced the French symbolists as a model for his work. Balázs' source of the Bluebeard story was the symbolist poet Maeterlinck's Ariane et Barbe-bleue, an adaptation of Perrault's fairy tale."


Michel Gagne Walt Disney and Bluebeard's Wives
drafts for animated ghosts

French Production of Blue Beard
Director : CHRISTIAN-JAQUE Co-author : Jean Bernard-Luc Dialogues : Henri Jeanson

Freedom to Read:
World Library and Information Congress: 70th IFLA General ...
Reading Adventure Gustavo Roldán Buenos Aires, Argentina

History- Turkish Invasion

Siege of Vienna 1683

Austrian-Polish Agreement
Battle of Vienna: September 12, 1683 by Richard Lysiak

Prince Eugene of Savoy

Turkish Wars


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