Group 10 Anarchy Episode

Introduction

Hi I’m Danny, I’m Maddy,  I’m Shay, and we are group 10 performing our anarchy episode.

Story Information

Source: Andrew Lang, The Blue Fairy Book, 5th edition (London and New York: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1891), pp. 290-95. First published 1889.[1]

Tags: Bluebeard, Type 312, Anarchy

Bluebeard  Summary

The fairy tale we are discussing for our anarchy episode is “Bluebeard” by Charles Perrault. This is an Aarne-Thompson tale type 312. “Bluebeard” is a dark tale about a newly married couple. In the story, a mysterious man comes from out of town and requests to marry one of two of a local noblewoman’s daughters. At first they refused but over time the younger daughter is won over by his charm and wealth. Shortly after the marriage, Bluebeard has to go away on a trip and gives his new wife his keys to all his houses and rooms. He tells  her to invite whoever she wants over to the castle, but not to go into the closet in the basement. Of course, the wife gets curious, unlocks and opens the closet in the basement. She is shocked to find the multiple bloody, dead bodies of his ex-wives. Bluebeard finds out about her discovery when he returns home, because the key to the closet is enchanted and the blood that stained the key when the wife dropped in on the floor will not wash off. Bluebeard says that she will now join the bodies of his other dead wives. She keeps stalling until her sister, Anne, alerts her that her brothers are almost to the castle. Just when Bluebeard is about to chop off her head, the brothers knock on the door and kill Bluebeard when he opens it for them.

Bluebeard Archetypes

The hero archetype is portrayed by the wife’s two brothers. They save her when she is about to be killed by Bluebard by running to her on horses and killing the villain.

The villain/predator archetype is portrayed by Bluebeard. In the beginning of the story he put up a good facade, but when his secret comes out it reveals his true nature as a violent killer.

The damsel in distress archetype is portrayed by the wife. She was married and in love, only to be shocked and terrified by her husband.

One of the motifs of this story is curiosity. It is curiosity that drives the wife to venture where she does not belong and disobey her husband. However, Bluebeard also plays off of his wife’s curiosity. If he didn’t want her to look in the closet, why give her the key? It’s as if he knew she wouldn’t be able to keep her promise, and so then he could use this as an excuse to punish her.

Another motif in the story is distrust/fear. Throughout the whole story Bluebeard is distrusted and feared by society. At first, the reader almost feels bad for him because it seems as though he is feared based on appearances alone, something he cannot help. But, by the end of the story, it becomes clear that this distrust is warranted. The only question that remains is if Bluebeard became the violent killer he is because society ostracized him for so long due to his appearance.

The blue beard is a symbol of abnormality. From the start of the story, Bluebeard is marked as different.

The closet itself is a symbol of a dark secret.

The key represents mystery and power. It has the power to unlock the forbidden secret.

The blood on the key represents sin. Oftentimes in literature if something is stained with blood and that stain cannot be removed, it is a sign of sin and murder, meant to mark the sinner with shame so that they cannot hide what they have done. This similarly happened in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, when Lady Macbeth can’t seem to wash the blood from her hands.

Maddy Retelling Analysis[2]

“The Bloody Chamber,” a short story by Angela Carter, is probably one of the more well-known retellings of Bluebeard. This retelling is written from the point of view of the wife. She is a young girl, a poor pianist, who is attracted to a much older man because of his wealth. Although she is uneasy about the fact that he has been married three times before, with each wife disappearing mysteriously, she pushes that out of her mind using the promise of her release from poverty. This story follows the general plotline of the original, except that it is set in more modern times, made obvious by the mention of trains, cars, and telephones. Both the husband--this story’s Bluebeard--and the wife go unnamed. Carter also introduces a new character into the story: a blind piano tuner who ends up winning over the wife’s heart.

From the start, this retelling is ripe with symbolism. First, the wife mentions repeatedly how her new husband’s face is pale white, freakishly smooth, and unmoving--like a mask. This indicates that he is hiding something. It also has similar characteristics to a corpse, suggesting that he doesn’t have a soul.

He fills their bedroom with lillies in jars. The wife notes that the way the jars seem to distort the form of the lilies inside reminds her of dismembered arms. He also fills the room with dozens of mirrors. The mirrors, in this case, may allude to the fact that the man’s true nature will soon be reflected. All of this symbolism builds together to form an eerie feeling like something isn’t right in this new home.

The image of blood and implied violence is also a constant recurrence in the story. When the husband first takes the wife’s virginity, she describes it as him “impaling” her. She also bleeds on the white sheets, a sign of lost innocence. The man gives her a ruby choker that belonged to his grandmother. She describes its appearance as reminiscent of a beheading or a slit throat, because the shiny red jewels form a line around her neck. This alludes to the man’s planned method of killing her. In the end, he tells her that her punishment will be beheading. There is also the pooled blood on the floor of the secret chamber, and the bloody stain on the key. In this case, I believe the blood on the key represents a mark of sin and murder, like in the original story.

Ultimately, in this version, the wife discovers her husband’s dark secret, and confides in the piano tuner, whom she starts to refer to as her “lover.” With this in mind, the mark of blood on the key could also represent infidelity on the part of the wife. The tuner then mentions that there are rumors locally about what happened to the man’s previous wives, and also tales of a wealthy man who used to hunt women with hunting dogs nearby. It is implied that this was the husband, but he had to stop when people grew suspicious, which is why he shifted to killing off women that he would marry. The castle was known in the town as the Castle of Murder.

When the husband returns home, he sees the mark of the key that proves his wife’s disobedience, and presses the key to her forehead to transfer the mark of shame onto her. She can never remove this, even after her husband’s demise.

We might expect that the wife’s new lover would be the one to save her, since in this story she has no brothers. However this is not the case. It is her mother, who took the overnight train and then proceeded on horseback, that rescues her daughter. She takes the girl’s deceased father’s gun and uses it to shoot the evil husband in the head. I found this to be an interesting twist, because it emphasizes female strength and solidarity.

In the end, the woman marries the piano tuner and takes him to live with her and her mother. She inherits all of her late husband’s wealth, and donates much of it to charity. The castle is turned into a school for the blind, and the girl opens up her own music school back home in Paris. She mentions the shame that she has over the mark on her forehead, but is glad that her new husband cannot see it because he is blind. To him, she is perfect.

Shay Retelling Analysis[3]

For my retelling I analyzed “Fifty Shades of Blue.” This retelling was published on a website called Forever Young Adult and was posted by Alix West in May of 2012.

I thought that this story was an interesting retelling of the original tale of “Bluebeard.” The retelling held the dark tone that “Bluebeard” was written with, but told the story in a different way. In this tale, there were similarities with “Bluebeard” like having the basis of a relationship and the shocking darkness behind the man who turns out to be the villain. However, instead of it being about a married couple, this tale was about a teenage couple and was based in a high school setting. Ana, a cheerleader, has a crush on the star football player, Christian. They fall deeply in love and spend much time together. One day, Christian gives Ana his house keys to meet him, but tells her to not use the key to unlock his walk-in closet. She, like the wife in “Bluebeard,” promises not to disobey him and open the forbidden door. She ends up opening the closet only to find dead bodies of past cheerleaders tied up, bitten, and beaten. Christian shows up behind her, angry, and tries to kill her. She is saved by her friend Mel before he has a chance to kill.

 I found that the author of this retelling used the similarity of describing the male character’s appearance, like the beard in “Bluebeard,” by describing Christians hair. The author also used similar points to correlate the stories, such as the key, a forbidden room, a bloody floor, dropping the key on the floor, being saved by a hero in the story, and the hero killing the villain. However, the male in “Fifty Shades of Blue” was a vampire, which differed from “Bluebeard.” Because of this, the hero killed the male in a different way. Another difference I found was that the hero in the retelling was a woman, rather than men like it was in the original tale. I think that because this is a modern interpretation, the author of the retelling thought of the “hero role” differently than what was common when “Bluebeard” was written. This shows how culture has changed and how gender roles have developed within society.

Danny Retelling Analysis[4]

This retelling is called “The Bloody Key” and was published online as a series of blog posts that were put up weekly in 2016 by an author going by the username ljthomas. Thus, the story is separated into seven parts. These parts are entirely from the view of Anita, the sister of Antonia, and are written in the form of diary entries and notes home to her older brother. Antonia was the girl chosen to marry Barba Azul, this tale’s Bluebeard. In the original story we don’t hear her name, only her sister’s name, which is Anne. So already, there are a few differences.

Anita provides a lot of insight and detail into the events that were somewhat glossed over in the original. She talks about how her sister was the one chosen by her fathers and brothers to marry Barba Azul (Bluebeard), and how he had come to visit their town and charmed the rest of her family into believing he was a great man. Only one brother is suspicious, as he has heard stories of many of Barba Azul’s previous wives mysteriously disappearing. He warns Anita, who is to accompany Antonia to Barba Azul’s mansion to keep her company after the wedding. Once they arrive, they have a great time. Barba Azul takes good care of them and the servants are friendly. Then, Barba Azul announces his long trip, and the sisters make a plan to explore the mansion. When he hears this plan, Barba Azul gives his new wife a ring of keys and pulls her aside to warn her not to go into the room that one of the keys opens.

After her husband’s departure, Antonia becomes visibly ill. Her skin becomes cold and pale, she is lethargic and constantly depressed, and she no longer wants to explore the castle. Anita prompts her to explain why she is upset, and that is when Antonia reveals that Barba Azul had given her a key to a secret room, but she is not to open the door. Antonia has been nervous and scared ever since. She questions why he would give her a key if he didn’t want her to use it, and suspected that she was in danger of some sort. Eventually, the two sisters decide to open the room after much hesitation, and find the surprisingly preserved bodies of Barba Azul’s previous wives hanging from large hooks. This differs from the original in which Bluebeard’s wife enters the room alone. The sisters try to dispose of their bloody clothes and clean the key, but the blood stains won’t come out. The story ends with Anita sending letters to her brother, Alfredo, asking him to rescue her. She sends two, the second one sounds much more urgent because she has just found out that Barba Azul will be returning in three days, rather than several weeks. This is where the story ends, and so we do not know whether Barba Azul meets the original Bluebeard’s fate, or if  he succeeds in adding the sisters to his collection.

This particular retelling is quite interesting because it provides a lot more plot details that add depth to the story. We can feel the emotional ups and downs of the characters. Anita, the sister, is much more involved in this story than Anne is in the original. She is constantly by Antonia’s side, and so this brings in more of a theme of female solidarity against a male oppressor, also similar to Maddy’s retelling. Because the story is written from her point of view, the whole feel is completely different from the original. It seems more effective at inspiring an emotional response in the audience, who can relate to the sister’s feelings of curiosity and subsequent dread. The kindness of the castle servants also ends up feeling ominous, because, as Anita points out in her diary, they must have some idea about what has happened to Barba Azul’s previous wives, and yet they do nothing to warn the two sisters.

The story includes the archetypes of the Predator, portrayed by Barba Azul, as well as damsel in distress, Antonia. Anita seems to embody somewhat of a Heroine archetype, because she does everything in her power to save their lives.

The female characters are much more developed than in the original, which portrayed them as sort of flat, uninteresting characters. Like the original, this retelling offers no explanation as to why Barba Azul might be so violent, when he seems so normal otherwise.

Although this retelling briefly mentions several suitors for Anita, there is no mention of another possible suitor for Antonia, which is mentioned in other retellings. The original mentions that after Bluebeard’s death, the wife marries another eligible man and gets her happy ever after. Unfortunately, this version leaves us with a cliff hanger, and so we may never know what becomes of the two sisters.


[1] "Bluebeard." Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts. 1999. Accessed May 16, 2018. https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0312.html.

[2]  Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. London: Vintage Classics, Penguin Rnadom House, 2016.

[3]  West, Alix. "Effed-Up Fairy Tales: Bluebeard." Forever Young Adult. May 2, 2012. Accessed May 14, 2018. http://foreveryoungadult.com/2012/05/02/effed-up-fairy-tales-bluebeard/.

[4]  Ljthomas. "The Bloody Key: A Bluebeard Retelling." Wordless - My Meaning of Life - Emily David - Wattpad. April 22, 2016. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://www.wattpad.com/story/62555439-the-bloody-key-a-bluebeard-retelling.