"Bluebeard" (French: Barbe bleue) is a French folktale, the most
famous surviving version of which was written by
Charles Perrault and
first published by Barbin in Paris in 1697 in Histoires ou contes du
temps passé. The tale tells the story of a wealthy violent man
in the habit of murdering his wives and the attempts of one wife to
avoid the fate of her predecessors. "The White Dove", "The Robber
Bridegroom" and "Fitcher's Bird" (also called "Fowler's Fowl") are
tales similar to "Bluebeard".
1 Plot summary
5 Bluebeard's wives
6.1 In theatre
6.2 In television
6.3 In other media
6.4 In film
8 Further reading
9 External links
Bluebeard is a wealthy and powerful, yet frighteningly ugly, nobleman
who has been married several times to beautiful women who have all
mysteriously vanished. When
Bluebeard visits his neighbor and asks to
marry one of his daughters, the girls are terrified. After hosting a
wonderful banquet, he chooses the youngest daughter to be his wife -
against her will - and she goes to live with him in his rich and
luxurious palace in the countryside, away from her family.
Bluebeard announces that he must leave for the country and gives the
keys of the château (castle) to his wife. She is able to open any
door in the house with them, each of which contain some of his riches,
except for an underground chamber that he strictly forbids her to
enter lest she suffer his wrath. He then goes away and leaves the
house and the keys in her hands. She invites her sister, Anne, and her
friends and cousins over for a party. However, she is eventually
overcome with the desire to see what the forbidden room holds, and she
sneaks away from the party and ventures into the room.
She immediately discovers the room is filled with blood and the
murdered corpses of Bluebeard's former wives hung on hooks from the
walls. Horrified, she drops the key in the blood and flees the room.
She tries to wash the blood from the key, but the key is magical and
the blood cannot be removed. Fearing for her life, she reveals her
husband's secret to her visiting sister, and they plan to both flee
the next morning, but
Bluebeard unexpectedly comes back and finds the
bloody key. In a blind rage, he threatens to kill her on the spot, but
she asks for one last prayer with her sister Anne. At the last moment,
Bluebeard is about to deliver the fatal blow, the brothers of the
wife and her sister Anne arrive and kill Bluebeard. The wife inherits
his fortune and castle, and has the dead wives buried. She uses the
fortune to have her other siblings married, and eventually remarries
herself, to a man she loves, and moves on from her horrible experience
Although best known as a folktale, the character of
to derive from legends related to historical individuals in Brittany.
One source is believed to have been the 15th-century Breton and
convicted serial killer Gilles de Rais, a nobleman who fought
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc and became both Marshal of France and her
official protector, then, was burned as a murderous witch. However,
Gilles de Rais
Gilles de Rais did not kill his wife, nor were any bodies found on his
property, and the crimes for which he was convicted involved the
sexually-driven, brutal murder of children and not a punishment for
perceived betrayal.
Another possible source stems from the story of the early Breton king
Conomor the Accursed and his wife Tryphine. This is recorded in a
biography of St. Gildas, written five centuries after his death in the
sixth century. It describes how after
Conomor married Tryphine, she
was warned by the ghosts of his previous wives that he murders them
when they become pregnant. Pregnant, she flees; he catches and beheads
St. Gildas miraculously restores her to life, and when he
brings her to Conomor, the walls of his castle collapse and kill him.
Conomor is a historical figure, known locally as a werewolf, and
various local churches are dedicated to
Saint Tryphine and her son,
The character's blue beard is regarded as a symbol of his otherworldly
The Wife goes toward the Forbidden Room. Illustration by Walter Crane
Bluebeard is slain in a woodcut by Walter Crane
For Iona and Peter Opie, the tale reads as a legend imperfectly
recollected. For example, a gap occurs in the narrative between the
wife's entrance into the forbidden chamber and Bluebeard's unexpected
return, a time when her house guests vanish without explanation, and
Bluebeard's willingness to wait a quarter of an hour before slaying
his wife is out of character and poorly excused. Although no earlier
retelling of the story has been discovered, it may be assumed one
The fatal effects of feminine curiosity have long been the subject of
story and legend. Lot's wife, Pandora, and Psyche are all examples of
mythic stories where women's curiosity is punished by dire
consequences. In an illustrated account of the
Bluebeard story by
Walter Crane, when the wife is shown making her way towards the
forbidden room, there is behind her a tapestry of the serpent enticing
Eve into eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
In addition, hidden or forbidden chambers were not unknown in
pre-Perrault literature. In Basile's Pentamerone, the tale "The Three
Crowns" tells of a Princess Marchetta entering a room after being
forbidden by an ogress, and in
The Arabian Nights
The Arabian Nights Prince Agib is given
a hundred keys to a hundred doors but forbidden to enter the golden
door, which he does, with terrible consequences. In the story of
Prince Agib, the motive is clear: the forbidden door is a test.
However, in "Bluebeard", the motive is less clear. It is not explained
Bluebeard would give a key to his wife that will reveal his
horrific marital past. In an Indian story, an ogress looks after a
prince while disguised as a beautiful woman and tells him not to enter
the tower, pit or kitchen, which will reveal her. In the tower, an old
man who has been tied up by her reveals who she is, in the pit are the
bones of her victims, and the kitchen contains three magical balls
which the prince uses to escape the ogress, with the final one a fire
is caused which the Ogress runs into and in which she burns to death.
According to the
Aarne–Thompson system of classifying folktale
plots, the tale of
Bluebeard is type 312. Another such tale is The
White Dove, an oral French variant. The type is closely related to
Aarne–Thompson type 311, the heroine rescues herself and her
sisters, in such tales as Fitcher's Bird, The Old Dame and Her Hen,
and How the Devil Married Three Sisters. The tales where the youngest
daughter rescues herself and the other sisters from the villain is in
fact far more common in oral traditions than this type, where the
heroine's brother rescues her. Other such tales do exist, however; the
brother is sometimes aided in the rescue by marvelous dogs or wild
Some European variants of the ballad Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight,
Child ballad 4, closely resemble this tale. This is particularly
noteworthy among some German variants, where the heroine calls for
help, much like the calls to Sister Anne in Bluebeard, and is rescued
by her brother.
It is not explained why
Bluebeard murdered his first bride; she could
not have entered the forbidden room and found a dead wife.
In the 1812 version published in Grimms' Fairy Tales, Wilhelm Grimm,
on p. XLI of the annotations, makes the following handwritten comment:
"It seems in all Märchen [fairy tales] of Bluebeard, wherein his
Blutrunst [flowing of blood] has not rightly explained, the idea to be
the basis of himself through bathing in blood to cure of the blue
beard; as the lepers. That is also why it is written that the blood is
collected in basins."
Maurice Maeterlinck wrote extensively on
Bluebeard and in his plays
names at least six former wives: Sélysette from Aglavaine et
Sélysette (1896), Alladine from Alladine et Palomides (1894), both
Ygraine and Bellangère from La mort de Tintagiles (1894), Mélisande
from Pelléas et Mélisande, and Ariane from Ariane et Barbe-bleue
In Jacques Offenbach's opera (1866), the five previous wives are
Héloïse, Eléonore, Isaure, Rosalinde and Blanche, with the sixth
and final wife being a peasant girl, Boulotte, who finally reveals his
secret when he attempts to have her killed so that he can marry
Béla Bartók's opera A
Kékszakállú herceg vára (1911), with the
libretto by Béla Balázs, names "Judith", which places her as wife
number four, whereas Ariane would be wife number six, but fails to
take Judith into account. Bartók's version does not name any of the
wives that appear in it. Rather than retelling the original story, the
libretto only uses the main characters and setting, and transforms
them into a symbolist story.
Anatole France's short story "The Seven Wives of Bluebeard" names
Jeanne as the last wife before Bluebeard's death.
Alfred Savoir wrote in the 1920s a play La huitième femme de
Barbe-Bleue (Bluebeard's eighth wife) from which
Sam Wood and Ernst
Lubitsch produced two films, other than starting from the point of
being a plus one wife of
Bluebeard and that it considers Anatole
France's count of his wives, this play or the films share nothing with
a description or numbering of the duke's wives.
In Edward Dmytryk's film
Bluebeard (1972), Baron von Sepper (Richard
Burton) is an Austrian aristocrat known as
Bluebeard for his
blue-toned beard, and his appetite for beautiful wives. This film
names an American beauty named Anne, who discovers a vault in his
castle filled with the frozen bodies of his previous wives.
"Blue Beard" by Harry Clarke.
Other versions of
Pantomime versions of the tale were staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury
Lane in London as early as 1798, and famous editions there were by E.
L. Blanchard in 1879 and starred
Dan Leno in 1901. Many of these
productions orientalized the tale by setting it in the Ottoman Empire,
often giving the wife the name Fatima. The popularity of the pantomime
made orientalized depictions of
Bluebeard common in English
illustrations throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th
Ariane et Barbe-bleue
Ariane et Barbe-bleue by Paul Dukas
Bluebeard's Castle by
Béla Bartók and Béla Balázs
Bluebeard by The Brothers Grimm
Barbe-bleue by Jacques Offenbach
Captain Murderer by Charles Dickens
The Awful History of
Bluebeard by William Makepeace Thackeray
Bluebeard's Keys by Anne Thackeray Ritchie
The Seven Wives of
Bluebeard by Anatole France
Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood
Bones by Francesca Lia Block.
Bluebeard (play), an off-Broadway comedy by Charles Ludlam
Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
The Bloody Chamber the eponymous story of Angela Carter's Collection
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
Blushing by Nalo Hopkinson
The Glass Bottle Trick by Nalo Hopkinson
In Charles Dickens' short story, the titular character is described as
"an offshoot of the
Bluebeard family", and is far more bloodthirsty
than most Bluebeards: he cannibalises each wife a month after
marriage. He meets his demise after his sister-in-law in revenge for
the death of her sister, marries him and consumes a deadly poison just
before he devours her.
In Joyce Carol Oates' short story, "Blue-Bearded Lover", the most
recent wife is well aware of Bluebeard's murdered wives: she does not
unlock the door to the forbidden room, and therefore avoids death
herself. Strangely enough she remains with
Bluebeard despite knowing
he is a murderer, and gives birth to Bluebeard's children.
In DC Comics' Fables series,
Bluebeard appears as an amoral character,
willing to kill and often suspected of being involved in various
Bluebeard is also a character in the video game by
Telltale Games based on the Fables comics, The Wolf Among Us.
In the Japanese light novel and recently adapted manga/anime
Bluebeard appears as the Caster Servant, where his
character largely stems from
Gilles de Rais
Gilles de Rais as a serial murderer of
Bluebeard appears as a minor darklord in the Advanced Dungeons &
Dragons (2nd ed.)
Ravenloft Accessory Darklords.
In Stephen King's The Shining, the story of Blue Beard is read by Jack
to Danny as a three-year-old, to his wife's disapproval.
Bluebeard, a ballet by the choreographer
Marius Petipa to the music of
composer Pyotr Schenk. Premiered 1896, Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, St.
Bluebeard's kitchen, by the director Marc von Henning with Nikos
Xatzopoulos, Akyllas Karazisis, Maria Skoula, Maria Kechagioglou,
Natalia Dragoumi, Anna Mascha. Premiered October 31, 2001, Amore
Theatre, Athens, Greece
Bluebeard by the director and choreographer Staša Zurovac and the
composer Marjan Nećak. The new ballet work in The Croatian National
Theatre in Zagreb is based on the famous legend of the Bluebeard
finding inspiration in the novel The Seven Wives of
Bluebeard of the
French Nobel laureate Anatole France. The premiere - November, Friday
In a 1977 episode of Lou Grant, when considering their employer Mrs.
Pychon's relationship with a media mogul,
Lou Grant says to Charlie
Hume, "They make a nice couple." Whereupon, Charlie responds :
"How often do you think that was mentioned at Bluebeard's
wedding ?" 
Bluebeard is featured in
Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics
Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics as part of its
"Grimm Masterpiece Theater" season.
Bluebeard is also featured as one of seven servants in
the 2011 anime Fate/Zero.
Bluebeard is featured in The Fairytale Detective Sandra as the villain
in the episode "The Forbidden Room".
Bluebeard is featured in Scary Tales, produced by the Discovery
Sony and IMAX, episode one, in 2011. (This series is not
related to the Disney collection of the same name.)
Bluebeard was the subject of the pilot episode of an aborted
television series, Famous Tales (1951), created by and starring Burl
Ives with music by Albert Hague.
A Korean stage play of the
Bluebeard story serves as the backstory and
inspiration for the antagonist, a serial kidnapper, in the South
Korean television show,
Strong Woman Do Bong-soon
Strong Woman Do Bong-soon (2017).
Hannibal (TV series), Season 3 episode 12 "The Number of the Beast is
666", the protagonist Will Graham compares the character Bedelia Du
Maurier to one of Bluebeard's wives. Bedelia in turn says "If I'm to
be Bluebeard's wife, I would've preferred to be the last." Alluding
that Will is to be Hannibal's (Bluebeard's) current, if not final,
In other media
The fairytale of
Bluebeard was the inspiration for the Gothic feminine
horror game "Bluebeard's Bride" by Whitney "Strix" Beltrán, Marissa
Kelly, and Sarah Richardson. Players play from the shared perspective
of the Bride, each taking on an aspect of her psyche. Published by
Bluebeard is mentioned in "Blackberry Picking", a poem by Seamus
Bluebeard is the subject of "Bluebeard", a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent
Bluebeard is the title of and inspiration for a song by the Cocteau
Twins. It was included on their 1993 album "Four-Calendar Café".
Bluebeard was adapted for
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 in 2014 in a radio play called
Burning Desires by Pier Productions.
A crypt for
Bluebeard and his wives is featured in the exit area of
The Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion at the
Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World.
Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley,
Bluebeard is a minor
villain and attempts to kill Ms. White.
The legend of
Bluebeard was the inspiration for the song "Go Long" by
Joanna Newsom. It can be found on her 2010 album "Have One On Me"
In the Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by
Angela Carter 1979.
In "The Blue Castle" by Lucy Maude Montgomery, the heroine refers to
Bluebeard's Chamber and the possibility of former wives hanging on the
wall, since her husband has a secret past and a locked room.
The 2013 fantasy horror comic Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale (by
Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose) employs the
Bluebeard story element
with the blooded key to a secret room of horrors.
In The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy, in chapter eighteen, the
Bluebeard is referred to, with Sir Percy's bedroom being
compared to Bluebeard's chamber, and Marguerite to Bluebeard's wife.
Several film versions of the story were made:
Barbe-bleue, a short film by Georges Méliès.
Bluebeard's 8th Wife, a 1923 silent directed by Sam Wood, starring
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, a 1938 remake of the Swanson silent, starring
Bluebeard, a film directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, starring John Carradine.
Secret Beyond the Door, a 1948 contemporary adaptation by director
Fritz Lang and produced by Walter Wanger, with Michael Redgrave making
his Hollywood debut in the Bluebeard-inspired role and Wanger's wife
Joan Bennett as Redgrave's new bride.
Bluebeard's Six Wives, a 1950 Italian comedy film directed by Carlo
Ludovico Bragaglia, starring Totò.
Juliette, or Key of Dreams, a 1951 French film, based on the 1930 play
of the same name, in which a main character is directly inspired from
Bluebeard, and is in fact directly called
Bluebeard at the end of the
Blaubart, released in the United States as Bluebeard, a 1951
German-French film directed by Christian-Jaque, starring Hans Albers
Bluebeard (1972 film), a film directed by Edward Dmytryk, starring
The French film Barbe Bleue, directed by Catherine Breillat, is
modeled closely on the work by Charles Perrault.
Monsieur Verdoux is a 1947 black comedy film directed by and starring
The Piano, a 1993 film directed by Jane Campion. The film also serves
as a retelling of the fairytale "Bluebeard", which is hinted at
further in the inclusion of "Bluebeard" as a piece of the Christmas
Ochen' siniya boroda ("Very blue beard"), a 1979 Soviet animated film,
gives modern satirical variations on the theme of Bluebeard.
La dernière femme de barbe bleue (1996 Urkraine-France animation
film), parody in which
Bluebeard is a victim of his wife.
Ex Machina, a 2015 film by writer/director Alex Garland, adapts the
Bluebeard character as the reclusive CEO of a fictional tech company
called "Bluebook" (a seeming amalgam of
as having been named for Wittgenstein's Blue Book), dividing the role
of Bluebeard's wife between a female-bodied AI and an unsuspecting
Bluebook programmer summoned to evaluate it.
Crimson Peak, a 2015
Gothic horror film, has plot similarities to the
tale of Bluebeard
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bluebeard". Encyclopædia
Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Charles Perrault (1628-1703)". CLPAV.
^ MARGARET ALICE MURRAY (1921). THE WITCH-CULT IN WESTERN EUROPE: A
Study in Anthropology; Clarendon Press, Oxford,. p. 267.
^ Marina Warner. From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales And
Their Tellers. p. 261. ISBN 0-374-15901-7.
^ a b Maria Tatar. The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales. W.W. Norton
& Company. p. 151. ISBN 0-393-05163-3.
^ a b
Iona and Peter Opie (1974). The Classic Fairy Tales. Oxford
University Press. pp. 103–105. ISBN 0-19-520219-8.
^ Heidi Anne Heiner. "Tales Similar to Bluebeard".
^ Paul Delarue, The Borzoi Book of French Folk-Tales, New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, Inc., p. 359, 1956
^ Stith Thompson (1977). The Folktale. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London:
University of California Press. p. 36.
^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads; v 1,
New York: Dover Publications, p 47, 1965
^ Shuli Barzilai, Tales of
Bluebeard and His Wives from Late Antiquity
to Postmodern Times
^ Adams, William Davenport. "A dictionary of the drama: a guide to the
plays, play-wrights, players, and playhouses of the United Kingdom and
America", Chatto & Windus, 1904, p. 176
Hermansson, Casie E. (2009). Bluebeard: A Reader's Guide to the
English Tradition. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of
Loo, Oliver (2014). The Original 1812 Grimm Fairy Tales Kinder- und
Hausmärchen Childrens and Household Tales.
Tatar, Maria (2004). Secrets Beyond the Door: The Story of Bluebeard
and His Wives. Princeton / Oxford, Princeton University Press.
Vizetelly, Ernest Alfred (1902). Bluebeard: An Account of Comorre the
Cursed and Gilles de Rais, with Summaries of Various Tales and
Traditions; Chatto & Windus; Westminster, England.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bluebeard.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Bluebeard in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages: Heidi Anne Heiner, "The Annotated
Bluebeard and the Bloody Chamber" by Terri Windling
Leon Botstein's concert notes on Dukas' Ariane et Barbe-bleue
Glimmerglass Opera's notes on Offenbach's Barbe Bleue, the Bluebeard
fairy tale in general, and operetta in the time of Offenbach.
A Shakespeare reference
(in French) Bluebeard, audio version
Histoires ou contes du temps passé
Histoires ou contes du temps passé (1697)
The Ridiculous Wishes
The Ridiculous Wishes (1695)
Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood (1697)
Sleeping Beauty (1697)
Puss in Boots
Puss in Boots (1697)
Diamonds and Toads
Diamonds and Toads (1697)
Riquet with the Tuft
Riquet with the Tuft (1697)
Bluebeard (1697) by Charles Perrault
Secret Beyond the Door... (1948)
Barbe Bleue (2009)
Ariane et Barbe-bleue
Ariane et Barbe-bleue (Dukas 1907)
Bluebeard's Castle (Bartók 1911)
Barbe-bleue (Offenbach 1856)
Ritter Blaubart (Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek 1920)
Bluebeard (Vonnegut novel)
Very Blue Beard (1979 film)