Brief History: I told you I’d come back to this topic. Bluebeard is the gruesome, yet oddly satisfying French story of a young woman who marries a wealthy, mysterious lord. Within a short time, she discovers that he has laid a trap to test her obedience to him. He piques her curiosity of a locked room before leaving her alone for the afternoon. Within, she finds the bodies of his former wives and that his cleaning staff doesn’t know how to get clotted blood out of anything. There are a few theories of where this delightful tale comes from, but most popular is it being an adaptation on the French serial killer, Giles de Rais. De Rais had been a medieval war hero who supposedly snapped and murdered over a hundred young boys on his lands. Historians have disputed whether these murders took place or were just a fabricated excuse to take away de Rais's land. Still, the fact remains that sometime after he became infamous, so did Bluebeard.
Analysis: Even though this is, at its core, a story of punishment for female curiosity, the fact that the main character lives suggests some deeper thinking. Instead of marrying for love, the protagonist seems to be a realist. She agreed to be with Bluebeard because he could provide her a better life, making her more practical than most fairy tale heroines. And when she finds out that her new husband is psychotic, she tries to stall his murderous hand until her brothers are scheduled to visit. Although, it was super convenient that her brothers were a dragoon and a musketeer. And in the end, she gets all loot and land Bluebeard owned. She becomes a woman of power and means by surviving brutal attack. Also convenient, yet, as I said before, oddly satisfying.
Blame it on the Victorians: Victorians, for all of their prim, proper hypocritical rules, really loved the morbid. They were fascinated with spiritualists and graphic murder. Some historians argue that many murders were wrongly classified until Victorian society got a predisposition for reading about it in the paper. Because, remember, female sensibilities can’t handle voting without fainting, but let’s all read about Jack the Ripper at breakfast. Naturally, a fairy tale that wraps female suppression and gore into a nice, neat package was right up their alley. Plays called pantomimes of Bluebeard were fairly common (often preformed at Christmas time, because why not). The discovery of the wives was usually played by a bunch of actresses standing with their heads peeking through holes in a sheet to make it look as if they’d lost their bodies. For some reason, this story would become less popular with audiences after the Victorian era. No clue as to why.
Last thoughts: Blood is bad for the carpet.
*If you want know any of the places where some of my research comes from, just contact me.