The third tale for story time is “The Story of Bluebeard” by Charles Perault. Perault actually wrote a couple of versions of this French folktale, which sometimes highlights the terror of Bluebeard, and sometimes the plight of his brides.
Listen to the episode here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1385083/5712010-the-story-of-bluebeard.mp3?blob_id=23442454&download=true
Bluebeard is not unique in its exploration of how dangerous husbands can be: stories like The Robber Bridegroom, and the Grimm Brother’s Fitcher’s Bird existed before it and many other stories have appeared in a variety of cultures since. It was explored by Angela Carter (whose film The Company of Wolves is also discussed today) in The Bloody Chamber, but she changed the ending to have a femme-rescue narrative, closer to another classification of story.
Bluebeard’s final bride is not quite a final girl, but she easily could be with just a twist of the narrative. The narrative’s primary conceit, that all would have been well had the bride just kept her curiosity in check, is similar to the doomed fate of Eve in Christian mythology or Pandora in Greek. But authors have pushed back on that immensely, creating in Bluebeard a semi-omnipotent villain whose misogyny is clear.
That being said, there are several possibly historical inspirations for Bluebeard-type killers, giving us the lesson that sometimes when it’s too good to be true, it is simply that. In many illustrations after the end of the 19th century there are also undercurrents of the orientalizing othering that was happening in Europe at various points. Wealth and plunder from the East played at peoples’ imaginations as much as it threatened them, creating villains garbed in turbans and promising unheard of riches to vain young girls.
Thus in Bluebeard we have a histrionic portrayal of what we most fear: the promise of wealth beyond imagining, sensory delights beyond quantity, and, ultimately, perceived safety in the exotic at too great a cost.