Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bluebeard vs Wife: Who's the Real Troublemaker?

So this week we could either write about Bluebeard as a villain, write about the Jewish fairytales we read, or comment on other people’s blogs. Now, while the idea of commenting on the blogs of others sounds fun to me, I would rather talk about Bluebeard and how my position on his villain status changes. All quotes are from The Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar.
Let’s look at the inconsistencies in Perrault’s version, the version that is recognized as the first:

The first thing that is upsetting about this version calling him a villain is that “this man had the misfortune of having a blue beard, which made him look so ugly and frightful that women and girls alike fled at the sight of him” (144). So within reading the first paragraph we already know that some sad man will be forever alone just because of his beard color. When the two daughters do not want to marry him, they add that he had previous wives that disappeared without a trace. Ok, so that’s a bit more villainous. Bluebeard has to go on a trip and urges his new wife; the youngest of the two sisters who thought that the lavishness would make the marriage ok (does anyone else think of a gold digger here?), “to enjoy herself while he was away…to stay in good spirits” (145). He wants her to stay happy and even allows her to have friends over. The trust he puts into her even at this point is amazing; those friends could include male friends, and six weeks is a long time during which an affair would be completely possible. The next great moment of trust is the transfer of the keys, including the secret forbidden key.
Gustave Doré
I agree that he should have never given the key to her if he did not want her to open it, and he especially should not have said “ if you so much as open it a crack, there will be no limit to my anger” (145). This action could either be seen as him wanting her to open the door to see what is inside so that he could punish her, or it could be seen as him testing her trust to listen to him. The analysis that you pick determines how villainous he is. The problem is that for the wife “the temptation was so great that she was unable to resist it” (145). The woman falls once again from temptation, lines that are clearly parallel with the story of Adam and Eve. I do not want to cast all the blame on the woman, especially since I am a female; however she makes it difficult to not, although is helped some by Bluebeard’s initial giving of the key. What she finds is indeed horrifying; the bodies of all the previous wives hanging from the walls over a bloody floor.

Hermann Vogel

Ok, so that is pretty horrifying and points towards the villainy of Blubeard. Either way, she drops the key because she brought it in with her for some dumb reason and then tries to lie to Bluebeard about it instead of owning up to what she  had done, although I understand that fear will do that to most people. She tries to clean the key, lies to him about being happy of his return, delays bringing him the key, and then lies about not knowing why there is blood on the key. Bluebeard is angered and decides his wife can “take [her] place beside the ladies whom [she] saw there” and that, even though she was “so beautiful and so distressed that she would have melted a heart of stone” it would not work to beg forgiveness from Bluebeard who “had a heart harder than any rock” (146).
Walter Crane
Maybe his heart is so hard because this is the nth time of many that a woman has betrayed him, after all we have no idea why the first wife was murdered unless we are to understand it’s just because that’s what he wanted to do. It is amazing that he does not kill her right then in there instead of letting her run to pray which she uses to tell her sister to call her brothers. The brothers come and murder Bluebeard as he tries to run for his life, no such thing as imprisoning him for questioning in this time.
Gustave Doré
Then the wife inherits Bluebeard’s entire estate based on the fact that he had no heirs and she was the most recent wife, even though the reason for his death was that her brothers killed him. It is possible that this is what she deserves because he was about to kill her and she somewhat outsmarted him, but it still seems wrong that she inherits it all.
Perrault himself even seems to have a hard time determining the villain of the story as illustrated by his two morals:

Curiosity, in spite of its many charms,
Can bring with it serious regrets;
You can see a thousand examples of it every day.
Women succumb, but it’s a fleeting pleasure;
As soon as you satisfy it, it ceases to be.
And it always proves very, very costly.

If you just take a sensible point of view,
And study this grim little story,
You will understand that this tale
Is one that took place many years ago.
No longer are husbands so terrible,
Demanding the impossible,
Acting unhappy and jealous.
With their wives they toe the line;
And whatever color their beards might be,
It’s not hard to tell which of the pair is master.

The first suggests that it is the woman’s fault for being curious; an obvious position in the time of Perrault, where women were looked down upon and everything was their fault. The second suggests that the story is old and men are no longer like that. It is aiming to calm the fears of girls that are forced to marry terrifying older men.

 I still find it difficult to determine how I feel about Bluebeard and where I stand on his villain status. In fact I probably believe that the fault falls on both parties, although gray areas are not supposed to exist in fairy tales. Either way, this is how I feel.

 By the way, we’re supposed to say our favorite version; mine would have to be Bluebeard’s Egg by Atwood, but that would be far too much to analyze in one blog post. I like it because of the complexity and in depth look into feelings, things that make it not so much of a standard fairy tale, especially as it seems to mostly use it as a base. Either way, I wrote about Perrault’s Bluebeard, the one that started them all in a way.

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