Bluebeard was an aristocrat who was known and feared for his strange blue beard. He courted three sisters, all three of which were turned off by his blue beard, so he took them all out with their mother and the entire household on a picnic to show them the wealth in which they’d live if one of the sisters was to marry him.
After a delightful day, the two older sisters still had reservations, but the youngest one was taken by all the beauty she’s seen with Bluebeard that day. She started to un-see his fearful image and thought “his beard is not really that blue”. Days later, Bluebeard proposed to the youngest sister and she moved to his castle after marriage.
One day, Bluebeard summoned his wife to tell her he’d travel and that she could invite her family to keep her company. He gave her a big chain of keys and said she and her sisters could access all rooms those keys could open, “except the room to which that little key belongs” he warned. She agreed and assured him she would not step foot in that room.
While the sisters were enjoying each other’s company and exploring one room after the other, one of the sisters asked the youngest sister about the room to which that little key belonged. Once the youngest sisters repeated her husband’s warning, the sisters kept urging her to find that room awakening her curiosity. The girls kept trying that key to find the room to which it belonged, until they found a secluded room under the staircase; finally, the key unlocked the door to the mysterious room revealing Bluebeard’s dark secret.
The room was full of blood, corpses and skeletons of beheaded women. The sisters panicked and rushed out of the room… however, the key was not only stained with blood, but it kept bleeding itself! In futile attempts, the youngest sister tried all she could to clean it; instead, the key kept weeping blood staining her clothes. After losing hope in cleaning the key, she removed it from the chain and hid it in her armoire amidst of all her clothes hoping her husband would not mention it again.
Upon his return, Bluebeard asked her if she and her sisters enjoyed themselves exploring his castle, and then asked for his keys. She gave him the keychain without the blood-weeping key; he instantly realized it was missing and asked her where the key was. When she claimed it might have been lost, he started to threaten her and shake her violently for an answer. Before he could shake her further for a confession, the tell-tale key had bled enough blood that shed out of the armoire leading his master to where it was hidden.
“It’s time you join all my previous wives” Bluebeard said as he realized his wife had disobeyed him. The wife plead for her life, but when he firmly refused to spare her life, she begged for some time alone to prepare for her death. Upon granting her that time, she rushed into her room and started calling for her brothers to come and rescue her from her scary death. Luckily, the brother came and rescued their sisters before she was murdered, and then they disarmed Bluebeard and killed him.**
** I rewrote the story using some of the words i read/heard during the book reading session; I might have skipped some of the details or put them in a slightly different order due to mere memory/perception issues.
It is said that Bluebeard (La Barbe bleue)is French folktale written by Charles Perrault. I have only discovered that upon googling him after the folklore version of the story had been read to me from Women Who Run with the Wolves in a book club . The book discussed all aspects of the story from a socio-psychological point of view/interpretation.
Why did that girl have a change of mind/heart about Bluebeard after spending a good day in his company? Why did she fight her first instincts of how scary he appeared to be and why did she talk herself into believing in goodness of which she had no proof? Was she lonely? Was she yearning for love and kindness, or at least whatever was close enough? Was it the appeal of his wealth and all that he promised her?
It could have been some or all… I understand, I relate. It always surprises me how our first instincts are usually correct, and yet we almost always choose to defy them or talk ourselves out of them. And the sad thing is that our instincts never fight back; they take offense in our rationalization and decide to sit in an abandoned corner of our minds as they watch us make our own self-deluded decisions and entrap ourselves.
Before he told her he’d travel, she thought she fulfilled every girl’s dream; the “loving” husband, the enchanting castle, and the wealth to which she had access. She forgot all about her instincts and confined herself in the portrait she drew of how her life should be; what more could she have possibly wanted?!
Why did he bring her attention to the doomed key? Why did he give her that keychain? Why did he not remove it from the keychain before giving it to her? Why did he tell her something and then deny her the knowledge that should come with it? Was he practicing his control over her and ensuring it? Was he questioning her obedience, enforcing it, or rubbing it in??
Why did she agree to what he said? Why did she deny herself the right to know, and then agree to it? She made a promise not to know sadly believing she could stick to it! How pathetic, to be denied knowledge and willingly succumb to it, in the name of obedience! She was basically doing again what she had done earlier when she looked away from her instincts; she was willingly closing her eyes shut because that’s what a “good” wife would do.
A lot of people would describe her act as an act of curiosity, or even dishonesty for she had made a promise not to open that room. Sadly, hearing the story, I almost thought the same way; the righteous person in me felt dismay towards her action, but then the rebel in me asked the same question all over again “why did he give her a key and forbid her from using it?”
Which brings me to the haunting thought/argument…
Who decides if she was curious and/or dishonest? Bluebeard, the murderer? Or a society that overlooks his crimes just because he knew how well to hide them?! How could she be deemed dishonest for prying on a murderer; isn’t that a moral paradox there?
Ok, a part of me still finds her yielding to her curiosity a bit dishonest and I tend to think I would have not chosen to open that door if I were literally in that same situation. But had I been watching her in a movie or reading her story in a book knowing what was behind that door, I would have wanted her to open the door and see the truth rather than remaining happily oblivious to the reality behind her so called happy life. To me, there is some kind of comfort in truth and in knowing it.
In the book, Bluebeard was referred to as the “inner predator”, the horrible things inside each and every one of us that keep us from listening to our instincts, keeps us from knowing, confines us to a well defined medium that lacks creativity, and holds in it the power to destroy us if we try to challenge its authority.
But writing this now, I sort of feel that Bluebeard is also our society, the society that re-defines our instincts and dictates our perceptions of what is good and what is convenient erasing away and intimidating our very own instincts; and before we know it, we start rationalizing ourselves to fulfill this society and all its norms. After which, we just get used to settling; we falsely create a comfort zone that we do not dare go beyond. We do not seek more because we believe that we do not need more, what a ridiculous belief; if we do not want more, then what is the point of living? There is always more, there should always be more and any human or any society that denies us that right is simply malicious; where would the world be now if it wasn’t for the instinct of wanting/seeking more?
But I look around, and I see us all settling one way or the other, all nested and cuddled in our own comfort zones, or the illusions thereof, held back by our fear of consequences, mistaking “ambition” and “creativity” for “ungratefulness” . I find myself doing the exact same thing since I first blamed the wife for opening the room that held behind its door a most horrid secret, yet the truth to that secret was what set her free.
Makes me wonder how many Bluebeards I have had in my life who dictated how I thought, felt, behaved! Makes me wonder how many times my dreams were confined so that they would only wander within the allowed rooms of that castle! Makes me look inside my mind searching for that little key that would open the door that holds both pain and freedom, and hoping the Bluebeards in my life would not have the time to get me this time.
The key is already bleeding somewhere inside my mind, reminding me that I should not settle.