Fairy Tale Challenge | Day Three → A Fairy Tale That Scares You
Blue Beard - (collected by) Charles Perrault
“After some moments she began to perceive that the floor was all covered over with clotted blood, on which lay the bodies of several dead women, ranged against the walls. (These were all the wives whom Bluebeard had married and murdered, one after another.)” [x]
The fairy tale that scared me the most when I first read it and still scares me today is no other than Blue Beard. The main reason why I find this one the scariest of them all is because the main evil in this story is not fictional, magical or supernatural but real and it has been so for ages: abuse. A very wise teacher of mine said that the reason why we find some stories or books more disturbing today is that we find it easier to believe it possible to happen, and that we may see wrongdoing in it while it wasn’t seen as such in the past, here I think it’s definitely the case.
The most disturbing thing about Blue Beard for me isn’t the story in itself but how, through the ages, not only its author but critics galore have missed the point entirely and baptized it as a cautionary tale instead of a depiction of abuse. As a result, abuse is perceived as a fair result of betrayal and a reasonable punishment: Perrault’s morals from this story state things like “Curiosity, in spite of its appeal, often leads to deep regret” and “No husband of our age would be so terrible as to demand the impossible of his wife (…) For (…) the wife of today will let him know who the master is.” When Andrew Lang included the story in The Blue Fairy Book, he chose to translate Blue Beard’s threat as “my just anger and resentment” showing the Victorian take on betrayal and the anger that it resulted in. Bettelheim said “The story tells that although a jealous husband may believe a wife deserves to be severely punished—even killed—for this, he is absolutely wrong in such thoughts”. Furthermore, some versions later than Perrault’s added subtitles to this story such as "The Effects of Female Curiosity" or "The Fatal Effects of Female Curiosity", and it is even taken as a metaphor of sexual infidelity, which seemed to give them more “ground” to applaud this disturbing form of abuse. This deplorable lack of respect towards women and how so many people through the ages have seen this story as “she should have listened to him” and not as “women are being abused by their husbands, we should see what’s going on there” is extremely scary.
Another very disturbing thing is that what ultimately saves the main character and kills Blue Beard isn’t justice, fairness or empathy but repenting. She prays and is forgiven for the mortal sin of opening a door, but Blue Beard does not repent, therefore, he is punished instead. That’s the difference, not the fact that he was an abusive murderer and she was a victim. In the eyes of the story, their crimes were just as bad: female curiosity and a man killing plenty of women.
Luckily, there are readings and versions of this tale that make me believe that the world isn’t that dark, like Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, for example. Still, this is the scariest fairy tale for me because, unlike witches in chicken legged huts or ogresses wanting to eat children, abuse is there and some people today still choose to look away.