Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bluebeard, tales of a wife murderer

For various reasons, one of which is research for my master's thesis topic, I read a few versions of the Bluebeard fairy tale. It's a folktale, so there are different versions that arose from various areas in Europe, but the basic idea beneath them all is of Bluebeard, a wealthy nobleman, who has had three wives, all of whom disappear. No one knows what has happened to them, but they are assumed murdered. Bluebeard manages to marry another young woman, who is told of a secret room she must not enter. In some versions there is a key she must not use. In others there is an egg--yes, I know, why an egg? Each tale is different, but in the end, the new wife escapes being murdered after she enters the forbidden room and finds the dead wives. Bluebeard is beheaded.

There are several morals attributed to the story. For a more detailed account of the versions of the story and their supposed lessons, check out Bluebeard and the Bloody Chamber by Terri Windling.
One "moral" is along the lines of curiosity killing the cat, as in, the wives should have obeyed the husband and not entered the forbidden room. Dare I say, that in centuries past, the moral would have been that they got what they deserved? My sensibilities are of course offended by such, since fascination in the forbidden closet of mystery is a natural thing (nod to the Simpsons). And why the egg? There are sexual and reproductive undertones to the bloody room and the egg. Once virginity is lost, it can never be returned, so the egg, once entered into the bloody room, cannot come clean. Obvious nod to reproduction and unfulfilled pregnancy. If a woman opens the door on her sexuality, will she meet her comeuppance?

Margaret Atwood's story Bluebeard's Egg brings up another thought, of the idea of infedelity tied to the unsullied egg. Her new treatment on some of the themes was intriguing, and one important element to me was the idea of hidden sexuality. A few twists and turns, and my story, Bluebeard's Hunger was born.

So what if the hero of the story HAD killed his wives, could the heroine still love him? What exactly is in that room? What if the heroine was a plucky, intelligent, woman who is innocent, but awakened to that hidden sexuality? Why did the wealthy nobleman kill his wives & what if he had good reason? What would that reason be? What if there were demons?

Bluebeard's Hunger
was a blast to write. It's a finalist in two contests, the Fab Five from WisRWA, and Passionate Ink's Stroke of Midnight. Got my fingers crossed.

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