The latest from ConU German, straight from the TAs
With Halloween approaching, for today’s blog post let us explore the infamous fairytale that is “the stuff of nightmares,” most commonly known under the title of Bluebeard (German: Blaubart) (Tatar 138). This gruesome tale made its first literary appearance in Charles Perrault’s Tales of Mother Goose (138). As stated by Anatole France, Bluebeard is “the most perfect model of cruelty that ever trod the earth” (138). According to folklorists, the tale contains the “three distinctive features of Bluebeard narratives: a forbidden chamber, an agent of prohibition who also metes out punishments, and a figure who violates the prohibition” (138-9).
Bluebeard is utterly distinct among other fairytales regarding its portrayal of marriage as a murderous institution (139). Unlike tales such as Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Cinderella, which–in the hopes of escaping the initial “unhappy situations”–revolve around romantic quests that are to provide the heroines with “marital bliss”, whereas the tales of Bluebeard depict women, who depart from the safety of their homes, to venture into their husbands’ perilous domains (139).
But how exactly is all this related to the eerie festivities of Halloween, you may ask. Well, Bluebeard undoubtedly serves as evidence that folktales are the forerunners of cinematic horror; another genre that is notoriously known for its emphasis on common fears and fantasies (140). Tales such as Bluebeard foreshadow the “gothic plots” of contemporary horror, and thereby establish fears and desires which remain intact.
Bluebeard, as well as cinematic horror, consists of a murderer, who is driven by psychotic rage, and the wretched victims of his serial murders, along with a “final girl” (i.e., Bluebeard’s wife), who either achieves to save herself or arranges her rescue (140). Additionally, Bluebeard and cinematic horror are centered around a “terrible place of horror:” a dark and sinister location that conceals the macabre evidence of the murderer’s derangement, which represents the unconscious and the fears; such as Bluebeard’s “forbidden chamber” (140).
The intrigue of folklore still prevails today, and has triumphantly crept its way into various mediums to satisfy our craving for the fearful, our “desire for knowledge of what lies beyond the door” (139). Though lest not forget this Halloween to be wary of the “dire consequences of curiosity and disobedience,” as the cautionary tale of Bluebeard has taught us … or you may find yourself hanging among Bluebeard’s fatally curious wives (139).
Tatar, Maria. “Introduction: Bluebeard.” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999. 138-44. Print.
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