Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bluebeard: A Reader’s Guide to the English Tradition

Just received this press release:

Guide traces murderous husband Bluebeard’s many appearances in English

Bluebeard is the main character in one of the grisliest and most enduring fairy tales of all time. As the story goes, a new bride is left alone by her husband and given free reign of their house, save for one room that she is forbidden from entering. Almost immediately she gives in to her curiosity, discovering a bloody chamber holding the corpses of his previous wives. Upon his return, the husband is enraged and attempts to murder her as well. Astonishingly, the tale of Bluebeard and his many wives was a nursery staple, one of the tales translated into English from Charles Perrault’s French Mother Goose Tales.

Bluebeard: A Reader’s Guide to the English Tradition (University Press of Mississippi) is the first major study of the English tale and its many variants. The book presents examples of English true-crime figures, male and female, who have had the label Bluebeard bestowed upon them, from Henry Tudor to the present; rare chapbooks and their illustrations; and the English transformation of Bluebeard into a scimitar-wielding Turkish tyrant in the massively influential melodramatic spectacle of 1798.

Casie E. Hermansson also details the impact of the nineteenth-century translations into English of the German fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, and the particularly English story of how Bluebeard came to be known as a pirate.

The authors and artists who have engaged with this story comprise a “who’s who” that is three centuries long. Bluebeard: A Reader’s Guide to the English Tradition will provide readers and scholars an invaluable and thorough grasp on the many strands of this tale over centuries of telling.

Casie E. Hermansson is an associate professor of English at Pittsburg State University. Author of Reading Feminist Intertextuality through Bluebeard Stories, she has also published in the University of Toronto Quarterly, Papers on Language and Literature, Studies in American Fiction, and the International Journal of the Humanities.

Not sure exactly how it compares to Maria Tatar's Secrets Beyond the Door, but it's wonderful to see more scholarship for Bluebeard being published. I imagine this will be a great resource for professors and students especially.


  1. I use Zipes's books like mad in my class.The students love him. He's accessible,but intellectually challenging.
    Maria Tatar's books are incredible.I use both her Annotated Classic Fairy Tales and The Classic Fairy tales. Students find them endlessly challenging -- in a good way.

  2. Hi! Thanks for blogging about the book. Surlalune was a great resource. I read Maria's book in the early stages of preparing mine, so the overlap is minimal. My focus is on the English tradition, and treats the European tradition only at the points where it demonstrably impacted the English (often, of course!). Maria's book has a very European focus. Also, I aimed to be as comprehensive as possible in the chronological survey. Hopefully it will prove very useful for general reading as well as a scholarly resource; I aimed for a good blend of registers and references high and "low"! I also aimed not to simply reproduce images that had already been seen often in Bluebeard sources. Thanks again for posting! Casie Hermansson