Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bluebeard in Canada: Jean-Parle

Bluebeard Tales From Around the World

Fairy tales in the Americas are a strange breed. For the most part, they are either Native American or they are hybrids of European tales. For me, being Southern, the Southern spins on European tales are the most entertaining for they usually take on the most regional flavor that make them truly Southern. But today's tale isn't Southern.

As I hunted for tales from North America to include in Bluebeard Tales From Around the World, I discovered Jean-Parle, an unabashed ATU 311 tale, from French-speaking Quebec. It was longish, but since French intimidates me the least, I jumped in and translated it. This one feels European and even uses a Eurpean setting, but it is somewhat different from any other version I discovered. Not to say that there isn't a French variant that may be almost identical, but I didn't find it.

Here's the opening:

ONCE there was a widow who had three daughters, Charlotte, Javotte, and the youngest, Finette. They earned their living by spinning wool for their neighbors. One day, a well-dressed man arrived at their home and introduced himself by the name of Jean-Parle. “Madam, I seek a servant,” he said.

The widow replied, “Dear sir, we do not know you and my girls have never come out. I cannot…”

“You have nothing to fear, Madame. I am the lord of the neighboring country.”

“You may be the lord, but we know no one in the neighboring country.”

“If you are afraid, you can inquire about me with the priest or bishop here who will know me well.”

Entering the conversation, Charlotte said, “Maman, anyway he’s not going to eat me. I will go there for a month.”
If you know you ATU 311 by now, you can accurately guess that the two older sisters meet their deaths and Finette outwits Jean-Parle. The most unusual element, besides naming all the girls, is the recruiting of the girls as servants, not as wives. Jean-Parle also disguises himself in multiple disguises which isn't as common. Overall, the tale has a more literary feel with its detailing and descriptions although it was collected from a storyteller.

And I don't know the significance of the name. I didn't find any explanation of that either...


  1. I'd love to know how Finette does it! I've read many variations on the Bluebeard story, and others with the same theme but different structure involving a 'good' sister escaping a situation where a 'bad' sister has come to harm, usually due to greed... My favourite is an Italian one involving the sisters being sent one after the other to help a community of cats living in a cave underneath a cabbage. It is utterly surreal.

  2. There's an Italian version where they're servants, too.