Friday, May 13, 2011

Bluebeard: Beards of Many Hues, Red in Particular

Bluebeard Tales From Around the World

As you are probably aware by now, Blogger has been down and quirky for the past few days. I was a little reluctant to post anything, but it's Friday the 13th and I wanted to maintain my momentum with talking about Bluebeard Tales From Around the World.

We all know of Bluebeard by now but in the tale group, the beard isn't always blue. Sometimes there isn't a beard at all. But the beard can be another color, too. Black isn't the color of choice, we can keep that for the pirate Blackbeard for whom Bluebeard is often mistaken. In Bluebeard Tales From Around the World there is Barbe Rouge (Redbeard) from France. There is Knight Goldbeard from Switzerland. And there is Greenbeard from Lithuania. And, now that I think of it, I translated all three of these tales for the collection which gave me a particular intimacy with them.

Barbe Rouge falls easily into the ATU 312 type. There are a few quirks in this short tale however. It begins like this:

BARBE Rouge was married seven times and successively lost each of his wives after a short time of homemaking. He lived ten years in harmony with his eighth wife with whom he had two daughters and a son. But after that time, Barbe Rouge took his wife into such hatred that he resolved to get rid of her.

One Sunday, at the moment she returned from Mass, he said to her, “Jeanne-Marie, today I will kill you.”

“Allow me,” the woman replied, “to put on my wedding clothes, those in which I was married to you.”

“Then go up to your room and be quick for I am in a hurry.”

This is one of the few Bluebeard tales in which the couple live together for a long while. The idea that they have children together and he still wants to kill her is more disturbing to me for some reason although it is unfortunately quite grounded in reality. This is one of the first tales I translated for the collection and I admit it gave me my only nightmare. I'm not prone to them and after a few days became acclimated to these tales (disturbing in itself), but this one got to me and I think it was because it was so matter-of-fact about the entire killing thing after many years of marriage with children included. Barbe Rouge was a monster. His wife commits no transgression in this other than being married to him so it's not a perfect ATU 312 if there is such a thing.

I will talk more about Goldbeard and Greenbeard over the weekend, so stay tuned.

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