Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Story of Blue Beard: A Student's Ballad

Bluebeard Tales From Around the World

I included several poems in Bluebeard Tales From Around the World and one of the little surprises I found during my hunt was the following. Here it is excerpted from the book.

The Story of Blue Beard: A Student's Ballad

The following is a ballad written by an eighth grade student, a girl who participated in poetry classes conducted and written about by Nell Warden for an educational magazine, The American Schoolmaster, circa 1915. The piece was too charming to leave out of this anthology. It also demonstrates how Bluebeard was better known by children in the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth. Read the teacher’s notes at the end of the poem for more information.

NOW listen, friends, and I will tell
A tale of long ago,
Of Blue Beard with his bright blue hair,
And bright blue beard, you know.

A very wealthy man was he,
With chests of glittering gold,
And piles and piles of precious stones,
And piles of silver, cold.

But all his wealth did please him not,
For he did want a wife,
Said he, “Who’er will be my bride,
Shall labor not in life.

And she shall have my precious stones,
And all my silver, too;”
But none would wed this frightful man.
This man with beard of blue.

Now near Blue Beard a widow lived,
With two sweet daughters fair,
And Blue Beard wished to marry one,
For Fatima he did care.

“Oh come, sweet maiden, be my bride,
And you shall wealthy be,
Your mother and your sister bring,
And all may dwell with me.”

“I will,” she said, “I’ll marry you,
Tomorrow we will wed.”
For much she loved his wealth, you know;
And jewels for her head.

The next day was the wedding day,
A bright warm day was it,
Fatima, happy as could be,
On a jeweled chair did sit.

And they were married on that night,
A happy pair were they;
A feast was held to honor them,
And finish up the day.

But soon Blue Beard must go away,
A long, long trip to make;
But ere he went he said to her,
“My keys I will not take.

I’ll leave them all with you, my dear,
And you may try each door
But one, that this small key does fit,
I’ve ne’er told you of it before.”

And then Blue Beard took leave of her
And back to her friends she went;
But soon she quietly slipped away,—
To open that door she meant.

She turned the key and then the knob,
And peeped into the room.
She saw dead wives, their heads cut off!
And murder had been their doom!

She screamed and the key fell on the floor,
A bloody stain was left;
She locked the door and ran away,
And scoured with fingers deft.

The stain Blue Beard must not see there,
For she had promised true
To never use that one small key.
What would, what would she do!

She scoured and scrubbed; the stain came off,
But just to come again,
She used all kinds of scouring soaps;
Her scrubbing was in vain.

She went to the window and did look out,
And who did she happen to see?
Why, Blue Beard coming up the walk,
No other could it be!

She put the key in her pocket at once,
And went down to see Blue Beard.
Pretending not to know where ‘twas,
Though he’d find out she feared.

“Where are my keys?” he asked of her,
“Right here, my dear, are they.”
He looked at her. “They’re not all here;
Where’s the little one, I say?”

“Indeed, is not it there also?”
“You know it’s not,” he said,
“Give it to me at once, at once!
And now you’ll lose your head!”

And then she wept and begged for her life,
But all she said was vain;
“O, give to me one moment short,
In which to pray again.”

He granted this and nothing more,
Her life he would not spare;
His heart was still unmoved and hard,
And so she climbed the stair.

Her sister Anne went with her, too.
Fatima did not pray,
But only waited in suspense,
For her brothers to come that day.

“Sister Anne! Sister Anne! Do my brothers come?”
She asked in an anxious tone;
“I see them not,” said her sister Anne,
Fatima gave a groan.

“Do you see them yet?” she cried again,
“O sister, sister Anne.”
“I see nothing but a cloud of dust,”
Then to cry, Fatima began.

Then Blue Beard angry at his wife,
For staying there so long,—
“Will you come down, oh wretched maid?”
He cried in a voice so strong.

Fatima, frightened, answered back,
“O wait one moment more,”
“If you don’t come down, I’ll come up there,”
Did angry Blue Beard roar.

“Sister Anne, are my brothers coming?”
“O yes!” said her sister then,
And heavily tramped old Blue Beard, too,
A-coming to their den.

He opened the door and did walk in,
And then he drew his knife.
He grasped her beautiful golden hair,—
He meant to take her life.

When in there rushed her brothers three,
And grabbed old Blue Beard’s hand;
They slew him with his own sharp knife,
No longer did he stand.

Fatima, her brothers, and sister Anne,
Did every one rejoice.
“O, now we are rich,” they all did cry,
In a very happy voice.


In this class the pupils studied the differences, in form and subject matter, between poetry and prose. The three great classes of poetic writing, narrative, lyric, and dramatic, were considered. The class decided that they would take as verse to imitate the simplest form of narrative poetry, the ballad. Some study of ballads resulted in the writing of the old folk stories—“Blue Beard” and “The Sleeping Beauty” in ballad form. Then followed a ballad written from a story of the early days of their own community. The last work of this class was the writing in prose of a simple story, having in it love, adventure, and a tragic ending, and turning this into a ballad. Not all of these ballads were good, and some of them were very, very funny; but each pupil gained much by the attempt at ballad making. “The Story of Blue Beard” was written by a girl in division B of the eighth grade.


Warden, Nell. “Versification in the Elementary School.” The American Schoolmaster: Published by the Michigan State Normal College. Vol. VIII, No. 6 (June 1915). pp. 241-253.

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