Monday with the Wolves: Bluebeard

woman with candle

Once upon a time there was a man with a beard as blue as the shadow of a hole at night. He was a giant man, a failed magician with an eye for women, a man known by the name of Bluebeard.

‘Twas said he courted three sisters at the same time. But they were frightened of his beard with its odd blue cast, and so they hid when he called. In an effort to convince them of his geniality he invited them on an outing in the forest. He arrived leading horses arrayed in bells and crimson ribbons. He set the sisters and their mother upon the horses and off they cantered into the forest. There they had a most wonderful day riding, and the sisters began to think,

Well, perhaps this man Bluebeard is not so bad after all.

They returned home all a-chatter, but the two older girls still had their suspicions. The youngest, however, thought that if a man could be that charming, perhaps he was not so bad. The more she talked to herself, the less awful he seemed, and the less blue his beard.

So when Bluebeard asked for her hand in marriage, she said yes, and they rode off to his castle in the woods.


One day, Bluebeard said,

I must go away for a time. Invite your family here, do whatever you want. I’ll give you my keys which you can use. However, this one key, the little one with the scrollwork, do not use.

And so he left and the woman’s sisters arrived, and she told them what he had said. And the sisters, feeling full of high spirits, decided to play a game of fitting each key to a door. The castle had hundreds of doors and they played for hours until there was just the one little scrollwork key.

“Maybe this key doesn’t fit anything at all,” they said. Just then they heard an odd sound – “errrrrrr”. They peeked around the corner, and – lo and behold – there was a small door just closing. One cried, “Sister, sister, bring your key. Surely this is the door for that mysterious little key.”

Without a thought, they put the key in the door and it swung open but it was so dark inside they could not see. “Sister, sister, bring a candle.” So a candle was lit and all three women screamed at once, for in the room was a mire of blood and the blackened bones of corpses.

They slammed the door and leaned against each other gasping.

The wife looked down at the key and saw it was stained with blood. Horrified, she used her skirt to wipe it clean, but the blood remained. “Oh, no!” she cried. The wife hid the key in her pocket and ran to the cook’s kitchen. When she arrived, her white dress was stained red from pocket to hem, for the key was slowly weeping drops of dark red blood. She told the cook, “Quick, give me some horsehair,” but no matter how she scoured the key, it would not stop bleeding. She tried all manner of things to staunch the flow, but nothing could make the weeping blood subside.

“Oh, what am I to do?” she cried.

I know, I’ll put the little key in the wardrobe and close the door. This is a bad dream. All will be aright.

…. continued in part 2.


Image: Silje Kristin


5 thoughts on “Monday with the Wolves: Bluebeard

  1. You do take us back in time. So far back that I hardly remember when, late adolescence i guess. I do remember, though rather fuzzy, the picture Bluebird created in my imagination wasn’t pretty. Amusing, the coincidence as to the timing of your article, arriving when I was doing final touches of the 2nd edition of my first book of poetry, “Issues” which just happens to include a poem I was reading, called “Night Demons” about childhood nightmares. I do like your wide range of article choices.


    • It does stick in the imagination this story, doesn’t it? I heard it when I was about 8 or 9 and a few years ago I came across a picture I’d drawn in a schoolbook based on it. There was a woman chained up, and the teacher had written a question of concern beside the picture. Now I wonder how I’d internalised the story, because around that time we had a neighbour who used to beat his wife and I used to lie in bed listening to the crockery smashing and hearing her cries. Around the same time too, my auntie was murdered by her “husband” though I didn’t know it was murder at the time.


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