August 31, 2021

#08-129: Bluebeard

ink drawing of a large, bearded man wearing a feather in his cap and a large robe, handing a ring of old-fashioned keys to an ornately-dressed young woman and raising a finger to her, seemingly in warning
Bluebeard turns over the keys--with a warning

Note: A gruesome tale of what happens when a fearsome man's young wife enters a locked room, and does "The One Forbidden Thing."

Get Ready: Can you think of stories where someone--often a woman--does the one thing that he or she is prohibited from doing? What usually happens in such stories?

We have heard about a genuine pirate known as "Blackbeard." Now let's meet a fictional monster named Bluebeard.

Bluebeard was a wealthy man with richly-furnished houses both in town and in the country, but the color of his beard made him look simply terrifying. One of his neighbors had two beautiful daughters, but when he asked her to let him marry one of them, both girls demurred. They were not only frightened of his appearance, but also of the rumors that he had had several wives before (some say six)--and that all had gone missing.

To convince one or the other of them to change her mind, he took the family and several of their friends to his large country house, where they had parties and outings, and at last his hospitality convinced the younger daughter and she agreed to marry him.

A month after the wedding, Bluebeard declared that he needed to go on a journey of six weeks. His young wife could do what she wished while he was gone, even invite her sister and friends to join her, and he gave her all of his keys so she could explore all the rooms in the mansion.

She could open any of the rooms, his warehouses, even his safes, but there was one closet that she was never to open. If she did, he said, she would gain nothing but his anger.

Things went along as expected: her sister and friends came quickly, and ran from room to room examining his goods. They kept telling the girl how lucky she was, but she was not satisfied: she wanted to see what was in that closet!

She stood indecisively in front of it for some time, thinking about her husband's threats, but at last she took the little key and opened the door. The room was dark, but her eyes became accustomed to it and--what was this?! The bodies of all the women whom Bluebeard had married and then murdered!

She was so upset that she dropped the key, but quickly picked it up, locked the closet with it, and ran to her room. There she noticed blood on the key--and it wouldn't come off! The key, you see, was magic. As soon as she got one side good and clean, more blood would appear on the other! And so it went.

That same evening, Bluebeard returned. When next day he asked for his keys, she gave him all but the one to the closet. Noticing instantly, he asked where it was, and she lied about leaving it upstairs. This went on until at last she gave it to him, and he noticed the stain right away.

"SO!" he shouted. "You wish to go into the closet? Then into the closet you shall go!" No matter how she pled, he was adamant. She was going to die.

At last she said, "If that is how things must be, let me pray once more with my sister before I die." He gave her just 15 minutes, and she straightaway alerted her sister, asking her to signal from the tower to her brothers who were supposed to arrive that day. Her sister indeed saw them, and as they were approaching, the poor wife stalled her husband this way and that.

In the end, just as he took her hair in one hand and his sword in the other and was about to strike off her head, a loud knocking came at the gate. Startled, Bluebeard turned to see the brothers, both trained soldiers, running at him. He fled into the house, but they overtook him and struck him dead.

As the monster had had no other heirs, his wife took over the estate. She used the money to bury the previous wives, and to advance her own family's positions. She herself married a worthy gentleman who helped her forget the horror of what she had found.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. accustomed to
  2. adamant
  3. alerted
  4. demurred
  5. hospitality
  6. indecisively
  7. monster
  8. pled
  9. rumors
  10. stalled

  1. delayed; held back
  2. a terrible person
  3. notified
  4. without choosing
  5. used to
  6. the generous treatment of guests
  7. hesitated; objected
  8. begged
  9. gossip; unverified reports
  10. unmoving; stubborn

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 31, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. j; 3. c; 4. g; 5. f; 6. d; 7. b; 8. h; 9. i; 10. a