The following is an annotated version
of the fairy tale. I recommend reading the entire story before
exploring the annotations, especially if you have not read the tale recently.
THERE was a man who had fine houses,
both in town and country, a deal of silver and gold plate, embroidered
furniture, and coaches gilded all over with gold. But this man was so
unlucky as to have ablue1 beard, which made him so frightfully ugly that all the women and girls
ran away from him.
One of his neighbors, a lady of quality, had two daughters
who were perfect beauties. He desired of her one of them in marriage,
leaving to her choice which of the two she would bestow on him. They would
neither of them have him, and sent him backward and forward from one another,
not being able to bear the thoughts of marrying a man who had a bluebeard,2 and what besides gave them disgust and aversion was his having already
been married to several wives, and nobody ever knew what became of them.
Bluebeard,3 to engage their affection, took them, with the lady their mother and three
or four ladies of their acquaintance, with other young people of the neighborhood,
to one of his countryseats,4 where they stayed a whole week.
There was nothing there to be seen but parties of pleasure,
hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth, and feasting. Nobody went to bed, but
all passed the night in rallying and joking with each other. In short,
everything succeeded so well that the youngest daughter began to think
the master of the house not to have a beard so very blue, and that he
was a mighty civil gentleman.
As soon as they returned home, the marriage was concluded.
About a month afterward, Bluebeard told his wife that he was obliged to
take a country journey for six
weeks5 at least, about affairs of very great consequence,
desiring her to divert herself in his absence, to send for her friends
and acquaintances, to carry them into the country, if she pleased, and
to make good cheer wherever she was.
"Here," said he, "are thekeys6 of the two greatwardrobes,7 wherein I have my best furniture; these are of my silver and gold plate,
which is not every day in use; these open my strong boxes, which hold
my money, both gold and silver; these mycaskets8 of jewels; and this is the master-key to all myapartments.9 But for this little one here, it is the key of thecloset10 at the end of the greatgallery11 on the ground floor. Open them all; go into all and every one of them,
except that little closet, which I forbid you, and forbid it in such a
manner that, if you happen to open it, there's nothing but what you may
just anger and resentment."12
She promised to observe, very exactly, whatever he had
ordered; when he, after having embraced her, got into his coach and proceeded
on his journey.
Her neighbors and good friends did not stay to be sent
for by the new married lady, so great was their impatience to see all
the rich furniture of her house, not daring to come while her husband
was there, because of his blue beard, which frightened them. They ran
through all the rooms, closets, and wardrobes, which were all so fine
and rich that they seemed to surpass one another.
After that they went up into the two great rooms, where
was the best and richest furniture; they could not sufficiently admire
the number and beauty of the tapestry, beds, couches, cabinets, stands,
tables, andlooking-glasses,13 in which you might see yourself from head to foot; some of them were framed
with glass, others with silver, plain and gilded, the finest and most
magnificent ever were seen.
They ceased not to extol and envy the happiness of their
friend, who in the meantime in no way diverted herself in looking upon
all these rich things, because of the impatience she had to go and open
the closet on the ground floor. She was so much pressed by hercuriosity14 that, without considering that it was very uncivil to leave her company,
she went down a little back staircase, and with such excessive haste that
she had twice or thrice like tohave
broken her neck.15
Coming to the closet-door, she made a stop for some time,
thinking upon her husband's orders, and considering what unhappiness might
attend her if she wasdisobedient;16 but thetemptation17 was so strong she could not overcome it. She then took the little key,
and opened it, trembling, but could not at first see anything plainly,
because the windows were shut. After some moments she began to perceive
that the floor was all covered over with clottedblood,18 on which lay the bodies of several dead women, ranged against the walls.
(These were all the wives whom Bluebeard had married and murdered, one
after another.) She thought she should have died for fear, and the key,
which she pulled out of the lock, fell out of her hand.
After having somewhat recovered her surprise, she took
up the key, locked the door, and went upstairs into her chamber to recover
herself; but she could not, she was so much frightened. Having observed
that the key of the closet wasstained
with blood,19 she tried two or three times to wipe it off,
but the blood would not come out; in vain did she wash it, and even rub
it with soap andsand;20 the blood still remained, for the key wasmagical21 and she could never make it quite clean; when the blood was gone off from
one side, it came again on the other.
Bluebeard returned from his journey the same evening,
and said he had received letters upon the road, informing him that the
affair he went about was ended to his advantage. His wife did all she
could to convince him she was extremely glad of hisspeedy
Next morning he asked her for the keys, which she gave
him, but with such a trembling hand that he easily guessed what had happened.
"What!" said he, "is not the key of my closet among the
"I must certainly have left it above upon the table,"
"Fail not to bring it to me presently," said Bluebeard.
After several goings backward and forward she was forced
to bring him the key. Bluebeard, having very attentively considered it,
said to his wife, "How comes this blood upon the key?"
"I do not know," cried the poor woman, paler than death.
"You do not know!" replied Bluebeard. "I very well know.
You were resolved to go into the closet, were you not? Mighty well, madam;
you shall go in, and take your place among the ladies you saw there."
Upon this she threw herself at her husband's feet, and
begged his pardon with all the signs of truerepentance,23 vowing that she would never more be disobedient. She would have melted
a rock, so beautiful and sorrowful was she; but Bluebeard had a heart
harder than anyrock!24
"You must die, madam," said he, "and that presently."
"Since I must die," answered she (looking upon him with
her eyes all bathed in tears), "give me some little time to say myprayers."25
"I give you," replied Bluebeard, "half a quarter of an
hour, but not one moment more."
When she was alone she called out to her sister, and said
to her: "SisterAnne"26 (for that was her name), "go up, I beg you, upon the top of the tower,
and look if my brothers are not coming over; they promised me that they
would come today, and if you see them, give them a sign to make haste."
"One moment longer," said his wife, and then she cried
out: "Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see nobody coming?"
"I see," said she, "two horsemen, but they are yet a great
"God be praised," replied the poor wife joyfully; "they
are my brothers; I will make them a sign, as well as I can, for them to
Then Bluebeard bawled out so loud that he made the whole
house tremble. The distressed wife came down, and threw herself at his
feet, all in tears, with her hair about her shoulders.
"This signifies nothing," says Bluebeard; "you must die";
then, taking hold of her hair with one hand, and lifting up the sword
with the other, he was going to take off her head. The poor lady, turning
about to him, and looking at him with dying eyes, desired him to afford
her one little moment to recollect herself.
"No, no," said he, "recommend thyself to God," and was
just ready to strike . . .
At this very instant there was such a loud knocking at
the gate that Bluebeard made a sudden stop. The gate was opened, and presently
entered two horsemen, who, drawing their swords, ran directly to Bluebeard.
He knew them to be his wife's brothers, one adragoon,30 the other amusketeer,31 so that he ran away immediately to save himself; but the two brothers
pursued so close that they overtook him before he could get to the steps
of the porch, when they ran their swords through his body and left him
dead. The poor wife was almost as dead as her husband, and had not strength
enough to rise and welcome her brothers.
Bluebeard had noheirs,32 and so his wife became mistress of all his estate. She made use of one
part of it to marry her sister Anne to a young gentleman who hadloved
her a long while;33 another part tobuy
captains commissions34 for her brothers, and the rest to
marry herself to a very worthy gentleman, who made her forget the ill
time she had passed with Bluebeard.