Bluebeard Crisis: Serial Killers in Fairy Tales
INTRODUCTION: Violence in the Fairy Tales
Since childhood, we have heard many different fairy tales which are full of fantasies and miracles. Most of the fairy tales we know nowadays have the similar plot, such as prince and princess have overcome many difficulties and finally reach a happy ending at the end of the story. The story of saving the damsel in distress from a bad guy mostly appears in the fairy tales that are widely spread such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel. One of the reasons of spreading of these fairy tales are brought out by Disney’s animated movies, the popularity of these movies among the animated movies had shown that many people were fascinated by these princes and princesses fairy tales. However, these movies might have misled people about the element of fairy tales. In fact, fairy tales might contain violence and immoral perspective which are unsuitable for children. Not all fairy tales have a happy ending or ends without sacrifice. Due to the acceptance of the target reader, there are many folk tales or fairy tales which contains violence and negative scenes are forbidden to publish in children’s storybooks and picture books. Among the fairy tales, the serial killer is one of the most common issues of violence. Bluebeard, a fairy tale which is not well known by people, is a story that contains violence such as murder and abuse. Surprisingly, there are many fairy tales share a highly similar storyline with Bluebeard. Therefore, in this research, we will dig into the violence and redefine the use of fairy tales by researching the serial killers in the “Bluebeard” type stories such as Bluebeard by Charles Perrault, The White Dove by Gaston Maugard, Fitcher’s Bird and The Robber Bridegroom by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
This thesis is mainly separated into four chapters. In the first chapter, there will be a brief summary of the stories of the “Bluebeard” type fairy tales and the analysis of the identities and characteristics of the serial killers in the stories. Next chapter, we will talk about the roles of the serial killer in the stories and the common moral lessons of the fairy tales. In the third chapter, we will try to find the origin of the “Bluebeard” type stories by researching Gilles de Rais, who is most believed as an original of Bluebeard and Comorre The Curse, a legend from Brittany. In the end, this thesis will be ended by our conclusion of this research.
WHO ARE THEY? : Serial Killers in the Fairy Tales
Nobleman – Bluebeard by Charles Perrault
Bluebeard, a nobleman who owns a rich prosperity, who had married for many times, wants to marry a young girl. He marries the younger daughter of a noble lady who thinks he was a civil gentleman. Before he went out, he gave his wife a bunch of keys and warned her not to unlock the forbidden room. She promised Bluebeard. However, due to the curiosity, she unlocks the forbidden room with the key and found the dead body of his six late wives inside. Her betrayal makes Bluebeard angry and wants to kill her. She called her brothers for help. Finally, Bluebeard died under her brother’s sword and she gained all of his prosperity.
Hunter – The White Dove by Gaston Maugard
A princess had refused all marriage proposal and sworn not to marry a man who unless he has a bluebeard. One day, a hunter, a giant who has a bluebeard come to palace. The princess was agreed to marry him. Before the princess leaves her home, her mother gives her three doves, the black dove, the white dove and the red dove. Each dove represented a different message, red represents she was living happily with her husband; white dove means she was ill; black shows that she was in the bad situation. One day, the hunter lent his wife a bunch of keys before he leaves. There were nine keys and every key has their own respected chamber. However, the hunter forbids her to open the ninth chamber. The curious princess ignored her husband’s words and opened the last chamber. Inside the chamber, she saw a bloody basin and eight women dead bodies hanging inside the room. The hunter found out that she had discovered the dead bodies and decided to kill her. The princess sent out the black dove to get help. Two knights had come to the hunter’s house in the nick of time. After having dinner, the hunter fell asleep and being killed by the knights.
Sorcerer – Fitcher’s Bird by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
A sorcerer dressed himself as a beggar to cheat and capture young girls. Firstly, he caught the oldest daughter of a man. He lures her to stay with him by giving everything she wants. After a few days, he gives her a bunch of keys and an egg. He told her that she can walk in everywhere except the forbidden room and take care of the egg. However, the oldest daughter curious about that room and unlocked with the key. Inside the room, she saw the parts of the girls’ dead bodies. She was killed when the sorcerer found out she broke the promise. The second daughter also killed in the same way. Finally, the third sister was captured by the sorcerer. She also found out the secret behind the forbidden room, but she rescued her sisters and passed the test given by the sorcerer. The sorcerer was tricked by the third daughter and finally burned to death by the daughter’s family members.
Robber – The Robber Bridegroom by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
One day, a beautiful daughter of a miller was engaged with a rich suitor. Before the wedding, the bridegroom invited his bride to his house in the dark forest. The bride scare of him but she still went to his house. Along the path, she marked the way with peas and lentils. She heard a voice, warning and telling her that she is in the murderer’s house. She met an old woman and realized her future husband is a robber and cannibal. The bride escaped the house with the old woman’s help. She brings back a finger of a young girl murdered by the robbers. During the wedding day, she tells the guests what she saw in her bridegroom’s house and the finger she took back is the evidence. At the end, the robber bridegroom and his accomplice were executed.
Who are the serial killers? The serial killers we listed have a variety of identities such as nobleman, hunter, sorcerer, and robber. From the stories listed above, we noticed that even the serial killers have different identities and social status in their stories, they share some common characteristics, like man and husband. In Bluebeard from Perrault, White Dove from Maugard, Fitcher’s Bird and The Robber Bridegroom from Grimm Brother’s Children and Household Tales, the main male character in the story plays the role of a serial killer. In the story of Bluebeard, Bluebeard, a nobleman who owns a huge prosperity, murdered his wife when he found out his wife had discovered his secret of the forbidden room during his leave. After his wife’s died, he will continue to marry other women and give them the same trial. Bluebeard kept doing the same thing without noticed by others and similar tragedy falls on his new-married wives until his crime was discovered by the younger sister of the noble women, his seventh wife, and killed by her brothers. In Maugard’s White Dove, the hunter, a giant also had a bluebeard, married the princess. Before he leaves, he gives his wife a bunch of keys and forbids her not to open the last chamber, the forbidden ninth chamber. However, similar to Bluebeard story, the curious wife found out the women corpses in the forbidden chamber and finally, the hunter was killed by the knights. The story of Fitcher’s Bird is almost similar with Bluebeard, the young girl was given a test in order to gain the sorcerer’s trust before they get married. Same as Bluebeard, the oldest daughter’s curiosity drives her to open the forbidden room and her body was separated into pieces by the sorcerer. The second daughter also encountered the same tragedy until the last daughter come to save them. The Robber Bridegroom has a different plot with the three stories above. However, the main male character of this story also acts the role of a serial killer. The robber pretended as a gentleman suitor who wants to marry the beautiful daughter, but actually, he wants to rob the girl’s property. He is a serial killer and cannibal who will murder and eat the bride after he gains what he desires. These “Bluebeard” serial killers were murdering the innocent young girls unstoppable until their crime discovered and been killed.
From the different identities and social status of the serial killers, the reason for the killing of the serial killers is also different. The nobleman in Perrault’s Bluebeard wants to marry a girl who does not afraid of his ugly bluebeard at the beginning of the story. However, from the trial that he gave to his young wife, we can know that he does not trust his wife. The acting of murdering his wives and keeping the corpses in a secret room seems the nobleman has some mental or psychological problem. This situation also happens on the hunter in The White Dove and the sorcerer in Fitcher’s Bird. The reasons for the habit of testing and killing their newly-wedding wife are still remaining mystery. There are some people also believes that the prosperity of Bluebeard comes from the property of his late wives. The property of the young wife is one of the reasons some people believe as the motive of serial killers’ crime. However, even though many “bluebeard” type stories do not directly show the reason for murdering a young girl, there are some stories explained the reasons for a man being a serial killer. The reason for murdering the new married wife in Grimms’ The Robber Bridegroom is obvious when the stories come to the middle part. The young bride saw the misfortune encountered by the other young girl in her bridegroom’s house. Her bridegroom, who actually is a robber, defraud the family who has a daughter. After the wedding, the robber kills his bride and seize her property. Besides that, her robber bridegroom and his brothers are cannibals who like to eat a human.
Other than the habit of giving trial and murdering to their wives, the serial killers are good in distinguishing themselves. The nobleman of Perrault’s Bluebeard hides his freaking habits and shows only his wealth before he marries his wife. The manners of the bluebeard successfully cheated the young daughter. The hunter in Maugard’s The White Dove does not distinguish himself too much of his appearance, but he owns a castle and treasures, which is not suited to his hunter’s identity and social status. The camouflage of the sorcerer in Fitcher’s Bird is a beggar. The sorcerer takes advantages of the daughters’ sympathy and kindness by dressing a beggar who needs food and help. In The Robber Bridegroom, the robber distinguished himself as a rich suitor in order to gain the young bride and her family trust. Even the murderers do not distinguish themselves in the same way, their fake appearance and manners are more useful than we think. Their camouflage is their most important way for the serial killers to draw their victims, the young girls’ attention.
Through the four stories we mentioned at first, the serial killer is a fixed characteristic of most “Bluebeard” type stories. Besides these four stories, there are still many “Bluebeard” type fairy tales or folk stories such as The Cobbler and His Three Daughters, How The Devil Married Three Sister, Don Firriulieddu, and The Hare’s Bride. These stories might only share some common element of ‘bluebeard’ stories, but we can easily found out the features like a serial killer, marring a young girl, or the dead bodies of women inside the forbidden room in the story plot. However, there are also other serial killers appeared in other fairy tales and folk tales which are not included as “Bluebeard” type stories such as the wolf in The Little Red Riding Hood, the witch in the Hansel and Gretel, and the king Shahryar in the Arabian Nights, also called as One Thousand and One Nights.
WHY ARE THEY IN THE FAIRY TALES? : Roles of Serial Killers in the Stories
In the past, folk stories and fairy tales had played the role as an impressed and interesting way to teach children moral lessons. In the “Bluebeard” type stories, serial killer is an important feature to present those immoral and violence in the story. Through these four similar stories, the serial killer characters have brought out some negative elements such as murderer husband, the curiosity of a woman, domestic abuse, and bewitchment of appearance.
First, every story we had researched have an obvious element, the murderer husband. The murderer husband is one of the most impressed parts of the “Bluebeard” type stories. Before the secret behind the door was discovered, we think that the young girl has married a good man and she will have a “happy ever forever” ending because her husband is rich and treat her good. It is surprising when the young wife saw the dead body of other women inside the forbidden room. Next, the curiosity of a woman is one of the special features in “Bluebeard” type stories. The young wife in the stories was warned not to open the forbidden room even they have the key before their husband leave, but the curiosity of the woman draws them to break the promise they had made. Domestic abuse is one of the common violence in the fairy tales and folktales. The domestic abuse in other stories such as Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Snow White does not have any death of people. However, the domestic abuse in “Bluebeard” type stories are more serious. There are more than two people were killed in the stories, even their dead bodies are not settled properly. The last negative elements are the bewitchment of appearance. Every serial killer is good in distinguishing themselves and the young girl and her family have a deep trust in their fake identity.
Since we know that fairy tales and folk tales are used to teach moral lessons, it is not doubted that the negative elements are presented in the stories. Through the misfortune encountered by the young girls in the stories, we learned some moral lessons which are especially for girls who will marry in the future. For instance, the danger of marriage, the curiosity of a woman, and the danger of believing a stranger.
In these “Bluebeard” type stories, the danger of marriage is an important point for the young girls. Marriage is one of the most common elements in fairy tales and mostly the happy-ending fairy tales will have marriage ending. Despite marriage symbolized happiness in the most of time, the marriage in these stories is not as happy as we naturally think about and it might be the starting of the tragedies. This moral lesson is to tell the young girls about the uncertainty of their future after marrying a man. Next, the curiosity of a woman is a special feature of “Bluebeard” type stories. According to Heiner (2011), the fatal curiosity of the wife is an emphasis part of Perrault’s Bluebeard. In these stories, even the young wife had told not to unlock the door, their curiosity drives them to break their promise. They are curious about the secret of their husband. Their careless also exposed their betrayal to husband’s promise. The Robber Bridegroom does not share a highly similar plot with the other three stories, but the curiosity of the young bride shows when she heard the warning voice before entering her bridegroom house. Even she heard the warning, but she is still walk in the house and checking everywhere. In the stories, the curiosity of the young girls has helped them to discover the secret of their husband, but it also might draws them into danger. This moral lesson is to advise the young girls not to too curious about their husband, telling them the way to maintain their marriage relationship. Curiosity is also teaching the importance of privacy between husband and wife. Finally, the danger of believing a stranger is also a common moral lesson in fairy tales and folk stories. Nowadays, even we understand the meaning of “do not judge the book by its cover”, people are still easily cheated by the appearance. Therefore, it is not surprising that the young girls and their family in the stories will fall into the serial killers’ camouflage traps. In the past, mostly marriage are managed by the parents and not all of them really know each other, such as the marriage in Perrault’s Bluebeard and Grimms’ The Robber Bridegroom, the marriage of the young girls are decided by their parents. The young girls and their family were fascinated gentleman manners and the wealth of the stranger. They believe the man is the ideal person for the girl. This moral lesson is to warn people not to trust a stranger blindly especially while choosing a marriage partner.
WHERE THE STORIES COME FROM? : Origin of the Stories
Until today, the origin of the Bluebeard story is still unknown. Every researcher has their own opinion about the prototype of Bluebeard. Gilles de Rais, the Marshal of France, is the person who people most believe he is the original of Perrault’s Bluebeard. Beside Gilles, some people do believe that Bluebeard is linked to a legend in Brittany, which is called as Comorre The Cursed. Vizetelly (1902) said that even he does not guaranty, but he thinks that Gilles de Rais and Comorre The Cursed are the two possible candidate for the original figure of Perrault’s Bluebeard.
Gilles de Rais (September 1405 – October 1440), a comrade of Jeanne d’Arc during the Hundred Years’ War, is believed to be the inspiration of Bluebeard. Gilles is a well-known serial killer of young children in French. Gilles de Rais was born at a wealthy family in France. He joined Jeanne d’Arc to fight English around 1429. After the victory at Orleans, Charles VII made his the Marshal of France. However, after Jeanne d’Arc sacrificed in 1431, Gilles started to act strangely. During 1432-1440, Gilles started to murder young children and addicted to alchemy and magic. It is believed that there are around 140 victims until he was arrested and executed in 1440. The reason for believing Gilles is the origin of the Bluebeard is the story is published in France. Perrault was born in France and Gilles is the might be most famous serial killer in France. It is not surprising if Perrault knows this well-known serial killer. However, there are many differences between Gilles and Bluebeard because Gilles has only one wife and he kills young children, most are boys. The moral lesson curiosity might be the reason for changing murdering target in Bluebeard.
Comorre The Cursed, also called as Conomor the Cursed, a Breton king in the sixth century, is are also a serial killer of his wives. However, this story is not well-known by people. Comorre, a king who wants to marry the princess. However, even the princess was unhappy to this marriage, she was forced to marry Comorre who is suspected the murderer of his four late wives. One day, Comorre was angry when the princess told him that he will become a father soon. The princess ran to his late wives tomb and pray to them. The soul of the last wives told her that Comorre hates his child because he was told that his child would kill him. The princess and her baby escaped from Comorre with the late wives soul’s help. This legend has more features that fits to Perrault’s Bluebeard, such as a stranger marrying a girl, having many wives before but nobody knows the reason for their death and murdering his wives. Comorre The Cursed is a legend had spread for a long time, therefore some people think that Comorre is the real prototype of Perrault’s Bluebeard.
Through researching the “Bluebeard” type stories such as Bluebeard, The White Dove, Fitcher’s Bird and The Robber Bridegroom, we have learned some common characteristics of the serial killers in the fairy tales. The role of serial killers is important in the stories because they bring out the warning and moral lessons that happy ending fairy tales could not tell the readers. Fairy tales and folk stories are used to educate the children, especially for the teenagers and girls. Even the story is bloody, contains immoral perspective such as murdering and cheating, story-telling is still an impressed way for the parents to educate their children the way to protect themselves. “Bluebeard” type stories are still not well-accepted by people nowadays, but there are some moral lessons like curiosity and be aware to the strangers are important ideas for children nowadays. Fairy tales not only have the function of giving children hope and dreams, but it also teaches children how to protect themselves. Through this research, we found out that we have many collections of “Bluebeard” type storybooks, but there is only a few analysis we can find use as a reference for the research. Hoping the Bluebeard story could receive more attention due to its educational function in the future.