Blue Beard

: The Blue Fairy Book

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 a blue 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 blue beard, 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.

Blue Beard, 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 country seats, where they stayed a

whole week.

There was nothing then 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, Blue Beard told his

wife that he was obliged to take a country journey for

six weeks 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 the keys of the two great

wardrobes, 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 my caskets of jewels; and this is the

master-key to all my apartments. But for this little

one here, it is the key of the closet at the end of the great

gallery 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

expect from my just anger and resentment."

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


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, and looking-glasses,

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 her curiosity

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 to have broken her neck.

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 was

disobedient; but the temptation 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 clotted blood, on which lay the bodies

of several dead women, ranged against the walls. (These

were all the wives whom Blue Beard 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 was stained with blood, 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

and sand; the blood still remained, for the key was

magical and she could never make it quite clean; when

the blood was gone off from one side, it came again on

the other.

Blue Beard 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 his speedy return.

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,"

said she.

"Fail not to bring it to me presently," said Blue


After several goings backward and forward she was

forced to bring him the key. Blue Beard, 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


"You do not know!" replied Blue Beard. "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 true repentance,

vowing that she would never more be disobedient. She

would have melted a rock, so beautiful and sorrowful

was she; but Blue Beard had a heart harder than any


"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 my prayers."

"I give you," replied Blue Beard, "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:

"Sister Anne" (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 to-day, and if you see them, give them a sign to

make haste."

Her sister Anne went up upon the top of the tower, and

the poor afflicted wife cried out from time to time:

"Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"

And sister Anne said:

"I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and

the grass, which looks green."

In the meanwhile Blue Beard, holding a great sabre

in his hand, cried out as loud as he could bawl to his


"Come down instantly, or I shall come up to you."

"One moment longer, if you please," said his wife, and

then she cried out very softly, "Anne, sister Anne, dost

thou see anybody coming?"

And sister Anne answered:

"I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and

the grass, which is green."

"Come down quickly," cried Blue Beard, "or I will

come up to you."

"I am coming," answered his wife; and then she cried,

"Anne, sister Anne, dost thou not see anyone coming?"

"I see," replied sister Anne, "a great dust, which comes

on this side here."

"Are they my brothers?"

"Alas! no, my dear sister, I see a flock of sheep."

"Will you not come down?" cried Blue Beard

"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 way off."

"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 make haste."

Then Blue Beard 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 Blue Beard; "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 Blue Beard made a sudden stop. The

gate was opened, and presently entered two horsemen,

who, drawing their swords, ran directly to Blue Beard.

He knew them to be his wife's brothers, one a dragoon,

the other a musketeer, 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.

Blue Beard had no heirs, 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 had

loved her a long while; another part to buy captains

commissions 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 Blue Beard.