Dark Origins – Bluebeard

The fairytale of Bluebeard was the most scary one I can recall hearing or reading as a child. This story is featured in Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics.

It this version of the story, Bluebeard’s bride is a teenage peasant girl named Josephine. She has been raised by her brothers who are woodworkers. In this version, Bluebeard, a wealthy widower with a blue beard, choses Josephine as his wife because she is beautiful, naïve and desires to marry a prince. The character design for Bluebeard strongly resembles that of the English King, Henry VIII, who had six wives, two of whom he beheaded. After the wedding, Bluebeard gives Josephine a key ring with all the keys to all the doors of his castle. He tells her that she must never use the golden key to open one of the doors.

Of course, Josephine’s curiosity gets the better of her and one day when Bluebeard leaves the castle on business, she opens the forbidden door. Behind the door she discovers the blood splattered remains of the former wives of Bluebeard, all of whom he’s murdered. Josephine is saved by her brothers before she can suffer the same fate as Bluebeards previous wives.

Blue Beard in Tales of Mother Goose (Welsh).png
Picture from Wikipedia

There are two possible sources for the story of Bluebeard.

The first theory is that the story of Bluebeard was based on the life of 15th-century convicted Breton serial killer, Gilles de Rais.

Gilles de Rais was a knight and lord from Brittany, Anjou and Poitou. From 1427 to 1435, he was a commander of the French army and fought alongside Joan of Arc against the English and their Burgundian allies during the Hundred Years’ War.

In 1434 or 1435, Gilles retired from military life and became a spendthrift, staging extravagant theatrical productions of his own composition. In June 1435 his family persuaded King Charles VII to proclaim a royal edit preventing him from selling his property and from entering into contracts with any French subject.

In 1438, Gilles became involved in alchemy and demon summoning.

According to his confession at his trial in October 1440, de Rais said he committed his first child assaults in 1432 and 1433. The first murders occurred at de Rais’ castle in Champtocé-sur-Loire. Murders of an unknown number of children took place after de Rais moved to Machecoul. de Rais was believed to have sexually assaulted the children before killing them. The bodies were burned in the fireplace in de Rais’ room. The number of de Rais’ victims is believed to be between 100 and 200 children aged between 6 to 18 years old and predominately male.

He was executed by hanging and burning on Wednesday, 26 October 1440 along with his two accomplices, Poitou and Henriet.

Picture of the execution of Gilles de Rais from Wikipedia

Another possible source for the story of Bluebeard is early Breton king, Conomor the Accursed, who was notorious for his cruelty. According to the biography of St Gildas, a 6th century British monk, Tréphine married Conomor after he threatened to invade her father’s lands and kill his people.

While Conomor was away, Tréphine found a secret room containing relics of his deceased wives. She prayed for their souls and their ghosts appeared and warned her that Conomor will kill her if she becomes pregnant due to a prophecy that states he will be killed by his own son.

According to legend, Tréphine fled when she discovered she was pregnant and gave birth to her son, Trémeur, in the forest. She hides her son but Conomor finds her and beheads her. St Gildas restores her to life and she and her son live lives of saintly retirement until Tréphine dies. After her death, Conomor finds Trémeur and kills him.

Both Tréphine and Trémeur are deemed saints in Brittany and there are many churches dedicated to them.

Copy of St Tréphine from Wikipedia

Based on these two stories, I was quite right to be scared of Bluebeard when I was a child.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5


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48 Comments on “Dark Origins – Bluebeard”

  1. marianbeaman says:

    Bluebeard is exceedingly scary, but so is one version of Cinderella, where the sweet maiden has to dance with shoes made of hot iron. Oh, my!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Miriam,

      I hadn’t heard that version of Cinderella but inm some versions the evil step-mother and step-sisters are evil indeed. Cinderella’s lot is definitely not a happy one. That’s why we are so glad to see her ride away with the prince to live happily ever after. Robbie may have to delve into this one next.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Marian, I am not familiar with that version of Cinderella. The original was bad enough with the horrible sisters and step-mother. I shall have to look for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Staci Troilo says:

    I never heard the origins of this one. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Antoinette Truglio Martin says:

    Thus is a new one for me. Fantastic.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Reblogged this on and commented:

    I am over at Writing to be Read with a post about the dark origins of the fairy story, Blue Beard. Brace yourself! Thanks for hosting, Kaye Lynne Booth.


  5. Interesting post about Bluebeard Robbie – good to research these dark origins.


  6. Chris Hall says:

    Such interesting and awful origins, Robbie. Brittany had often struck me as a place which might harbour dark histories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Chris, Europe and the UK are packed full of fascinating myths, legends and dark tales. I find them fascinating. Africa also has some really interesting tales. I have a wonderful book from the ’60s which sets out a lot of the African myths, legends and religious traditions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chris Hall says:

        I wonder if the African legend book is the same on I had my eye on a few months ago – a huge book with lots of wonderful illustrations? Meanwhile, I’m borrowing the Great Snake of the Orange River for my current WIP novel.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I will take a picture of my book and send it to you via FB messenger. It is a great book. I look forward to your new novel. I have nearly finished Song of the SEa Goddess. It took me a little longer because I’ve had to help my youngest study every day for the past two weeks.

          Liked by 2 people

  7. Darlene says:

    Creepy story, perhaps one to warn young women to be careful who they marry.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. edwardky2 says:

    Reblogged this on Ed;s Site..

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank good ness for her curiosity. Yikes!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Jan Sikes says:

    Oh my goodness! Bluebeard’s story is super disturbing. I guess child abuse has been around since there have been humans. Thanks for sharing, Robbie and thank you for hosting, Kaye Lynn!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Brace yourself is right, Robbie. So gruesome! All those dead children is horrifying to the core. Amazing that this actually turned into a Grimm fairytale!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Grimm’s fairytales all seem to have dark origins, maybe due to their childhood?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jacquie, the Grimm’s brothers were intellectuals who collected many old books and asked friends and acquaintances in Kassel to tell tales and to gather stories from others in order to write a history of old German Poesie and to preserve history. These stories were not of their own origination. They are very dark but that is how it was in Europe in the past. Hans Christian Anderson’s stories are also very dark. The Little Matchgirl made me cry buckets as a young girl.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I remember reading the story of Bluebeard in my Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Apparently the real-life inspiration was much more gruesome. *shudder*

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jim Borden says:

    I had not heard of Bluebeard – so thanks for filling me in…

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Dan Antion says:

    This was fascinating, Robbie. The origins of the fairy tales are often scary.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. memadtwo says:

    This story always gave me the creeps too. The reality is even harder to bear. (K)

    Liked by 2 people

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