A tale of two bluebeards

Let’s see what all the fuss is about…

While Bluebeard is not a particularly well-known tale in American culture, it is fairly popular in Europe. A well-known variant was published by Charles Perrault, and again it was rediscovered and republished by the Grimms, alongside a few other similar stories, including “Fitcher’s Bird.”

???? Read “Bluebeard” (Germany, 1812) and “Fitcher’s Bird” (Germany, 1857), attached below.

Consider the following questions to help you read carefully and critically:

  • “Bluebeard” and “Fitcher’s Bird” follow similar plots, but many of the details are different. One key difference between the two stories is the description of the villain. What key features distinguish Bluebeard from the sorcerer in “Fitcher’s Bird”? Are these differences significant (i.e. do they make a difference to how we respond to or interpret the character)? How?
  • Think about the central importance of the egg in “Fitcher’s Bird,” which is absent from “Bluebeard.” Why does “Fitcher’s Bird” add this detail?
  • What other differences between the versions do you feel are significant, impacting in some what what each story communicates to its audience? (This could be a difference in what happens, or in how an event, setting, or character is described.)
  • What are some tropes and images that are present in both stories? Keep in mind that the same symbols can mean something different in different tales depending upon how and in what context they are presented. Would you say that the repetition of symbols creates continuity between the stories, or does the different use of the symbols emphasize the differences between the story?
  • How is the reversal of power between the sorcerer and the heroine effected in “Fitcher’s Bird”? How does this ending compare with the salvation of the heroine in “Bluebeard”?
  • Would you call “Bluebeard” and “Fitcher’s Bird” fairy tales, or are they horror stories? How would you define the difference? What is the function of horror stories and how does this compare to the function of fairy tales? What is the relationship between these two genres? Are horror stories and fairy tales opposed to each other, or do they complement each other in some way?

Now let’s see how expectations match up to reality:

???? Return to the previous assignment and take a look at the images of Bluebeard posted by your classmates. Choose one and post a reply (100-300 words) comparing the way the story of Bluebeard is represented in the image to your own impressions in reading the story, in terms of the characters and they’re relationships, the moral of the story, the themes that are communicated, etc. (In other words, don’t just list differences in plot or description, but think about why those differences might affect what the story communicates.)

You might discuss how the image brings out key themes that you found in the text of “Bluebeard”, or alternatively, how you feel the artist may have departed from the original story. Or, you could consider whether the image illustrates something about the story of Bluebeard that represents a significant similarity or difference with “Fitcher’s Bird.” The main goal is to explore a point of intersection between the image and one or both stories, putting them into conversation with each other. 

You’re free to either build on your classmate’s comments, or (respectfully) offer a different interpretation of the image.

Be sure to support your points by citing specific details from the story you discuss.