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 neighbours, 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
neighbourhood, 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 neighbours 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, 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
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
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 rest?"
"I must certainly have left it above upon the table," said she.
"Fail not to bring it to me presently," said Blue Beard.
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 death.
"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 rock!
"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
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 today, 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
In the meanwhile Blue Beard, holding a great sabre in his hand, cried out as
loud as he could bawl to his wife:
"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
"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
"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
"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
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.
Adapted from Charles Perrault by Andrew Lang for The Blue Fairy Book, 1889.
NB: Angela Carter did a fantastic version of this called The Bloody Chamber, in a collection of the same name.