The Bluebeard

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And oft she saw the closet door,
and longed to look inside.
At last she could no more refrain,
and turned the little key,
And looked within, and fainted straight
the horrid sight to see;
For there upon the floor was blood,
and on the walls were wives,
For Bluebeard first had married them,

then cut their throats with knives.
—Excerpt from Bluebeard

The Spear Counterpart of the Black Widow, the Bluebeard is a man who appears charming but hides a nefarious secret: he keeps marrying women and then murdering them.

Unlike the Black Widow, the Bluebeard is rarely motivated by Greed, though in Real Life, historically that was a fairly common motivation. Often, he just does it for kicks or as the epitome of Domestic Abuse.

Named after the famous fairy tale. Not to be confused with Red Right Hand, although the Trope Namer's beard fell under that category. Not to be confused with the character from Felidae either.

Examples of The Bluebeard include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • A Lupin III episode dealt with this: a rich man married 99 women, murdered them, and encased their bodies in wax so he could preserve them. He planned to add Fujiko to his collection, but Lupin and the gang put a stop to that.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Bluebeard appears in the comic book Fables, although his wife-killing days are supposedly behind him.
  • The Haunt of Fear (one of the original 1950s comics on which Tales from the Crypt is based) had a one-off story about a woman who discovers her new husband is Bluebeard's great-great-grandson and has indeed killed off all his previous wives. Predictably, he kills her as well so she can't tell anyone.
  • In the Grimm Fairy Tales version, the wife who opens the room finds what she feared: His previous wives' bodies, lots of blood, and all that. On his return, he flies into a rage, and she manages to stab him. Only then does she learn the truth. The room was enchanted, and had shown her what she feared to see. He was only looking for a wife who could trust him.

Fairy Tales[edit | hide]

  • The Bluebeard from the 1697 fairy tale kept murdering his wives, reasoning that they had fallen to their curiosity by opening the door he had strictly forbidden for them to open. Traditionally, the room behind the forbidden door contains the bodies of his previous wives. Earlier versions use this as a moral for women not to disobey their husbands or get too curious.
    • In a few versions, the story itself gets inverted to serve this message: specifically, the wife successfully resists the temptation to look, and this somehow grants her power over her husband to make him do whatever she says when he returns from his trip and finds himself deprived of his excuse to kill her.
    • A variation of this tale appears in many versions of "The Robber Bridegroom."
    • Fitcher's Bird is another variation—the main difference is that the bride rescues herself.
      • So does the bride in the ballad The Outlandish Knight. "Six pretty maidens have you drowned here/And the seventh has drowned thee."
    • Another version completely subverts the story with a Perspective Flip. Bluebeard strictly forbids his wife from entering a particular room, but when she does, she finds that the room is perfectly normal and empty. It turns out that Bluebeard simply uses the room as a private place to rest when he doesn't want to be disturbed. He's understandably pissed when he finds out that his wife entered the room when he asked her not to, and ends up divorcing her and kicking her out of the house for her lack of trust.
    • Mr Fox is a version of this story too, where the woman discovers the dead women and witnesses the mutilation of one of them. She presents the evidence to Fox, who flees, but is torn apart by villagers and their dogs.
  • An Italian version called "Il Naso D'argento" (The Silver Nose) appears. Here the "stranger" has a silver nose (?) and is actually the Devil, and the Forbidden Room is Hell, where he threw the first two disobedient wives. Her little sister, however, manages to save them.
    • The 'silver nose' was typically a prosthetic nose used by men who suffered from severe syphilis, which could cause the nose to fall off. It would have been an early warning that the stranger was not very trustworthy. See Johnny Depp in The Libertine for an example.

Film[edit | hide]

  • The title character of the Charlie Chaplin film Monsieur Verdoux.
  • Legendary screen cad George Sanders essays a modern-day (as in circa 1960) version of the role in Bluebeard's Ten Honeymoons.
  • Played fairly straight in the early-60's French film Landru, based upon the story of Henri Landru (see the Real Life entry below).
  • Also played straight in Catherine Breillat's recent film version of the legend.
  • The bad Richard Burton film Bluebeard (1972) ups the ante by making Bluebeard a No Swastikas Nazi Nobleman, and, for additional Squick, throwing in a dash of I Love the Dead.
  • The title character of the horror movie The Stepfather marries women with children, only to slaughter them when they fall short of his expectations. He has ridiculously high standards, and so he goes through families fairly quickly.
  • The villain Barkis from Corpse Bride fits this trope.
  • Harry Powell from The Night of the Hunter.
  • In the original House on Haunted Hill, eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) is currently on his fourth wife. The first one disappeared, and the second two died of heart attacks, despite being in their 20s. At the end of the film, he literally frightens his fourth wife to death, but only because she was plotting to kill him for his money. It's implied that her predecessors may have been similarly interested in becoming rich young widows.
  • Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door (1948) combines the Bluebeard motif with a hefty helping of Hollywood Psych.
  • Implied to be the case with Blue in Sucker Punch.
  • Spoofed in the old Italian comedy Le Sei Mogli di Barbablu, starring the great Toto (Antonio De Curtis). Bluebeard's previous wives in this one, including a young Sophia Loren in one of her first roles, haven't actually been killed, but are being held in suspended animation, and are revived by Toto.
  • A variant occurs in the 1940's grade-Z horror movie "The Corpse Vanishes", starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi's character is running a scheme where high-society brides are being put into a near-death state in the midst of their weddings, then abducted, having their blood drawn to provide the raw material for a formula which is intended to keep Lugosi's wife in a state of eternal youth, and then killed. The Intrepid Reporter who investigates the case finds the bodies of several of the victims in morgue drawers when she goes poking through the villain's lair.
  • Another Bela Lugosi movie example: The 1934 movie The Black Cat. Bela plays an ex-prisoner of war whose wife and daughter were married, then murdered by his evil rival (played by Boris Karloff.) Karloff's character was a Satanist who preserved his murdered wives and displayed them in his creepy house.
  • Invoked in Batman Forever. Robin asks what's behind a door, and Alfred replies, "Master Wayne's dead wives."

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Sultan in the framing device of the Arabian Nights stories is this in the extreme, except that he makes no secret about it. He kills off all his wives after one night to prevent their becoming unfaithful. The stories are told by his latest wife, Scheherezade, who uses a series of Cliffhangers to keep him interested enough to delay her execution. By the time she runs out of stories, it's been years and she has birthed the Sultan several children, and he realizes he is madly in love with her.
  • Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber has a "Bluebeard" retelling.
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet "Bluebeard".
  • There's a short story called "Captain Murderer", in which the titular character keeps marrying women and, a month after the wedding, asks them to make him a pie... and when they're done making the pastry, he kills them and uses their flesh as the pie filling. He gets done in when a girl whose sister was killed by him catches on to the plot, marries him, and, just before he kills her, poisons herself. He eats her and dies from the poison.
  • In The Shining, Danny recalls Bluebeard as he opens the door to a certain hotel room.
  • There exists a crime short story involving a elderly female genealogist who find that her charming gentleman caller is likely a Bluebeard who marries rich women and then disposes of them for their fortunes, changing his name each time. She decides to marry him anyhow on the basis of that she might not live much longer anyhow, and avoiding his attempts to kill her without letting on that she knows.
  • In Which Witch?, the ghost haunting Arriman's home murdered a ridiculously long line of wives and spends his death hitting his head in grief. This is Played for Laughs when he is brought back to life and does absolutely nothing but prattle on about his wives and how he killed them for the most petty reasons (having a small, yappy dog, smelling bad, eating too much, etc). The protagonists eventually are rid of him by hooking him up with Madame Olympia, who was infamous for murdering her husbands. After the two run off, there's speculation as to which will off the other first.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer's episode "Ted", Ted is an android who does this—and is Buffy's mother's newest boyfriend.
    • I assumed that he just stuck them in the closet and left them, though, since his goal was to bring his creator's wife back.
  • A Fractured Fairy Tale show put a twist on this trope—the Bluebeard sold his wives' souls to the devil, to represent the Seven Deadly Sins. In the end, his seventh wife catches him in his own trap.
  • Naturally, shows up on Tales from the Crypt, with the expected comeuppance: his now-dead wives lure him to their graveyard, declaring they can't live... or die... without him.
  • Michael Dobson, played by Larry Miller on Law & Order, had his wives killed by hitmen on two separate occasions for the insurance money.

Music[edit | hide]

Opera[edit | hide]

  • Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle is a Freudian re-examination of the story. His castle is his subconscious, and Judith (wife #4) is casting light on his past by opening up every door with him, hand in hand. It doesn't end well...

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

Oral Tradition[edit | hide]

  • On a singles cruise, a woman meets a handsome, but older man. She talks to him, and they're hitting it off, when the man mentions he's a widower. "Oh, you are?" she asks. "Yes, I've had three wives, and they all died." "Oh, my god, what happened?" "Well, the first one... she ate poisoned mushrooms." "Really?" "Yes, and the second one... really tragic, she also ate poisoned mushrooms." "My goodness! What about the third one?" "Well, she was strangled to death." "Strangled! What happened?" "She wouldn't eat the mushrooms."

Poetry[edit | hide]

  • A limerick by Ogden Nash:

An elderly bride of Port Jervis
Was quite understandably nervous
Since her apple-cheeked groom
With three wives in the tomb
Kept insuring her during the service!

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • There is a Bluebeard-style character, who actually has a blue beard, who rules one of the realms in the Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft setting.

Theme Parks[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Zoltan Carnovasch from the first Phantasmagoria was made for this trope, with Don almost following in his footsteps.
  • Nikolai Belinski, the Russian soldier in Nazi Zombies, has murdered at least five of his wives. Some of his weapon pickup quotes have him remarking on how it's the same one he shot one of them with. To be fair though, she was a bitch.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Bruno the Bandit tries this as one of his many schemes in Old Money. Too bad his new "beloved" turns out to be not just an old rich woman, but also the Black Widow.
  • General Tarquin from The Order of the Stick has had nine wives: while we know that he simply divorced the first one (Elan and Nale's mother), the ninth died 'of mysterious circumstances'. She was distantly related to a certain black dragon that Vaarsuvius cast a Familicide spell on. It's been made clear that at least some of his former wives were coerced into marriage via Cold-Blooded Torture in the first place. There is some fan speculation that when he said he was going out of the way to keep from having children (he didn't want an heir), he meant he was killing his wives for getting pregnant.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In Code Monkeys , Gameavision head honcho Larrity has had seven wives, all of which have died under mysterious circumstances. Added to the creepiness factor is that he has several of them stuffed and on display in either his office or his vault.
  • In The Venture Brothers, Baron Ünderbheit has the heads of his seven ex-wives mounted on his dining room wall.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Some believe that the fairy tale has its origins in Conomor the Cursed, known for murdering his wives as soon as they got pregnant.
  • Henri Landru is an infamous Truth in Television example who was motivated by greed.
  • Henry VIII, who had six wives, is often considered to be a Bluebeard despite the fact that "only" two of said wives (second wife Anne Boleyn and fifth wife Catherine Howard) got the axe, the first for failing to produce a male heir, the second for adultery.[1] Two of the others (first wife Catherine of Aragon and fourth wife Anne of Cleves) were divorced, the third (Jane Seymour) died of natural causes after producing a male heir, and the last one (Catherine Parr) survived him. His reputation in this area is augmented by the fact that he had plenty of other people executed over the political and religious complications involved in his High Turnover Rate of wives.
  • "Bluebeard" is the official FBI designation for this type of Serial Killer.
  • Drew Peterson, a former cop from Illinois who has been married four times—to increasingly younger women, to the point that his 4th wife, whom he began dating when she was 17, was 30 years his junior—physically abused all of his wives, cheated on the 2nd wife with the woman who would become his 3rd, and cheated on her with the girl who would become his 4th. He is currently[when?] awaiting trial for the murder of his 3rd wife and is the prime suspect in the disappearance and likely murder of his 4th.
  1. Although the king was no stranger to adultery himself. It wasn't producing a male heir that was the problem; it was producing a legitimate male heir who would actually be able to become king. This led to some zany schemes like planning to marry his illegitimate son to his legitimate daughter.