By Charles Perrault
THERE was once 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 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 asked her for one of them in marriage, but
neither of them could bear the thought of marrying a man who had a blue
beard. Besides, he had already been married several times, and nobody
ever knew what became of his wives.
In the hope of making them like him, Blue Beard took them, with their
mother and three or four ladies of their acquaintance, and other young
people of the neighborhood, to one of his country houses, where they
stayed a whole week.
There were parties of pleasure, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth, and
feasting all the time. Nobody went to bed, but all passed the time in
merry-making and joking with one another. Everything succeeded so well
that the youngest daughter began to think the master of the house was a
very civil gentleman. And his beard not so very blue after all.
As soon as they returned home, the marriage took place. About a month
afterward Blue Beard told his wife that he was obliged to take a
journey for six weeks, about affairs of great consequence, desiring her
to amuse herself in his absence, to send for her friends and
acquaintances, to carry them in to the country if she pleased, and to
have a good time 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. This little one here 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; if you happen to open it, there's nothing but what
you may expect from my just anger and resentment."
She promised to observe exactly whatever he ordered; so, having
embraced her, he got into his coach and proceeded on his journey.
Her neighbors and good friends did not wait to be sent for, so great
was their impatience to see all the rich furniture of her house. 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 were the best
and richest furniture; they could not sufficiently admire the number
and beauty of the tapestries, 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 seen.
They ceased not to compliment and envy their friend, but she was so
much pressed by her curiosity to open the closet on the ground floor
that, without considering that it was very uncivil to leave her
company, she went down a little back staircase with such haste that she
had twice or thrice like to have broken her neck.
Arriving at the closet door, she hesitated, thinking of 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 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 with
blood, in which lay the bodies of several dead women, ranged against
the walls. (These were the wives whom Blue Beard had married and
murdered, one after another.) She thought she would die for fear, and
the key, which she pulled out of the lock, fell out of her hand.
After having somewhat recovered from the shock, she took up the key,
locked the door, and went upstairs to her bedroom to rest. Having
observed that the key of the closet was stained with blood, she tried
two or three times to wipe it off, but the stain 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; when the blood was removed
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 rest?"
"I must certainly," said she, "have left it above upon the table."
"Fail not," said Blue Beard, "to bring it to me presently."
After several goings backward and forward she was forced to bring him
the key. Blue Beard attentively considered it and 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? Very 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 a true repentance, vowing that she would
never again 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; very soon."
"Since I must die," answered she, her eyes 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:
"Sister Anne, go up, I beg you, on top of the tower and see if my
brothers are not coming; they promised me that they would come to-day,
and if you see them, give them a sign to make haste."
Sister Anne went up on 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 replied:
"I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which
In the meanwhile Blue Beard, holding a great saber in his hand, cried
out as loud as he could bawl to his wife:
"Come down instantly, or I shall come up after you."
"One moment longer, if you please," said his wife; and then she cried
out 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," shouted Blue Beard, "or I will come up after you."
"I am coming," answered his wife; and then she cried: "Anne, sister
Anne, dost thou not see any one 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?' roared 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
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.
"That will not help you," 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 cut off her head. The poor lady, turning to him
and looking at him with dying eyes, begged him to give her one little
"No, no," said he; "say your prayers," and was just about to strike?
At this very instant there was such a loud knocking at the gate that
Blue Beard looked up in alarm. The gate was opened and two horsemen
entered, who drew their swords and ran directly at Blue Beard. He knew
them to be his wife's brothers, one a dragoon, the other a musketeer;
so that he quickly ran to save himself; but the two brothers pursued so
close that they overtook him before he could get to the steps of the
porch, and 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 unhappy time she
had passed with Blue Beard.