Understanding The Story of Blue Beard

My Studio, My Castle
My Studio, My Castle

Do you remember the story of Blue Beard?  I’ve heard it so many times, so many different versions including Angela Carters The Bloody Chamber,  and could never really understand it.   Even when I first read  Clarissa Pinkola Estes interpretation of it in Women Who Run With The Wolves 20 years ago, it’s meaning eluded me.     I didn’t get it until I reread it just a few days ago.

The story goes like this….  A young woman is courted by Blue Beard, a charming and rich man.  Even though she is bothered by his blue beard (It’s a little too blue she thinks)  she doesn’t listen to her own intuition and marries him.  Just after they’re married, he goes away on business.  He gives her the keys to his castle and tells her she can go in any room in his castle and so anything she wants, but she can’t go in the room that this one small key opens.  As soon as he’s gone she  makes a game out of finding which door the forbidden key goes to. When she finds it and  opens the door  she sees the bones of all Blue Beard’s former wives.  Blue Beard finds out what his bride did and says he’s going to kill her too.  She stalls him and goes to her room and waits for her brothers to come.  They do and they kill Blue Beard.

When I was a kid and heard this story I always thought it was about how the bride should have listened to her husband and when she didn’t she was punished for it.  I used to think, if only she didn’t open the door…. but never got any further than that.   When I got older, I knew how I thought of the story didn’t make sense. I guess that’s why I kept revisiting it.  I was trying to figure it out.

Finally, I’ve come to a point in my life where I do understand it.  And it’s because I’ve experienced it.  The bride was not afraid to find out the truth.  And when she did and her life was threatened, she called on her masculine side (her brothers) to kill Blue Beard so she could live. And that’s something I was always afraid and not willing to do.  Go to the dark places inside myself  and see the truth and know that I could survive it.  I couldn’t see that the bride wasn’t foolish or “too curious” (something I was taught was a bad thing), that she was actually brave and saved herself by wanting knowledge.

Until I was in my forties, I lived in that kind of fear.  Not wanting to know, playing it safe, letting well enough alone.  I was afraid to unlock that door.  But I know now, that to be a full and whole human being I  have to face my demons.  And know I can survive them.  And I have to do it again and again. And each time I go down into the darkness, I come up stronger and more complete.  It’s the life/death/life cycle.  The rhythm of life.  And if we try to hide from the darkness, we may live a long time, but it will destroy our self and we’ll never to be a fully realized person.

When I first starting seeing my truth, and going to those dark places inside myself I would imagine I was going to Slay The Dragon.  That helped me feel brave enough to do it.   Now I think I’ll imagine the young bride opening the door and saving herself.  When I imagined slaying the dragon, I never actually got to do it.  I was always on the threshold of the cave, sword in hand.  But as the young bride, I can see the future.  Beyond the door and the bones and the dead Blue Beard.  And I’m walking away from the castle towards my School House Studio and the sun is shinning.

13 thoughts on “Understanding The Story of Blue Beard

  1. Dear Maria:

    I read your blog all the time but I just had to write and tell you how perfect this was for me today. (So perfect, I read it again and again.) I am in a difficult situtation that requires me to look beyond my fear and break free. It may not happen today, but it will happen. I am sure people write and tell you all the time how lovely your blog is, and how inspiring; you are your own hero and that gives faith to others.


  2. Great insight into the story and yourself. Isn’t it great getting older and hopefully wiser?

  3. This really resonated with me. I am turning 50 this year and I still have moments where I feel that all I do is try and please people. I shared this with my 23 old daughter as well and she loved it too. Thank you so much for sharing your story and feelings.

    1. It says so much that you and your daughter can both get something from this story Julie. Thanks for letting me know, and don’t forget your wild woman, the curious and creative one.

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