This week’s readings:
- Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
- Charles Perrault’s “La Barbe bleue” (Bluebeard)
At this week’s meeting we looked at Angela Carter’s brilliant short story “The Bloody Chamber” from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. Carter’s 1979 adaptation of Charles Perrault’s seventeenth-century French fairy tale, “La Barbe bleue” (Bluebeard), was part of a wave of literary feminist revisionings of classic fairy tales beginning around the 1970s.
The reading was chosen in honour of our most recent group outing to see the chilling theatre performance, The Bloody Chamber, at the Malthouse Theatre last Wednesday. An ode to Carter’s story, the production was complete with creepy music, pools of blood, and an invisible husband who spoke through the heroine in a very exorcist-esque way. This salonnière isn’t afraid to admit that she was officially wigged out!
Here are a couple of our key discussion points from the meeting:
- The biggest change that Carter made to Perrault’s tale is the ending: instead of being saved by her two brothers at the end of the tale, the heroine is saved by her mother who comes charging in on a horse and puts a bullet through the wife-killer’s head. How does this alter the tale?
- What is the message of Perrault’s French tale? Many have referred to “Bluebeard” as a cautionary tale, a warning against female curiosity. In fact, later translations of the tale often added the subtitles “The Effects of Female Curiosity” or “The Fatal Effects of Female Curiosity”, even though Perrault never added a subtitle. But does it really warn against female curiosity? If the heroine wasn’t curious she wouldn’t have discovered that her husband was a serial wife-killer. Though some may argue that her husband wouldn’t have killed her if she had obeyed him, can we really be assured of this? Given Bluebeard’s history, it’s hard to imagine an alternate future of marital bliss!
- As fairy tales often do, this one opened up a broader debate about our own society. Perpetrators of violence and sexual violence are often characterised in our culture as monsters, as somewhat other. A bad apple, a freak of nature. Problematically, this allows us to believe that it is not the ideologies of our own culture that engender this behaviour. Food for thought indeed!
Well, that’s all from me for this week. Until next time, have a truly enchanted weekend. (And avoid men with blue-coloured beards!)
Fairy tale wishes,