I've heard of Blue Beard before but always assumed him to be a famous pirate that I had no interest in learning about. Imagine my surprise to find out that he is in fact a nobleman, the mythical crux upon which a very old story revolves. A story which in general is taken to point out the follies of a women's curiosity, but as explained in the book "Women Who Run With the Wolves," Estes points out many things that women must learn to overcome their naivety.
This is how it is told in the book.
There is an intriguing and somewhat frightening man who's nicknamed "Bluebeard." He is courting three sisters all at once, however they are frightened of his beard with its "odd blue cast," so they hid when he called.
He decides to take them on a trip into the woods with their mother to charm them with stories, food and fun, and they start to decide that he's not so bad, however the older two sisters fears return.
The younger sister convinces herself that his beard is not all that blue, and decides to go ahead and marry him, he brings her off to his castle in the woods.
Then one day he goes on a trip and leaves his young wife with his key's telling her that she can use all of them but the tiniest key, which he tells her not to use. He urges her to invite her family and friends over, to roam the castle freely, and grounds, and to have the cooks make wonderful feasts for her and her guests.
She invites her sisters to come and they were very curious souls and wanted to see which keys fit to which doors and what was in each room.
So they started to explore the castle and found stores of food, money, and many wonderful things. Until they came to the cellar at the end of which was a blank wall.
They were wondering about the last key and one of them said "Maybe this key doesn't fit anything at all." When they said this a door appeared in the once blank wall that was closing and when they tried to open it again it was firmly locked. One cried "Sister, sister bring your key. Surely this is the door for that mysterious little key."
She quickly opened the door with the key, and found that the room was so dark that they couldn't see inside of it. So they brought a candle, and when it was lit they all screamed at once, because the room was filled with blood and blackened bones of corpses.
They slammed the door shut, took the key out of the lock and when the wife looked down at the key she saw it was stained with blood. She tried to clean it with the hem of her gown, but the blood would not be stopped.
The wife hid the tiny key in her pocket and ran to the cook's kitchen, when she got there her dress was stained in blood because the key was weeping drops of dark red blood. She asked the cook for some horsehair and tried to scour the key clean but it wouldn't stop bleeding. "Drop after drop of pure red blood issued from the tiny key."
She then tried to press ashes onto it, to scrub it, then heat to sear it and cobweb over it to staunch the flow, but couldn't get the key to stop bleeding.
She didn't know what to do so she hid it in her wardrobe.
Her husband came home the next day and asked "Well? How was it while I was away?" she replied "It was very fine, sir." "And how are my storerooms?" he rumbled. "Very fine, sir." "How are my money rooms?" he growled. "The money rooms are very fine also, sir." "So everything is good, wife?" "Yes, everything is good." "Well," he whispered, "then you'd best return my keys."
He saw quickly that the smallest key was missing and upon inquiry the wife thought to lie to cover up how it became to be missing. He told her "Don't lie to me! Tell me what you did with that key!" He put his hand to her face as if to caress her cheek, but instead seized her hair." "You infidel!" he snarled, and threw her to the floor. "You've been into the room, haven't you?"
He threw open her wardrobe and the little key on the top shelf had bled blood red down all the beautiful silks of her gowns hanging there.
"Now it's your turn, my lady," he screamed, and dragged her down the hall and into the cellar till they were before the terrible door. Bluebeard merely looked at the door with his fiery eyes and the door opened for him. THere lay the skeletons of all his previous wives.
"And now!!!" he roared, but she caught hold of the door frame and would not let go. She pleaded for her life, "Please! Please, allow me to compose myself and prepare for my death. Give me but a quarter hour before you take my life so I can make peace with God."
"All right," he snarled, "you have but a quarter of an hour, but be ready."
The wife raced up the stairs to her chamber and posted her sisters on the castle ramparts. Knelt to pray, but instead called out to her sisters.
"Sisters, sisters! Do you see our brothers coming?"
"We see nothing, nothing on the open plains."
Every few moments she cried up to the ramparts, "Sisters, sisters! Do you see our brothers coming?"
"We see a whirlwind, perhaps a dust devil in the distance."
In the meantime Bluebeard grew more and more impatient and called for his wife to come to the cellar.
Again she called to her sisters, "Sisters, sisters! Do you see our brothers coming?"
Bluebeard shouted for his wife again and began to clomp up the stone steps.
Her sisters cried out, "Yes! We see them! Our brothers are here and they have just entered the castle."
Bluebeard stomped down the hall towards his wife's chamber. "I am coming to get you," he bellowed.
Just as Bluebeard came into his wife's chamber her brothers galloped down the hall on horseback and charged towards Bluebeard, chasing him down the hall and out onto the parapet. There and then, they advanced upon him, striking and slashing, cutting and whipping, with their swords beating Bluebeard down to the ground, killing him at last and leaving for the buzzards his blood and gristle.
One thing that I realized after reading this story is that I was chastising the young wife in my mind, how could she disobey her word? How foolish of her to look in the room she was told to not look in! I felt guilt at the same time that I was curious myself to know what was in the room. Guilt that I would have done the same thing and I felt the embarrassment and shame that she might have been feeling from her betrayal.
Then I read on and find that there is legitimacy to the feelings that I was having, that it points out very clearly the naivety that I have had in the past and at times still have.
Estes points out that at some level a woman recognizes that something is wrong, that she feels something out of place and will begin a process over and over again trying to find out what that something is but lacking guidance and support will not be able to finish it.
Another thing that Estes points out is that a naieve young woman can often and does often agree to "become the prize of a vicious man because her instincts to notice and do otherwise are not intact." I never realized that that is what I had done when I was 16 years old agreeing to marry the father of my child.
She mentions that "young girls and boys are as though asleep about the fact that they themselves are prey." That we are all born "analgen, like the potential at the center of a cell: in biology the anlage is the part of a cell characterized as 'that which will become.' Within the anlage is the primal substance which in time will develop, causing us to become a complete someone."
"So our lives as women are ones of quickening the anlage. The Blue-Beard tale speaks to the awakening and education of this psychic center, this glowing cell. In service of this education, the youngest sister agrees to marry a force which she believes to be very elegant. The fairy-tale marriage represents a new status being sought, a new layer of the psyche about to be unfurled. However, the young wife has fooled herself. Initially she felt fearful of Bluebeard. She was wary. However, a little pleasure out in the woods causes her to overrule her intuition...." she discounts her instincts.
Estes mentions that woman are taught to deny the truth to '"make pretty" all manner of grotesqueries whether they are lovely or not... In the tale, even the mother colludes. She goes on the picnic, "goes along for the ride." She doesn't say a word of caution to any of her daughters. One might say the biological mother or the internal mother is asleep or naive herself, as is often the case in very young girls, or in unmothered women."
I keep thinking, yes, yes this is true, this is exactly what happened to me!!
The older sisters represent the voice of warning against "romanticizing the predator.The initiated woman pays attention to the older sisters' voices in the psyche; they warn her away from danger. The uninitiated woman does not pay attention; she is as yet too identified with naivete."
So the marriage occurs and a woman who has chosen someone who is destructive to their lives will be determined to "cure that person with love." "They are in some way "playing house." One could say they have spent much time saying, "His beard isn't really so blue."
I've been in this situation, I've loved my heart dry, bleed out my love until I was dead inside. "As long as a woman is forced into believing she is powerless and/or is trained to not conciously register what she knows to be true, the feminine impulses and gifts of her psyche continue to be killed off."
"Instead of living freely, she begins to live falsely... there is a way out of all this, but one must have a key."
"Provides entry to the secret all women know and yet do not know. The key represents permission to know the deepest, darkest secrets of the psyche, in this case the something that mindlessly degrades and destroys a woman's potential."
Bluebeards destructive plan was to create a farce, to tell the wife that she was free to do what she liked but really she was not free because she was kept from the knowledge of the predator, "even though deep in the psyche she already truly comprehends the issue."
"The naive woman tacitly agrees to remain "not knowing." Women who are gullible or those with injured instincts still, like flowers, turn in the direction of whatever sun is offered."
"Bluebeard forbids the young woman to use the one key that would bring her to consciousness. To forbid a woman to use the key to conscious self knowledge strips away her intuitive nature, her natural instinct for curiosity that leads her to discover "what lies underneath" and beyond the obvious. Without this knowing, the woman is without proper protection. If she attempts to obey Bluebeard's command not to use the key, she cooses death for her spirit. By choosing to open the door to the ghastly secret room, she chooses life."
That is it isn't it!! I identified with obeying Bluebeard's command! I choose all the time to not know, I choose death for my spirit!
Estes mentions that some psychological thinkers, interpret woman's curiosity with a negative connotation but mens curiosity is interpreted in a positive way. Woman are called nosy, whereas men are called inquiring.
The sisters, who were reluctant to marry Bluebeard, Estes mentions as having "the proper wildish instincts for curiosity intact." They nudge the youngest sister to find out what is behind the door.
For me the importance of this section comes in this point that Estes brings up. "Asking the proper question is the central action of transformation-in fairy tales, in analysis, and in individuation. The key question causes germination of consciousness. The properly shaped question always emanates from an essential curiosity about what stands behind. Questions are the keys that cause the secret doors of the psyche to swing open. Though the sisters know not whether treasure or travesty lies beyond the door, they summon their goodly instincts to ask the precise psychological question, "Where do you think that door is, and what might lie beyond it?"
"It is at this point that the naive nature begins to mature, to question, "What is behind the visible? What is it which causes that shadow to loom upon the wall?"
In fairy tales and stories the symbolic key is often represented by words such as "Open Sesame," as in Ali Baba, or "Bibbity-bobbity-boo!" as in Cinderella.
"In the Eleusinian mysteries, the key was hidden on the tongue, meaning the crux of the thing, the clue, the trace, could be found in a special set of words, or key questions. And the words women need most in situations similar to the one described in Bluebeard are: What stands behind? What is not as it appears? What do I know deep in my ovarios that I wish I did not know? What of me has been killed or lays dying?"
That is my question, "What of me has been killed or lays dying?"
It's important to remember that this is not a simple tale about mens oppression over women... no it is more complex than that. It is about the "killing aspect of the psyche, part of whose job it is to see that no consciousness occurs, (it) will continue to assert itself from time to time and twist off or poison any new growth. It is its nature. It is its job."
It is a complex battle that each woman must face.
"What of me has been killed or lays dying? and "How has it gotten to be that way?" That is my question, that is the answer that I am seeking to find
"A starved soul can become so filled with pain, a woman can no longer bear it. Because women have a soul-need to express themselves in their own soulful ways, they must develop and blossom in ways that are sensible to them and without molestation from others."
I will talk further about this, it is so late... I find it interesting though to note that I practiced the next point that she makes to a T in my former marriage. "Backtracking and Looping."