Illustration from Perrault, Charles. Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault. Harry Clarke, illustrator. London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1922.

Image source: SurLaLune Fairy Tales

“Bluebeard’s Ghost,” written by William Makepeace Thackeray in 1843, picks up where the original “Bluebeard” left off. Mrs. Bluebeard, Fatima, is a widow, but a very rich one, having inherited Bluebeard’s entire estate. Funny how a nice inheritance can make you forget all of the dead’s faults. She’s even convinced herself that the previous wives were not killed, after all, Bluebeard had written in the family Bible what had happened to each of them, like the one woman who died of a sore throat, and the one who had a complaint about the head and shoulder. After they were dead, he just couldn’t bear to be parted from them.

Finally, Mrs. Bluebeard decides that it is just too difficult to live in the country home, too many memories of her beloved husband, so she and her sister go to her town home. Once in town, she first refuses all social engagements, only allowing the vicar into her home. Eventually though, she begins to make the acquaintance of other, at the parson’s insistence, first the parson’s nephew, Mr. Sly, then other genteel families and several military men, including Captain Blackbeard. (No, not the pirate.) Both of these men set about courting Mrs. Bluebeard, after all, she’s a wealthy woman, a fine catch.

The two men decide to duel, but that is called off. Mr. Sly realizes the lady does not care for him and tries to commit suicide, unsuccessfully, twice.

Finally, the ghost appears.

The bells at midnight began to ring as usual, the doors clapped; jingle-jingle down came a suit of armour in the hall, and a voice came and cried, “Fatima! Fatima! Fatima! look, look, look; the tomb, the tomb, the tomb!”

She looked. The vault door was open; and there in the moonlight stood Bluebeard, exactly as he was represented in the picture in his yeomanry dress, his face frightfully pale and his great blue beard curling over his chest, as awful as Mr. Muntz’s.

A local cunning man convinces Mrs. Bluebeard that the ghost will tell her who her next husband should be, Mr. Sly or Captain Blackbeard. But it turns out to all be a trick. Thankfully, both Fatima and her sister get happy endings.

You will say that the story is not probable. Psha! Isn’t it written in a book? and is it a whit less probable than the first part of the tale?

This is a fabulous short story. You can just hear how amused Thackeray is while he’s writing, how ridiculous his characters’ actions are to him. I read it at SurLaLune Fairy Tales. I’m sure it’s also included in The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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