"Bluebeard" is a French folktale about an ostentatiously rich man with a dark secret history of murdering his multiple past wives. The most famous surviving transcription of the folktale was written by Charles Perrault in 1697. The tale has many similar plot elements and themes to Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!. Bluebeard is a rich man who had a blue beard, "which made him so frightfully ugly that all the women and girls ran away from him." In order to gain the approval of his neighbor's two daughters, Bluebeard hosts many people at his country house where the time is "filled with parties, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth, and feasting." By the end of the trip, he is seen asa civil gentleman and is wed to one of the daughters. In the beginning of the marriage, Bluebeard tells his wife that he must take a journey for six weeks and bestows her wife keys to his safes and closets full of luxury items -- he discretely warns her not to open one specific closet. He warns her that if she forbids his command, she may expect his "just anger and resentment." While Bluebeard is away, his wife falls into temptation and curiosity and disobeys her husband's orders. She unlocks the closet and finds the dead bodies of the wives whom Bluebeard had married and murdered. Upon Bluebeard's return, he finds blood on his keys and learns that his wife had disobeyed him. He declares that she shall be murdered, and she asks for an hour to pray, during which she locks herself in a room upstairs with her sister, Anne. Her brothers come and murder Bluebeard and the wife is set free- because Bluebeard had no heirs, the wife acquires the grand estate and uses it to buy captains' commission for her brothers, and to get her sister and herself married to worthy gentlemen.

The many similarities between "Bluebeard" and Absalom, Absalom! are of the characters Bluebeard and Thomas Sutpen. Each are feared and hated, and made an Other by his neighbors. Accordingly, both gain approval by throwing lavish parties in which he and his guests indulge in "manly" activities. After gaining approval of the neighbors, Bluebeard and Sutpen marry daughters of respectable families. During both marriages, Bluebeard and Sutpen take extended trips during which the female characters of the story indulge in curiosity, and in the end, Sutpen and Bluebeard are murdered and the female characters become the owners of the home. Interestingly, the murder of Bluebeard by the brother of the wife upon the revealing of his dark secret, is like the murder of Charles Bon, the illegitimate son of Thomas Sutpen, by his wife-to-be's brother, Henry. Furthermore, the story of Thomas Sutpen is in itself a folktale by the nature of its telling and its many different perspectives, some of which are generations removed.

Faulkner's mentioning of Bluebeard comes in the middle of his thirty-two lined sentence, a characteristic style of Faulkner in Absalom Absalom.

"...she lived in that grim tight little house with the father...who had taught Miss Rosa to look upon her sister as a woman who had vanished not only out of the family and the house but out of life too, into an edifice like Bluebeard's and there transmogrified into a mask looking back with passive and hopeless grief upon the irrevocable world..." (AA, 47)

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom!: The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage, 1990. Print.
Perrault, Charles. "Bluebeard." The Blue Fairy Book. London and New York: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1981. Web.