Bluebeard

By Walter Crane

Illustrated by the author

Illustration for Bluebeard by Walter Crane

Once upon a time there lived a man hated by all he knew,

Both that his ways were very bad, and that his beard was blue;

But as he was so rich and grand, and led a merry life,

A lady he contrived at last to induce to be his wife.

Illustration for Bluebeard by Walter Crane

For a month after the wedding they lived and had good cheer,

And then said Bluebeard to his wife, “I’ll say good-bye, my dear;

“Indeed, it is but for six weeks that I shall be away,

“I beg that you’ll invite your friends, and feast and dance and play;

“And all my property I’ll leave confided to your care:

“Here are the keys of all my chests, there’s plenty and to spare.

Illustration for Bluebeard by Walter Crane

“But this small key belongs to one small room on the ground‑floor,—

“And this you must not open, or you will repent it sore.”

And so he went; and all the friends came there from far and wide,

And in her wealth the lady took much happiness and pride;

But in a while this kind of joy grew nearly satisfied,


And oft she saw the closet door, and longed to look inside.

At last she could no more refrain and turned the little key,

And looked within, and fainted straight the horrid sight to see;

For there upon the floor was blood, and on the walls were wives,

For Bluebeard first had married them, then cut their throats with knives.

Illustration for Bluebeard by Walter Crane

And this poor wife, distracted, picked the key up from the floor,

All stained with blood; and with much fear she shut and locked the door.

She tried in vain to clean the key and wash the stain away

With sand and soap,—it was no use. Bluebeard came back that day;

At once he asked her for the key,—he saw the bloody stain,—

Illustration for Bluebeard by Walter Crane

“You have been in the closet once, and you shall go again!”

“O spare me, spare me! give me time, nor kill me hastily!”

“You have a quarter of an hour,—then, madam, you must die!”

“O sister Anne, go up, go up, and look out from the tower;

“I’m dead unless my brothers come in a quarter of an hour!”

And Anne looked once, and Anne looked twice, and nothing saw abroad,

But shining sun and growing grass, and dust upon the road.

Illustration for Bluebeard by Walter Crane

“Come down!” cried Bluebeard, “time is up!” With many a sigh and moan,

She prayed him for a minute more; he shouted still, “Come down!”

“O sister Anne, look out, look out! and do you nothing see?”

“At last I see our brothers two come riding hastily.”

“Now spare me, Bluebeard,—spare thy wife!” but as the words were said,

Illustration for Bluebeard by Walter Crane

And just as Bluebeard’s cruel blade was descending on her head,

In rushed the brothers with their swords,—they cut the murderer down,

And saved their sister’s life, and gained much glory and renown;

And then they all with gold and plate and jewels rare made free,

And ever after lived content on Bluebeard’s property.

From Bluebeard's picture book: containing Bluebeard, The sleeping beauty, and Baby's own alphabet by Walter Crane. London & New York: John Lane - The Bodley Head, 1899.

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