The Velvet Chamber
An Anthology of Revisioned Myth and Fairy Tale

Explore the dark side of the female psyche --A CALL FOR WRITERS supports The Velvet Chamber

Monday, June 7, 2010

Why doesn't she cut off his head?

Possible historical antecedents for the trope of the monster bride groom, most notably in Blue Beard. 

• Gilles de Rais, affiliated with Joan of Arc, 15th Marshall of France, after driving the English out of France,  retires to his estate, studies alchemy and magic, while young peasant boys begin to disappear. When at last the Duke of Brittany intervened, the remains of over fifty boys were found in his castle. De Rais was hanged and burned at the same time in 1440.

• Cunmar the Accursed, an old Breton tale, was the ruler of Brittany in the mid 6th century. The last of his wives, Triphine, heavily pregnant, enters his ancestral chapel where she is warned of her fate by blood stained ghosts of his former wives. She escapes, but he captures her and cuts off her head. Her body is found by a monk, destined to become a saint. He magically reattaches her head, and causes Cunmar’s castle to collapse down around him. Triphine delivers her child, gives it to the monk, and performs good deeds for the rest of her life. The ghost of Cunmar roams the countryside in the form of a werewolf.

What if someone told Triphine's story as an antidote to the western version where Beauty falls in love with the Beast and marries him. How crazy is that?

Illustration:  Edmund Dulac


  1. I think of William Gacy when I read that first one. Some things never change. How humans can be horrible to each other, for example.

  2. I know, I did, too. Funny (tragic?) as the story or myth evolved over time, young women were murdered, not young men.

  3. You ask the right and good question! There have been several female "headcutters" (see Judith/Lilith) in the past and mythology, but they have been demonized.see here:
    Why don't those young women fight back? because those stories are told to socialize young girls/women, to make them obedient and scared. What do you think will happen if girls learn at early state they can beat back? THEY WOULD DO IT! Can you see the faces of fathers when little girls ask: why didnt she cut his head of instead?

  4. Thanks for the link plantagenet, will def. check that out.

  5. Gilles de Rais was innocent, the last of the victims of the witch trials to gain posthumous justice. His trial was a farce, his judges had a financial interest in his demise (they divvied up his estate before he was convicted), the most damning confessions were elicited by torture or the threat of torture and not one bone or shred of any dead child was found in any of his castles. In 1992 he? was retried by a Court of Cassation - & acquitted. It took 550 years for his good name to be restored.