Monday, June 7, 2010
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