10 Pages

Bluebeard: Demoniac or Tragic Hero?

ByIan W. Panth

The literary figure Bluebeard (Blaubart) gets his name from his “uncanny blue beard” which serves as an external and early warning of the man’s sinister and murderous nature. In his writings Søren Kierkegaard refers to Bluebeard three times: once each in Either/Or, Part One, Fear and Trembling, and the unpublished Johannes Climacus, or De Omnibus dubitandum est.1 After presenting the likely literary sources that lay behind Kierkegaard’s allusions, followed by a brief summary of the key elements in the Bluebeard tales, I will illuminate the role that the allusions to Bluebeard play in each of these three texts. Fear and Trembling and De Omnibus will be treated together. Both the cursory nature of the references and the valuation of the figure of Bluebeard are similar in these two works. The reference in Either/Or, Part One occurs in “The Seducer’s Diary” and will be treated at greater length. In the “Diary,” Kierkegaard’s allusion to Bluebeard is more fully integrated into the narrative. The Seducer’s use of Bluebeard differs from the other references inasmuch as the Seducer betrays some sympathy for Bluebeard. Moreover, features of the “Diary” itself suggest that the Seducer be interpreted as a Bluebeard of sorts.