Overall, I didn’t really care for any of the Bluebeard tales. However if I had to choose one version I liked best, it would probably be “Mr. Fox” by Joseph Jacobs. This tale had the most poetic composition and it read in an almost rhyming fashion. In this tale, I especially liked the way Lady Mary was portrayed and the “Be Bold” phrase that was repeated multiple times. Obviously, this tale was modeled on the Brothers Grimm’s “The Robber Bridegroom” since the plot is nearly the same. The major difference is that the robber and bridegroom become named as Lady Mary and Mr. Fox in Jacob’s version.
In this tale, Lady Mary is at first enamored by Mr. Fox. This is unlike all the other versions where the woman enters into something resembling an arranged marriage. This also gives this version a slightly more whimsical feel and makes it more like a fairytale than any of the other versions.
I think the name Mr. Fox is clever and fitting for the male character. Foxes generally are considered to be sneaky and cunning. This mirrors the pattern of the male Bluebeard figure as he hides the bodies of the women he kills in his secret small room. The ‘Lady’ title before Lady Mary’s name seems to suggest that she is both brave and cultured. Other tales in the Bluebeard category are considered to be more folk related and not of the “happily ever after” variety. This tale is certainly as gruesome as all the other versions with the various cut up bodies.
The phrase “Be Bold” first appears to Lady Mary when she arrives at the castle to visit Mr. Fox. I think it suggests to her that she should be curious and brave, but not let it get the best of her, as it has Mr. Fox. It also empowers all female readers that they should be cautious and curious. Mr. Fox’s boldness is demonstrated in his willingness and apparent pride of keeping the women’s corpses in his own home. His greed of the lady’s diamond ring is what leads to his eventual undoing. I like how Lady Mary is able to provide exact evidence of the woman’s hand to Mr. Fox when he denies the claims she makes from her ‘dream’. This shows both her bravery and her intelligence. She knew that without physical proof she would likely have met the same fate as all the other women. For someone who so carefully hid all the past ladies he had slain within his home, it was really careless of Mr. Fox to not search for the woman’s hand after he cut it off and couldn’t quickly locate it.
The Bluebeard tales are certainly violent and unlike many of the commonly known fairy tales, but it does teach important lessons of being brave and confronting evils. This version does not put the woman in as large a position of temptation and great curiosity as in most of the other versions; rather she is shown as a strong and admirable character.