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“Bluebeard’s Wife Tries to Wipe the Blood off the Key to the Forbidden Chamber”

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As folklorist Mayako Murai documents (in From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl, Wayne State, 2015), the bicentenary of Jacob Grimm’s birth in 1985 incited the publication of new Japanese translations of the Grimms’ Household Tales and the beginnings of critical study in that country. That culminated in a “Grimm Boom” of public interest in the Grimm fairy tales in the late 1990s. However, anime, as often was the case, was more quickly on the case, as Nippon’s 47-episode adaptation of Western tales was broadcast in 1988-89. Influenced by translations of English-language research that highlighted the covert violence and sexuality of these “children’s stories,” the episodes were often much darker than Disney-style adaptations. For more on the “Grimm Boom” and its larger impact on Japanese culture, see Mayako Murai, From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl (Wayne State, 2015).

One especially gruesome adaptation was “Bluebeard,” which graphically depicted the unfortunate wife’s entry into the forbidden room, with the rotting bodies of her predecessors hanging on the walls. This image (which came with its original watercolor background) shows her desperately wiping the key she has just imprudently used, as it is oozing blood that will soon betray her fatal curiosity to her homicidal husband.

The series was adapted into an English-language version by Saban International and broadcast in North America during the late 1980s as “Grimm’s Classic Fairy Tales.” “Bluebeard” was likewise dubbed into English, but the network chose not to include this episode in the schedule. (It was broadcast on British cable TV, however.)

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