One of the main issues we have with the story "Bluebeard" is how countless authors, psychologists, and the population at large has managed to see a story with a serial killing husband as a cautionary tale about women's curiosity. It defies logic, frankly, and a great deal has to do with sexist attitudes passed down to us from hundreds and hundreds of years of negative stereotypes.
And this is all assuming we are taking the story literally-of course the evil of multiple murders outweighs a desire to go where you're not supposed to, especially in marriage where there should be trust and honesty. And no matter how many ways we can look into fairy tales, I think it's always important to remember that the literal events of the story should never be ignored. People read into tales an infinite number of ways, but the plot of the story is the glue binding our reading experiences together and is always the most obvious way to read things.
Image from here-artist ???
So while it certainly doesn't explain away baffling and misogynist interpretations of Bluebeard, Maria Tatar points out that there are other ways to look at the corpses discovered by the latest wife. First of all, on a historical level, she cites Marina Warner who reminds us that, before modern medicine, many women died young, often in childbirth. Thus, remarriage was common. This accounts for the plethora of stepmothers featured in fairy tales-they were not uncommon and often did experience friction when dividing a small inheritance among their own children verses former children. And thus it may be that many older men did, in fact, have several dead wives, just not by their own hand (and hopefully, not set on display in a secret closet). Although, if a man's wife were to die in childbirth, I would think he might feel responsible on some level, and it's possible to imagine many men with survivor's guilt as his attempts to extend his line result in taking away someone he loves.
Secondly, the corpses can be seen as symbolic. Most of us have had the negative experience of having to deal with a loved one's exes. We can accept their existence, but that doesn't mean it's fun to be reminded of your partner's previous loves. (If this issue is prevalent in your own life, Baba Yaga has some great advice about that!)
From the George Melies film, 1901
Francoise Gilot, the wife of Pablo Picasso, saw the tale in this way. Picasso had many ex-lovers and he intentionally manipulated them to exploit jealousy. Gilot termed it a "Bluebeard complex"-not only did he have former lovers, but he enjoyed "displaying" them in a twisted way. And he recognized that, in a way, any new romance will in a way "kill" the old one. Being with a new partner wipes away the life you had with an old one, but some people are better at severing ties than others. Gilot had many interactions with Picasso's former wives or mistresses and wasn't able to entirely rid herself from their presence-they did, in a sense, haunt their household the way the corpses did.
It's a reminder of how powerful fairy tales can be even in our modern lives and issues. Tatar says, "By positioning her own marriage in relation to the Bluebeard story Gilot found a tool for thinking through and understanding the powerful emotions evoked by her husband's past."
Secrets Beyond the Door: The Story of Bluebeard and His Wives