Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bluebeard: Brave Warrior, Brutal Psychopath by Valerie Ogden

I know I rarely do history posts, but I really couldn't resist Valerie Ogden's debut, Bluebeard: Brave Warrior, Brutal Psychopath.

While I am by no means any sort of historical scholar, I do admit to having a keen fascination for history - and dark history in particular. I love historical fiction and have read any number of late tied to the events and people that are featured in this book. And I came to this particular story in a bit of a roundabout way - reading up on Joan of Arc.

Many might not realize that Joan of Arc shared close ties to the man who is the basis for the Bluebeard legend. And as Ogden points out both in her book and in this fabulous Huffington Post piece, "The True Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales," the Bluebeard story is actually downplayed quite a bit. Because it wasn't wives this man was murdering, but children. And it was well above eight. In fact, the numbers are said to range into the hundreds.

But why and how did this man - a member of high society, a war hero in his own right - become one of the most twisted and brutal serial killers in all of history? This is something Ogden attempts to answer in her recently released history of Gilles de Rais.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Joan of Arc's close companion on the battlefield, one of the wealthiest and most respected men in France, became a notorious serial killer, nicknamed Bluebeard, who performed bizarre sexual rituals, brutal mutilations and murders on hundreds of children. How could this happen to Baron Gilles de Rais, a Marshal of France, a renowned intellectual, a paragon of the high medieval prince, almost Renaissance in his talents an accomplishments? There is no clear explanation. There is only speculation. Yet historic evidence indicates strongly de Rais, a returning soldier, suffered from severe PTSD, which perhaps triggered his latent psychopathy. His extreme depravity, his shocking fall from grace and explosive end add fuel to the precept that the barbarity of war turned this celebrated hero into a monster.

Really, Gilles de Rais was a monstrous individual. And yet I doubt many readers realize that he's the basis for such a well-known tale. I doubt many readers realize Bluebeard is even inspired by a real person at all.

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