There is much confusion surrounding the identity of Bluebeard who often gets a bad rap as being the infamous English pirate Blackbeard. It turns out there’s good reason for mixing up these two bad guys.
Bluebeard was in fact the title character of a fairy tale written by Charles Perrault about a violent nobleman who murdered his wives. The tale was first published in 1698, a few years before Blackbeard the pirate came to prominence. In the story, the character was a man “so unlucky as to have a Blue beard, which made him so frightfully ugly that all the women and girls ran away from him.”
When Bluebeard finally persuaded a woman to marry him, she was driven by curiosity to discover the contents of a room in his home that he always kept locked. When she entered the room, she was greeted by the sight of blood-stained floors and the bodies of her husband’s former wives hanging off the walls. Before Bluebeard could add his new wife to the collection, she was rescued by her brothers, who then slew the murderous nobleman. The tale of Bluebeard was used as the basic plot for Kurt Vonnegut’s 1988 novel of the same name.
Blackbeard, on the other hand, was the ferocious pirate Edward Teach, who terrorized the waters of the Caribbean. He’s usually depicted armed-to-the-teeth, often lighting matches off the hemp woven into his mangy black beard. His most audacious act came in 1718, when his pirate fleet blockaded the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Without having to fire a shot, Blackbeard plundered merchant ships trapped in the harbor and terrorized the town. He was later accused of deliberately grounding two of his own vessels so he had fewer crew members with whom to share his loot.