This is a creepy, old fairy tale about a wealthy guy with a blue beard (who knows why) who has been killing his wives and hiding their bodies in a locked room. His murderous tendencies remain a big secret until one of his later wives finally opens the locked room and blood pours from it. Awful, we know. So what does this have to do with the poem?
- Line 17: Well, first of all, it's just a simile. So Heaney isn't trying to say, like a metaphor would, that the boys are Bluebeard, but simply that one aspect of them (their hands) are sticky like Bluebeard's. In the case of the poem, the boys' hands are sticky with the juice of the berries, whereas Bluebeard's are presumably sticky with his wives' blood. Why draw this connection? Probably to show that the boys are guilty of something – greed, lust, foolish hope. We've explored a lot of these possibilities already.