The Tales of Beedle the Bard
by J. K. Rowling
We first heard about this book in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when the plot turned on the Tale of the Three Brothers. Then we might have heard that J. K. Rowling had auctioned off her handwritten and illustrated manuscript of this book for charity. Now, at last, it has come into the hands of Harry Potter fans. Slender and quickly devoured as it is, it is a welcome addition to the lore of Harry's magical world, joining his seven-book saga and the two whimsical Hogwarts School Books previously published.
I am loath to say much about the five fairy tales contained in this book, except that they are crafted to fit the magical setting of the Harry Potter books. This is to say, they are examples of the type of fairy tale that magical parents might tell to magical children - tales in which magic is as ordinary as umbrellas and tea; tales illustrating the principle that magic can sometimes cause more problems than it solves.
The book says that Hermione Granger translated the tales from the ancient runes. It also includes comments on each tale, left behind by the late Albus Dumbledore, pointing up significant literary themes illustrated by each fable. These themes are themselves important issues in the "canonical" Harry Potter books. What Dumbledore has to say about each tale (and his comments are often longer than the tale itself) adds to our understanding of what J. K. R.'s novels were about, and of why they turned out as they did.
I enjoyed the Dumbledore bits most of all. I suppose, though, this book could be read for the fairy tales alone. As fairy tales they are a little strange, but they work. Rowling seems to have a gift for this type of tale, even when writing it merely as background to a larger work. She gives us five pieces of fabricated folklore, covering all kinds of subject matter from the haunting wisdom of "The Tale of Two Brothers" to the grim horror of "The Warlock's Hairy Heart." There is a bit of romance, a bit of a morality tale, and a bit of silly mischief; and I'll bet you can guess which of these bits is represented by "Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump." But all of them have a serious side, as you will see as you read further.
My only complaint is that there isn't more. I enjoyed this book too much for it to be over so quickly. May J. K. Rowling's creative endeavors continue to grow! And may this appetizer stimulate hungry readers to sample more of the wide range of luscious books that await us!
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 9+
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