The Tales of Beedle the Bard

 

Released on December 4, 2008, to the general public, The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a book of wizarding children’s stories by J.K. Rowling and is a companion book to the Harry Potter series. The book is an essential plot device in the Deathly Hallows book, with the title of that novel coming from “The Tale of The Three Brothers” in Beedle the Bard. Hermione Granger inherits the book from Albus Dumbledore in his will, and wizarding families like the Weasleys grew up on these tales in the same way Muggle children grow up on tales from the Brothers Grimm, for example.

Rowling started writing the book soon after finishing Deathly Hallows, drawing on other books as sources of inspiration. “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” which is included in its entirety in Deathly Hallows, was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Pardoner’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales. Similarly to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages, the book features commentary and footnotes from Dumbledore.

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Original Handwritten Editions
Rowling originally produced only seven copies, each personally handwritten and illustrated. The books were bound in brown Morocco leather and decorated with hand-chased silver ornaments and mounted semiprecious stones. Each of the silver pieces represents one of the five stories in the book, and each copy is embellished using a different semiprecious stone. Six of the copies were given by Rowling to people who were most involved with the Harry Potter series. Though the recipients were not identified initially, we have since learned two of them. Barry Cunningham, Rowling’s first editor, and Arthur A. Levine, editor for Scholastic, lent their personal copies to part of Beedle the Bard exhibits in December 2008.

 

Beedle the Bard original display

 

The seventh handwritten copy, the moonstone edition, was offered for auction in late 2007 and was expected to sell for £50,000 (US$103,000, €80,000). Ultimately it was bought for £1.95 million ($3.98 million, €2.28 million) by Amazon.com, making the selling price the highest achieved at auction for a modern literary manuscript. The money earned at the auction of the book was donated to The Children’s Voice charity campaign.

Public Release
The book was published for the general public on December 4, 2008, following complaints from fans after it was originally announced that it would not be having a wide release. As of January 2010, an estimated £11 million ($17 million, €13 million) were generated from sales for the Children’s High Level Group, now Lumos, a charity registered in England and Wales to help the one million children across Europe still living in large residential institutions.

The standard edition includes illustrations reproduced from the original handwritten edition. The limited collector’s edition features ten illustrations by Rowling not included in the standard or handcrafted edition, as well as an exclusive reproduction of Rowling’s handwritten introduction. Its outer case is disguised as a wizarding textbook from the Hogwarts library and includes a velvet bag embroidered with Rowling’s signature, replica gemstones and silver garnishes, and an emerald ribbon. The limited edition retailed for £50 ($100, €100), and around 100,000 copies have been printed.

 

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Collector’s Edition

Summary of Tales - Spoiler Warning
"The Wizard and the Hopping Pot"
This tale is about a kind and generous old wizard who uses his magic to come to the aid of his non-magical neighbors and the problems that they would bring to him. He pretends that the solutions to their problems come from what he called his "lucky cooking pot" and he is genuinely pleased to help them out with their troubles. When the old wizard died he left all of his possessions to his only son, who has a disposition that is the exact opposite of his father's. The son believes that Muggles are worthless and it is said that he often quarreled with his father about his father's generous magical aid given to their non-magical neighbors.

After his father's death, the son finds in the cooking pot a small package bearing his name which contains, not gold as he was hoping for, but a soft, thick slipper with no pair. A note written on a piece of parchment in the slipper reads, "In the fond hope, my son, that you will never need it." The son, disgusted with his father, throws the slipper back into the cauldron, vowing to only use it as a rubbish bin. That same night a peasant woman knocks on the son's door, stating that her daughter has been afflicted by warts and that the son's father used to mix a special poultice to treat them. The son turns down the request for help and slams the door in the woman's face. Suddenly he hears loud noises coming from the kitchen.  He goes to investigate the noises and sees that his father's cauldron has sprouted a single foot made of brass and is hopping on the floor, contributing to the loud noises he had been hearing. He notices that the surface of the cauldron is covered in warts. Disgusted, the son tries to use magic to get rid of his father's cauldron. However, none of his spells work. When he goes up to bed the hopping pot follows him upstairs, leading to a sleepless night for the son due to the loud banging of the pop hopping up and down on the floor all night long.

The next morning while having breakfast the son hears another knock on the door. An old man on the front doorstep lets the son know that his donkey is missing and that, without the donkey, he cannot bring his items to sell at the market and that his family will go hungry as a result. The son yells in the old man's face and slams the door on him. The father's cauldron continues to hop on its brass foot, but in addition to the clanging noises are added the braying of a donkey and human groans of hunger coming from within the pot. The son again tries using magic to rid himself of the pot or to quiet the noises coming from it. Again, he is unsuccessful. That evening there is a third knock on the door. A young woman, sobbing on the front step, says that her baby is seriously ill and says that the son's father told her to come if she was troubled. The son slams the door in the young woman's face. After that, the father's pot filled up with salt water and spilled tears all over the floor as it continued to hop, bray and groan all around the house.

Even though no more villagers came by the house to seek help from the son, the pot continued to take on the symptoms of all of their ills such as choking and retching, crying like a baby, whining like a dog, and spewing out bad cheese and sour milk as well as a plague of hungry slugs. The son continued to be unable to sleep or eat because of all the noises emanating from the pot and magic continued to be ineffective in trying to silence the pot. Finally, the son had had enough. He ran out of the house with the pot hopping behind him, calling out to all of his neighbors to bring their troubles to him so that he could help them. As he runs through the streets he uses his magic to heal the sickness and sorrow of the villagers, and as he does so the symptoms emanating from the pot begin to disappear one by one. When the son turns to the pot after curing the ills of the village, the pot burps out the single slipper that his father had left him and allows the son to put it on the brass foot. The pot's brass foot being muffled at last, the son and the hopping pot head back to the wizard's house. The story ends by saying that from that day forward the son helped out his fellow villagers as his father had done before him, lest the pot cast off the slipper and begin to hop once more.

"The Fountain of Fair Fortune"
In this story, there is a fountain where once per year, one person may bathe to have his or her problems answered. This is how three witches meet. The first witch, Asha, suffers from an incurable disease. The second, Altheda, endures poverty and powerlessness due to a robbery. The third, Amata, is distraught after being left by her beloved. The three witches decide to try to reach the fountain together but along the way, a knight also joins them.

On their path to the fountain, they face three challenges. The first involves a giant worm that demands "proof of [their] pain". The second, a steep slope where they have to bring the "fruit of their labours". The third challenge, crossing a river, requires them to pay with "the treasure of [their] past." Amata passes the challenge by using magic to withdraw the memories of her ex-lover and drop them into the water.

At the fountain, Asha collapses from exhaustion. To save her, Altheda brews an invigorating potion that also cures Asha of her disease and need of the fountain. Altheda realises that her skills are a means to earn money, so she also no longer needs the fountain. Amata realises that washing away her regret for her lover removed her need as well. The knight bathes in the water, after which he flings himself at Amata's feet and asks for "her hand and her heart" which she happily gives. Everyone gets an answer to his or her problem, unaware that the fountain held no magical power at all.

"The Warlock’s Hairy Heart"
The story is about a young and handsome warlock who decides to never fall in love, so he uses Dark Arts to prevent himself from doing so. His family, hoping he will change, does nothing. However, one day, he hears two servants whispering about him not having a wife, so he decides to find a talented, rich, and beautiful witch and marry her to gain everyone's envy.

He meets that girl the next day. Though the girl is both "fascinated and repelled," the warlock persuades her to come to a dinner feast at his castle. During the feast, she tells him that she needs to know he has a heart. The warlock shows her his beating hairy heart inside a crystal casket in his dungeon. The witch begs him to put it back inside himself. After the warlock does so, she embraces him. However, being disconnected from its body for so long, his heart has developed savage tastes as it has degenerated into an animalistic state. And so he is driven to take by force a truly human heart. He tears out the witch's heart to replace his own, but finding that he cannot magic the hairy heart back out of his chest, he cuts it out with a dagger. Thus he and the maiden both die, with him holding both hearts in his hands.

"Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump"
This story is about a king who wants to keep all magic to himself. To do this he needs to solve two problems: he must capture and imprison all of the sorcerers in the kingdom and he has to learn magic. He creates a "Brigade of Witch Hunters" and calls for an instructor in magic. Only a "cunning charlatan" with no magical ability responds. The charlatan proves himself with a few simple tricks and begins to ask for jewellery and money to continue teaching. However, Babbitty, the king's washerwoman, laughs at the king one day as he attempts to do magic with an ordinary twig. This causes the king to demand the charlatan join him in a public demonstration of magic and warns that the charlatan will be beheaded if anyone laughs. The charlatan later witnesses Babbitty performing magic in her house. He threatens to expose her if she does not assist him. She agrees to hide and help the demonstration.

During the performance, the brigade captain asks the king to bring his dead hound back to life. Because Babbitty's magic is unable to raise the dead, the crowd thinks the previous acts were tricks. The charlatan exposes Babbitty, accusing her of blocking the spells. Babbitty flees into a forest and disappears at the base of an old tree. In desperation, the charlatan states that she has turned "into a crab apple" and has the tree cut down.

As the crowd departs, the stump starts cackling and makes the charlatan confess. The stump cackles again, demanding the king never hurt a wizard again, and build a statue of Babbitty on the stump to remind him of his foolishness. The king agrees and heads back to the palace. Afterwards, a "stout old rabbit" with a wand in its teeth hops out from a hole beneath the stump and leaves the kingdom.

"The Tale of the Three Brothers"
The story is about three brothers who, travelling together, reach a treacherous river. They make a magical bridge over the river. Halfway across the bridge, they meet the personification of Death who is angry for losing three potential victims. He pretends to be impressed by them and grants each a wish as a reward. The eldest brother asks for an unbeatable dueling wand, so Death gives him the Elder Wand. The middle brother asks for the ability to resurrect the dead, so Death gives him the Resurrection Stone. The youngest brother doesn't trust Death and asks for a way to stop Death from following him, so Death reluctantly gives him his Cloak of Invisibility. Afterwards, the brothers go their separate ways.

The eldest brother, bragging about his powerful wand, is robbed of it and murdered while he is asleep. The middle brother uses his ability to bring back the woman he loved, who died before he could marry her. However, she is not fully alive and is full of sorrow. He kills himself to join her. As for the youngest brother, Death never manages to find him, as he stays hidden under his Cloak. Many years later, the brother removes his cloak and gives it to his son. Pleased with his achievements, he greets Death as an old friend and chooses to leave with him as equals.