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.

 

tales-of-beedle-the-bard-collector's-edition

Collector’s Edition

Summary of Tales

“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.

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“The Fountain of Fair Fortune”

This is a tale about a magical fountain that is in the center of a garden, surrounded by tall walls. Once a year, the walls open, and one person is pulled inside. If the person can overcome the three challenges within the garden, then the person will be able to bathe in the Fountain on Fair Fortune and will have Fair Fortune Forevermore.

There was a large crowd gathered outside the garden walls. Among the crowd were three witches who shared their woes. The three witches agreed that if any of them were chosen, they would try to stick together.

The first witch, Asha, desired for the fountain to cure her illness. The second witch, Altheda, wanted security, and to be relieved of poverty. The third witch, Amata, wished for the fountain to relieve her broken heart.

The wall opened with the first rays of daylight. A creeper plant grabbed hold of Ashsa and pulled her in. Asha grabbed Altheda. Altheda grabbed Amata. As Amata was pulled along with the other witches, she became entangled with the armor of a knight. The knight was then dragged along with the three witches.

Asha and Altheda became upset with Amata for bringing along the knight. Only one person could bathe in the Fountain of Fair Fortune, and the knight would complicate matters.

Sir Luckless, the knight, was feeling very self-conscience and down on his luck. He wanted to leave the garden, but Amata insisted that the knight should help protect the witches.

The four of them walked together through the enchanted garden without any trouble until they reached the base of the hill which held the fountain. There was a giant worm wrapped around the entire bottom of the hill, blocking their path. The worm said, “Pay me the proof of your pain.

At first, the group attempted to defeat the worm with sword and spells. Asha began to cry as the day wore on. The worm drank Asha’s tears and then slithered away.

The group began to travel up the hill. However, words appeared on the ground about halfway up the hill. The words on the ground were: “Pay me the fruit of  your labors.” The group continued to walk up the hill for several hours, yet they made no progress. Altheda quickened her pace and encouraged the other to do the same. Eventually, she began to sweat. As the sweat dripped onto the hill, the words disappeared, and the group started advancing up the hill.

Soon the group could see the fountain. The fountain was on the hilltop, entirely surrounded by a stream of water. There was a stone in the water with words upon it: “Pay me the treasure of your past.”

The witches and the knight tried various methods of crossing the stream, to no avail. After a while, they began to discuss the meaning of the stone’s message. Amata realized what the stone’s words meant. Amata used her wand to pull the happy memories of a former lover from her mind and disposed of the memories into the stream. The memories drifted away, and stones appeared. The group crossed the stones and walked towards the fountain.

Before they could decide who would bathe in the fountain, Asha became very ill and dropped to the ground. Asha was in a lot of pain and requested not to be touched. Altheda gathered herbs and mixed the herbs in the knight’s gourd of water. Asha drank the potion and was immediately healed of all illness. Asha no longer needed the fountain and nominated Altheda to bathe in the magical waters.

Althelda noticed how quickly and efficiently the herbs healed Asha. Altheda began to collect more herbs to sell them for a profit. Altheda no longer desired to bathe in the fountain and requested for Amata to bathe.

When Amata removed the memories of her former lover, she felt relieved and realized that she was better off without him. Amata no longer wanted the fountain to ease her heartache. Amata encouraged Sir Luckless to bathe in the Fountain of Fair Fortune.

Sir Luckless bathed in the waters of the fountain and became overjoyed. He threw himself upon the feet of Amata and begged for her affection. Amata realized that she finally found a man who was worthy of her heart.

All four of them linked arms and walked down the hill and out of the garden together. They all had happy and fulfilling lives. The three witches and the knight never knew that the Fountain of Fair Fortune possessed no magic at all.

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“The Warlock’s Hairy Heart”

This tale highlights a “quest for invulnerability,” a temptation of magic most deep. The narrative follows the journey of a rich and talented warlock, who in his youth decided that falling in love makes a fool out of a man and vowed never to fall prey to it, employing the “Dark Arts” to make himself immune to feeling love.

His family held on to the hope that he would change upon meeting the right maiden, but none caught his fancy even though many attempted. He became so cold that upon the eventual demise of his parents, he felt but relief that he was now the sole occupant of the castle, and his comforts the only priority of his servants.

Comfortable in his solitude, he was chagrined to learn that instead of being the object of envy, he was pitied by those around him. His servants wondered why he was unloved and unable to attract a wife despite being wealthy and powerful.

Eager to rectify the situation, he vowed to find himself the perfect wife, and as luck would have it, a rich, beautiful and talented maiden happened upon the town the very next day. The witch, while flattered by his attention, sensed the coldness in his heart and was repelled by it.

She attended a feast hosted in her honor where she voiced her concerns to the warlock who, to confirm the existence of his heart, led her to his dungeons where he stored his greatest treasure.

He had locked away his heart in an “enchanted crystal casket,” and it had remained untouched throughout the years. His heart had fallen into disuse and was now merely a shrunken hairy remnant of its former glory. Upon the witch’s urging the warlock replaced the heart in his body, but it had become twisted and savage.

This perverse abomination made the warlock slaughter the witch, and he attempted to replace his “hairy heart” with the smooth, scarlet heart belonging to the witch. Unable to overpower the “hairy heart” with his magic, he cut open his chest in a mad scramble and collapsed dead with a heart held in each hand. The very heart that he did not wish to become enslaved to became the cause of his demise.

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“Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump”

In this tale, Beedle speaks of a foolish Muggle King who not only feared magic but also coveted it. To keep all magic for himself he commanded the formation of a “Brigade of Witch-Hunters,” a faction of his forces armed with a pack of hounds.

The hypocritical King announced far and wide his requirement of a magical instructor, and while no true witch or wizard dared to come forward, a “cunning charlatan” took this opportunity to convince the foolish King of his non-existent magical prowess and secured himself a position as the “Grand Sorcerer in Chief.”

Being ignorant of the true nature of magic, the King handed over several riches to the charlatan in the name of procuring wands, casting healing charms and storing magical potions. Unknown to him, old Babbitty, the King’s washerwoman, had spied the charlatan snapping two twigs off a tree on the palace grounds. He later passed them off as immensely powerful wands that would only work when the King was deemed worthy.

Weary of practice and insulted by Babbitty’s cackling at his attempts, the King announced that he would perform magic in front of his court the following day and threatened the charlatan with certain death if he either fled the premises or if the King failed and was reduced to a laughing stock.

Spying on Babbitty performing real magic, the charlatan saw an out to his dilemma and threatened Babbitty with exposure unless she agreed to anonymously aid the King in his magical display. Conceding to the demands, Babbitty hid behind some shrubbery and performed magic in place of the King.

While she vanished a hat and levitated a horse successfully, she did not even attempt to resurrect the King’s dead hound for she knew it to be impossible. To save himself from the King’s wrath at this failed attempt, the charlatan exposed Babbitty as a wicked witch, responsible for blocking the King’s magic.

The Brigade and the hounds hot in pursuit, Babbitty fled the scene and found refuge in an old crab apple tree. Claiming that Babbitty had turned herself into a tree, the charlatan ordered it felled as punishment. Much to everyone’s surprise, the stump began cackling and speaking in Babbitty’s voice.

Taking advantage of the Muggles’ ignorance of magic, Babbitty turned the tables on them and they ate up the preposterous tales she spun. Using her cunning, Babbitty extracted not only a full confession out of the charlatan but also a promise from the King to never harm wizardkind again.

To make amends, Babbitty demanded a statue in her likeness to be erected on the stump, serving as a reminder of the King’s foolishness. The story ends with Babbitty, in the guise of a rabbit, emerging from a hole in the tree stump with a wand clamped between her teeth, hopping away to safety.

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“The Tale of the Three Brothers”

Three brothers went to cross a dangerous river. They used magic to form a bridge to cross the river safely. Death waited upon the bridge to greet the three brothers. Death felt cheated by the brothers’ clever use of magic and decided to bestow a gift upon each brother as a reward. The oldest brother was given the most powerful wand. The second brother was given a resurrection stone. The third brother was given Death’s cloak of invisibility.

The oldest brother was strong and desired power, so he asked for a wand that could not lose a duel. He used the powerful wand to kill an enemy. The oldest brother bragged about his powerful wand and how it made it unbeatable. One night when the oldest brother fell asleep after drinking, an intruder entered his room, stole the wand, and killed him. Death came for the oldest brother.

The second brother was heartbroken due to the death of a woman he had loved. He used the stone to resurrect her. Though she was alive in physical form, she was withdrawn and absent emotionally. The second brother was overwhelmed with heartbreak and hopelessness. He committed suicide. Death came for the second brother.

Death looked for the youngest brother for many years. Eventually, when the youngest brother was elderly, he removed the cloak of invisibility and gave it to his son. He welcomed Death as a friend and they departed life together.

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Illustrated Edition

On October 9, 2017, Bloomsbury announced that artist Chris Riddell would be the illustrator for a new illustrated edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The covers to both the UK and US illustrated editions were unveiled on social media on May 17, 2018. Bloomsbury released their new illustrated edition on October 2, 2018, and Scholastic released their illustrated edition a week later on October 9. The Scholastic edition was illustrated by artist Lisbeth Zwerger. In the videos below, Riddell reveals the cover artwork for the Bloomsbury edition that he illustrated in the first one and then demonstrates a little bit of his drawing process in the second one:

 

 

 

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