“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 43: “The Wizard and the Hopping Plot”
Explore the surprising relevance of Beedle the Bard’s first tale – “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot” – in this week’s episode.
“The Wizard and the Hopping Pot” seems like a simple story on the surface, but Katy and Emily, with their guest Travis Prinzi (Harry Potter and Imagination), uncover the challenging complexities of this tale.
We look at the fairy tale motifs Rowling uses and also ways this streamlined narrative acts almost as a parable. The young wizard learns his lesson in the end, but does he learn it in the right way and for the right reasons? The themes link to Christian texts like the parable of the talents, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan. Beedle’s story also references the generational inheritance of power and responsibility, which echoes the main ideas of the larger Harry Potter book series. These themes resonate with other works, from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are to The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.
The story’s commentary explains that this narrative exists in different versions, rewritten for different contexts and audiences. Particularly Albus Dumbledore’s portrayal of Beatrix Bloxam’s saccharine revision slaps back at the suggestion that children should be sheltered from important realities to which they must develop a moral response. Beedle’s tale gives voice to the grim and grotesque miseries of the wizard’s “other,” which demand remedy and cannot be ignored. Dumbledore’s reflections on the story point out that Beedle was writing at a time when wizards were persecuted by Muggles. In helping his potential persecutors, the young wizard makes himself vulnerable – and yet, this is what he must do.
This tale has essential lessons for our own times, as we are called to recognize how the suffering of others calls us to their service, despite the inconveniences and despite the risks. Beedle asks us to dare to heal our communities with courage and the talents we possess. The world is knocking at our door, and our conscience requires a response: How will we answer?