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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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.
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.
"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 calls his "lucky cooking pot", and he is genuinely pleased to help them out with their troubles. When the old wizard died, he left all 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 they often quarreled 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 that 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 pot 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. Without the donkey, he cannot bring his items to sell at the market and 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 fills up with salt water and spills tears all over the floor as it continues 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 runs 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"
This is a tale of a magical fountain in the center of a garden. Tall walls surround the garden. Once a year, the wall opens and pulls one person into the mysterious garden. If the person overcomes the three challenges within the garden, then they will be able to bathe in the Fountain of Fair Fortune and will have Fair Fortune forevermore.
There is a large crowd gathered outside the garden walls. Among the gathering are three witches who share their woes. The three witches agree if the garden chooses any of them, they will try to stick together.
The first witch, Asha, seeks a cure for her illness. The second witch, Altheda, wants financial security and to be alleviated of poverty. The third witch, Amata, wishes for the fountain to relieve her broken heart.
When the first rays of daylight gleam, the garden wall shifts suddenly and is catawampus; vines sprawl in every direction. A creeper plant ensnares Asha and pulls her into the garden. Asha grabs Altheda, and Altheda grabs Amata. Amata entangles with the armor of a knight. Amata accidentally drags the knight along with her and the three witches.
Asha and Altheda are upset with Amata for bringing along the knight. Only one person can bathe in the Fountain of Fair Fortune, and the knight will complicate matters.
Sir Luckless, the knight, is feeling very self-conscious and down on his luck. He wants to leave the garden, but Amata insists that he should help protect the witches.
The group of four walk carefree through the enchanted garden until they reach the base of the hill to the fountain. There was a giant worm wrapped around the entire bottom of the slope, blocking their path. The worm said, “Pay me the proof of your pain.”
At first, the group attempts to defeat the worm with sword and spells. Asha begins to cry as the day wears on. The worm drinks Asha’s tears and then slithers away.
The group begins to travel up the hill. However, words appear on the ground about halfway up the hill, “Pay me the fruit of your labors.” The group continues to walk up the incline for several hours, yet they make no progress. Altheda quickens her pace and encourages others to do the same. Eventually, she begins to sweat. As the sweat drips onto the ground, the words disappear, and the group starts advancing up the hill.
Soon the group sees the fountain. The fountain is on the hilltop, wholly surrounded by a stream of water. There is a stone in the water with words upon it: “Pay me the treasure of your past.”
The witches and the knight try various methods of crossing the stream, to no avail. After a while, they begin to discuss the meaning of the stone’s message. Amata realizes what the stone’s words mean. Amata uses her wand to pull the happy memories of a former lover from her mind and disposes of the memories into the stream. The memories drift away, and stones appeared. The group traverses the rocks and walks towards the fountain.
Before they can decide who will bathe in the fountain, Asha becomes very ill and drops to the ground. Asha is in a lot of pain and requests not to be touched. Altheda gathers herbs and mixes them in the knight’s gourd of water. Asha drinks the potion, and her illness immediately disappears. Asha no longer needs the fountain and nominates Altheda to bathe in the magical waters.
Althelda notices how quickly and efficiently the herbs healed Asha. Altheda begins to collect more herbs to sell them for a profit. Altheda no longer wants to dip in the fountain and asks Amata to bathe.
Amata no longer wants the fountain to ease her heartache; releasing the memories of her former lover brought her peace. Amata encourages Sir Luckless to bathe in the Fountain of Fair Fortune.
Sir Luckless soaks in the waters of the fountain and becomes overjoyed. He throws himself upon Amata's feet and begs for her affection. Amata realizes that Sir Luckless is worthy of her heart.
All four of them link arms, walk down the hill and out of the garden together. They all have happy and fulfilling lives. The three witches and the knight never know that the Fountain of Fair Fortune possesses no magic at all.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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:
The Tales of Beedle the Bard will be released on Audible on March 31. It will be narrated by fan-favorite stars from the Wizarding World! Each star will narrate an individual story from the pages of the book.
The book begins with Professor Albus Dumbledore’s notes, very fittingly read by Jude Law, who plays Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts film series. The first story, “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” will be read by Warwick Davis, who played Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter series. Noma Dumezweni, who played Hermione Granger in the original cast for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will be reading The Tale of the Three Brothers. “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart” will be read by Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series. Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter series, will be reading “The Fountain of Fair Fortune.” “Babbitt Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump” will be read by Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter series. Last, but certainly not least, Sally Mortemore, who played Madam Pince in the Harry Potter series, will be reading J.K. Rowling’s introduction.