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The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition - J. K. Rowling
Member Name: NizPerson
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition - J. K. Rowling
Date: 18/12/08, updated on 19/12/08 (365 review reads)
Advantages: Interesting, full of tidbits about the Potterverse, Dumbledore's notes
Disadvantages: Too quick a read
When J K Rowling wrote the last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in it she mentions a book of fairy tales read to children in wizarding families. One story is mentioned in full in the HP book, this is The Tales of the Three Brothers, as it was relevant to the storyline.
After completing the Potter series JKR wanted to thank, in her own unique way, the people who helped her through her long journey to writer stardom. She decided on writing the book of wizarding fairy tales of Harry Potter's world for them. Just six copies, individually handwritten by her with her own illustrations. A seventh was auctioned for charity and bought by Amazon.com for a cool £1.95 million.
This book was later published for fans in printed form and released on 4th Dec 2008. A standard edition, and for the more die-hard Potter fans a limited edition deluxe version, leather-bound and metal studded, exclusively by Amazon. Proceeds from the sale of the books went to the Children's High Level Group.
About the book
The standard version is a hardback book of 109 pages. The blue cover has JKR's illustration and the inside has most of them too (the limited edition has the full set of illustrations).
Inside you see the title and "Translated from the original runes by Hermione Granger". Nice touch that, since we know that Hermione studied ancient runes for her OWLs.
The stories are:
The Wizard and the Hopping Pot
The Fountain of Fair Fortune
The Warlock's Hairy Heart
Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump
The Tale of the Three Brothers
There is a six page introduction by JKR and then we move on to the stories.
These are all fairly short and concise stories, but full of deep, and not so deep, messages. I will give only a very brief overview of each so that I don't spoil it for anyone.
1. The Wizard and the Hopping Pot is the story of an old wizard who used his magic generously for the good of the neighbours, pretending that it was his lucky cauldron that it came from rather than his ability. When he dies his son inherits his things but does not carry on his father's habit of sharing his magic, much to the cauldron's chargin.
2. The Fountain of Fair Fortune
Is the story of Asha, Altheda and Amata, who go to the fountain of fair fortune to be cured of their assorted maladies. Only once a year this fountain is accessible, and all three pledge to go in together as they pitied each others' plights. Purely by accident they take with them "a dismal-looking knight who was seated on a bone-thin horse". Only one can bathe in the fountain, who will it be?
3. The Warlock's Hairy Heart
This is the tale of a warlock who uses dark magic to make sure he never falls in love. He was sure that he must be an object of envy to all in his position of untroubled solitude. But one day on overhearing two of his servants talk about him in pity and scorn he resolves to take a wife. A woman superior to all others in beauty, wealth and magical lineage. And he does find her, but what happens?
4. Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump
It's a story where a king wanted to destroy all magical people and become the best wizard of all. He wanted an Instructor in Magic to teach him great skills, and a charlatan applied for it and tricked the king into thinking he was being taught great magic. When the king wanted to display his new-found skills to all, the charlatan panicked. He forced a washerwoman, a witch named Babbitty, to perform the king's magic while she stayed hidden. After a good start the king attempted a spell that no witch or wizard can do. How does the charlatan get out of that?
5. The Tale of the Three Brothers
This final story comes as no surprise for HP readers as it has been encountered before in Harrry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It is about three brothers who meet Death on a bridge, and attempt to cheat him of their lives when he grants them a wish each. This is the most significant story of all though, as we find out connections to several things in the Potterverse here.
One thing I noticed was that though Deathly Hallows mentioned that the story of the three brothers was preceeded with an illustration of the symbol of the triangular eye with vertical line I did not see it here. Perhaps JKR forgot that detail?
Notes on the stories
After each story is included notes by none other than the enigmatic Albus Dumbledore himself. These are informative as well as humourous, displaying Dumbledore's wisdom, knowledge, immodesty, muggle-leanings and that he's mad as a cracker sometimes. Some facts in the books tie in nicely with his notes, giving us the bigger picture more clearly.
JKR also seems to take the opportunity to have a dig, in the form of Mrs. Bloxam, at the people who criticised her work as being overly dark for children. Apparently Mrs. Bloxam rewrote the original Tales because of what she called "their unhealthy preoccupation with the most horrid subjects, such as death, disease, bloodshed...". Apparently Mrs. Bloxam's "sweet" version was met by children with "uncontrollable retching, followed by an immediate demand to have the book taken from them and mashed into pulp".
This is a nice set of stories for very light, quick reading. You can go through the whole book very fast, so it's not really the type of book you can spend an afternoon reading. The stories are short and quite interesting but nothing extra-ordinary there.
Although this is meant to be a book for wizarding children I'm not sure I'd ever read this to my (muggle) children as bedtime stories. The Warlock's Hairy Heart is too dark for my liking, rather than relaxing them to send them to sleep it probably will induce nightmares. Sorry JKR.
I enjoyed Dumbledore's notes rather than the stories itself. I suppose it's because fans are always looking for tidbits on Hogwarts.
Summary: A nice quick read.