Tales of Beedle the Bard Book Review
Beedle the Bard: Modern Fairy Tales
This is not a Harry Potter book per se, but rather, is described on the front cover as "A wizarding classic from the world of Harry Potter." It is therefore steeped in and based on the same magical world as that boy wizard. In the Tales of Beedle the Bard we are presented with 5 fairy tales that both wizards and Muggles (non-magical folk) alike will enjoy.
The 5 tales are as follows:
The Wizard and the Hopping Pot. This is story describes an unruly and unfriendly son who must learn to get along with his neighbors. When this does not initially happen, his father's legacy (and a magical cauldron) remedy the situation. This is a tale not ulike a morality play of the ancient Greeks or Britons.
The Fountain of Fair Fortune. This is a tale of a quest, both solitary and yet with the aid of new friends. It is a lovely metaphor for life. LIke other tales of old, the Fountain of Fair Fortune reveals that in life it is often the journey, not the destination which matters. Given the archetypes utilized, it is a tale Carl Jung might have proudly read to his children.
The Warlock's Hairy Heart. In this story we find a warlock who is too proud to ever submit to the joys and dangers of love. He takes quite drastic actions to fend off the opposite sex, to the point that he shuts off his love even for his parents and all those around him. The tale is as brilliant as the sun is warm. The Warlock's Hairy Heart shows the consequences of actions -particularly those adhered to for many, many moons.
Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump. In this story, Babbitty overcomes the prejudices of those who do not like her kind. It is not unlike the Braer Rabbit of southern American Folklore. Babbitty Rabbitty is set upon by forces that she has not incurred, yet she does so with aplomb and great intelligence, getting in touch with her "inner rabbit" while doing so (and simultaneously inciting the trickster rabbit of Native American and African origins).
The Tale of the Three Brothers. This is a story that was first brought to the attention of we Muggles in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This tells, in the classical fairy tale formula, of 3 brothers: one who was violent, one full of hubris, and -true to form, the last, who was wise. They meet death on a bridge, with some curious after-effects. This shows, quite simply, the power of humility, decency, and forethought; particularly, as the commentaries point out, knowing one's limits.
On the Translation and Commentaries
This particular version of The Tales of Beedle the Bard was translated from runes by Hermione Granger, that famed scholar of Hogwart's and friend of the boy who would be, Harry Potter. Included in this version of The Tales are commentaries of each fairy tale. These are offered by none other than the illustrious former headmaster of Hogwart's, Albus Dumbledore.
In reading this work of Beedle the Bard, one might initially wish that Beedle had included more stories -or longer ones, and that Dumbledore might have included fewer commentaries. At least, this one might desire after perusing the initial commentary. However, upon reading further, most will find Dumbledore's notes (written about eighteen months prior to his untimely passing) quite splendid. For instance, notable to his notes are his anti-racist stance against Lucius Malfoy, who showed such opprobrium toward one of the tales, which depicts, according to Lord Voldemort's primary death eater, "Interbreeding between wizards and Muggles." (p.40) Bravo, Dumbledore!
Another highlight of the commentaries is where the former headmaster of Hogwart's quotes another wizard author on bringing the dead back to life: "Give it up. It's never going to happen." (p.80) One would wonder what Dr. Victor Frankenstein would have thought of such declarations. Ultimately, the commentaries are humorous, intriguing, and downright gloriously entertaining.
No introduction need be given Ms. Rowling, the author of the phenomenal Harry Potter series. In presenting Albus Dumbledore's commentaries behind each story, J.K. Rowling is beating the critics at their own exegesis of her work- and she is doing it well, no less. For instance, where explaining "The Warlock's Hairy Heart," she writes (as Albus Dumbledore) "In seeking to become superhuman this foolhearty young man renders himself inhuman. The heart he has locked away slowly shrivels and grows hair, symbolizing his own descent to beasthood." (p.59) Of course, by offering Dumbledore's words of wit and wisdom, Rowling is also bulking the book up to be larger than, say, her more humbly-sized book, Quidditch Through the Ages
The simple fact is, Ms. Rowling is entertaining and funny. For instance, the footnote for a book called "The Hairy Heart" cautions the reader that it's "Not to be confused with Hairy Snout, Human Heart, a heartrending account of one man's struggle with lycanthropy." (p. 60) A further point that should be mentioned: every purchase of The Tales of Beedle the Bard contribute money to The Children's High Level Group, CHLG. CHLG, which was founded in 2005 by J.K. Rowling and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, a Member of European Parliament. This charity helps over 1 million children across Europe who are presently living in large institutions. As Baroness Nicholson wrote, "CHLG aims to achieve full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child across Europe and ultimately around the world." (p. 111) A worthy goal, indeed.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard could easily find its way into that pantheon of children's books like Mother Goose and Grimm's Fairy Tales. Buy this book for your child; you may just find yourself enjoying it as well.