BOOK REVIEW – J.K. ROWLING – THE TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD 2008 Bloomsbury.
Spin-off books the phenomenally successful Harry Potter novels, though without direct usage or appearances by the famous boy wizard himself. The book caused some controversy when Rowling initially published only seven copies for sale to the highest bidders, for charity. Fans were livid because they were denied access to the work, and Rowling eventually agreed to issue the book properly.
The stories are referred to in the last Potter book, The Deathly Hallows, as containing cryptic clues to the solution to the mysteries surrounding Potter, but these prove to be sub-plot red herrings.
Beedle’s collection of five wizarding fairy tales are well known to the wizards and witches taught at Hogwarts, and great favourites of the late Dumbledore, who before his death (In Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince), created a heavily annotated edition, showing how much the book risked being banned by supporters of Voldermort, for its sympathetic attitude to Muggles, etc. Dumbledore’s notes have themselves received annotation by Hermione Grainger, and there are notes by Rowling too, which rather detract from the interaction of her fictional characters. The notes take up more of the slender volume than the tales themselves, which are wonderfully presented.
The Wizard and the Hopping Pot - A wizard tries to avoid using magic in life, but his cauldron screams at him and hoops around after him making terrible noises until he accepts his duty to look after the needs of his commiunity.
The Fountain of Fair Fortune Thre witches make pilgramage to a magic fountain that will give you everything you need in life, though only one can benefit from its gift in any given year. An errant knight unwittingly ends up joiing them on the journey. Te witches work out their own needs without the fountain water and the knigt learns from it that he loves the leader of the group.
The Warlock's Hairy Heart - The darkest story is a very Edgar Allen Poe fable in which the Warlock renoinces love and finds his heart growing cold and hairy though he is able to fain affection when required. He cuts his heart out and keeps it in a box in his cellar. When a girl falls in love with him, and finds his heart too wild and detached for him to put back in his breast, she tries to give him her own, and both die.
Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump – A foolish king tries to ban magic to make himself more powerful, and all sorcerers are cast out of the kingdom, but an old witch is able to fool him – and a charlatan who tries to dupe them both.
The Tale Of The Three Brothers deals with a cloak of invisibility intended to shield a wizard from death, a magic stone able to raise the dead and an invincible magic wand, but ultimately, death tricks two of the brothers and kills them, while the third willingly accepts his fate and embraces death. The Chauceresque tale, as read in The Deathly Hallows, inspired Harry Potter to give fruitless quest to the search for the artefacts.
The tales are lovely and brief, given the epic size of the later Potter Books. The notes seem to be added to give the work suitable length for making into a book at all, but it remains a delightful read.
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