The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J. K. Rowling

Posted: March 5, 2009 in Fantasy
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Beedle the BardWithout getting into the huge Rowling discussion, which is popular among many Christians, just remember that this blog provides an “unbiased” Christian perspective on books. If you have not done so already, please read my about section. For now, let’s just stick to the review.

As someone who liked the Harry Potter stories, in 2007, when Rowling had decided to write a book that was mentioned in the Potter books, I was annoyed to discover that only seven copies would be available. If that wasn’t bad enough, they were going to be auctioned off at super high prices. Although the money was to be donated to “The Children’s Voice,” I still wanted to read the tales.

About a year later, this book was finally released to the general public, and the profits were given to “Children’s High Level Group”. This goes to show Rowling’s dedication to helping kids, as well as her willingness to listen to the voice of her fans.

Story overview:

There are five short–fairy tale–stories, which, legend has it, have been read to Wizarding children for many generations. Hermione Granger, a character from the Potter books, has translated these from “ancient runes” with the help of Albus Dumbledore, who wrote a commentary after each story to give a Wizarding perspective to us “Muggles” (non-Wizarding people).

The first story “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” tells of an old wizard who leaves his magical brewing pot to his son. Unlike his father, the son doesn’t use it to help others, but as he rejects each person’s cry for help, the pot recreates the symptoms of each person’s aliment until the wizard finally breaks down and decides to help.

The second story “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” tells of a magical fountain that, once a year, will solve a person’s main problem if they bath in it. Three witches, and a straggling knight, find the pool after facing three challenges. They all learn their answers in a way they didn’t expect.

The third story “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” tells of a warlock who removes his heart in order to avoid the foolishness of love. After quite a long time, he decides to marry a woman to silence the people’s talk. Before she concedes, she makes him show her his heart and convinces him to put it back inside himself, at which time the warlock becomes obsessed and ends up killing them both.

The forth story “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” tells the tale of a king, who is so obsessed with magic that he orders the capture of anyone performing it. In his ignorance, he is fooled into being trained by a non-magical user. When worried about being discovered as a fake, the supposed trainer forces an old woman named Babbitty, a true magical user, to perform her talent while hiding. Because of this the king believes that he can use magic himself. However, things go wrong when asked to raise the dead, something magic cannot do.

The fifth story “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” tells the tale of three brothers who try and cheat Death. Death grants them each a wish, but little did they know their wishes contained a curse that would only lead to their demise. However, one of the brothers fools death, with his wish for a cloak of invisibility, until one day when he chooses to pass the cloak down to his son.

My thoughts:

These are great fairy tales and reading them helps to give a little more insight into the world of Harry Potter.  Rowling had drawn the illustrations herself, and they are quite impressive. Each story is fairly short, and as mentioned, each has a commentary by Dumbledore. I found some of these commentaries to be a bit tedious at times, but overall I liked the book.

Things to consider:

Some of the stories, particularly “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” may be a bit disturbing for younger children, but overall I think they are fine. In general fairy tales tend to have at least some disturbing element to them, which is what makes them interesting and intriguing to many kids in the first place. I can see the commentaries as being a bit dull for kids who don’t know the original Potter books, and even then, perhaps still, but the tales themselves are good.

Opportunities for discussion:

Each story has a great moral lesson, if not more than one, but some that stick out in my mind are: do for others as you would have them do for you; the things you seek after may not be what you really need; do not let your heart become so decrepit that it ends up being worthless; and, make wise decisions, as foolish ones can have huge consequences. Beyond the moral lessons, this is a good chance to talk to your children about the difference between make-believe and real-world magic. If you would like to know my opinion, read this topical post here.

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