Thoughts on The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

[The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a companion book to the Harry Potter series, first published in 2008, with a portion of sales going to one of J.K. Rowling’s charities, the Children’s High Level Group. It includes five short, fairy tale-style stories set within the Harry Potter world, one of which—‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’—is a big plot point for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Each story is accompanied by a commentary from Albus Dumbledore, on the history/meaning/impact of the tale.)

  1. The book is prefaced by an introduction from J.K. Rowling, in which she calls Harry Dumbledore’s ‘favourite and most famous pupil’. I love the idea that Harry’s more famous than Voldemort (how livid would Voldy be about that?), but it brings to mind Aberforth’s warning in Hallows, that people Albus cares about tend to wind up dead. Albus sure had a funny way of showing favouritism. Or maybe he had a soft spot for people he thought were doomed.
  2. (I think Dumbledore’s a fascinating character. But the more Adult Me reads him, the less I like him.)
  3. (A bit like Snape. The more Adult Me reads him, the more fascinating I find him. Still hate him as much as I did when I first read the books, though.)
  4. Story 1: ‘The Wizard and the Hopping Pot’. A kindly wizard’s son inherits his father’s role as Looker After of Neighbourhood Muggles, and his father’s enchanted cauldron makes sure the son does the father’s bidding by chasing him around, clanging and sprouting warts and crying. A highly entertaining cautionary tale on not being an a-hole.
  5. Lucius Malfoy could’ve done with reading this. #justicefordobby
  6. How fitting: Dumbledore’s commentary is full of slander exposing the bigoted, anti-Muggle nature and actions of Lucius Malfoy’s ancestors. Of course Lucious Locks never read it.
  7. Story 2: ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’. Three witches and an unfortunate Muggle knight journey to the fountain, hoping it can fix all their problems—only to find they’re each other’s saviours, after all. This story is like a motivational poster. ~Life’s about the journey, not the destination.~
  8. Dumbledore’s commentary tells us about an ill-fated attempt to perform the story as a play at Hogwarts, and now all I want is a Hogwarts theatre group. Flitwick got to conduct a weird choir; is a drama club too much to ask for? Extracurriculars at Hogwarts 2k20!
  9. Story 3: ‘The Warlock’s Hairy Heart’. An arrogant warlock cuts out his heart and keeps it hidden, Dorian Grey style, to make himself immortal, only to find it too wild for use when he later needs it—so he tries to steal the heart of his betrothed, thereby killing both of them. Man takes his failings out on a woman. It’s like every crime show ever.
  10. Having said that, I feel like J.K. was reading a lot of Edgar Allan Poe when she wrote this, and I’m kind of here for it.
  11. Interesting that she also says the witch in this story acts the most like a ‘storybook princess’. The unnamed witch is pushed towards the warlock by her own family, and pays the ultimate price; personally I think she’s less simpering princess and more victim of circumstance. But that’s a complicated feminist conversation for another time.
  12. I’m not surprised Dumbledore’s commentary tells us that wizarding children have nightmares over this story. It’s like Grimm vs Disney. Fairy tales are not always for kids, man.
  13. Story 4: ‘Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump’. A foolish king hires a Muggle tutor to teach him magic; the tutor blackmails Babbitty, an actual witch, into helping him; they get caught, and Babbitty is punished for it—but thanks to her Animagus rabbit form, she has the last laugh.
  14. Babbitty would’ve made a great Hogwarts teacher. I just feel it.
  15. I have no idea why all witches and wizards wouldn’t want to learn to be an Animagus. It’d be the first thing I’d research.
  16. Would really suck if your Animagus form wound up being a slug or something, though. We can’t all be Prongs, I guess.
  17. Story 5: ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’. The big one; the one that inspired the whole collection. Three brothers evade death; but Death tricks the first two into joining him with an unbeatable wand that puts the user in immense danger, and a resurrection stone that makes you long for your lost ones so much you’d end your own life to join them. Only the third brother is smart enough to hide from Death, with Death’s own invisibility cloak; teaching us to enjoy our lives, and make peace with the fact that death is inevitable.
  18. Dumbledore’s commentary points out the danger of seeking the Hallows; reminding me of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s conversation about which of the Hallows you’d want the most. Of course the cloak is the honourable choice—it represents making peace with the idea of death—but let’s face it, it’s not the choice most of us would make.
  19. I wouldn’t go for the wand—it’s a little wooden beacon screaming COME AND GET ME! to any dangerous wizard within a hundred-mile radius. I’ll take the one that chose me in Ollivander’s, thanks.
  20. (Apple wood and Phoenix feather, ten inches, rigid.)
  21. I worry, though, that I’d find the Stone too tempting, and suffer for it; just like Dumbledore, subjecting himself to a life-ending curse just for the sake of using it.
  22. I guess like him or not, that makes Dumbledore relatable, after all.

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