Monday, May 10, 2010

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

I enjoyed the Harry Potter series.  I thought that, as the series went on, it never achieved the greatness of the earlier books, but I still read them all and enjoyed them.  So I knew that eventually I wanted to read The Tales of Beedle the Bard, where Rowling has created a book from her fictional universe.  It is a book of fairy tales, a fascination of mine, so I finally picked it up and gave it a look.  The tales, with brief comments about them:

“The Wizard and the Hopping Pot”: When a kindly wizard who helps his neighbors dies, the neighbors discover that his son is not quite as kind-hearted.  However, it seems that the late wizard planned for this eventuality.  A rendition of the story of an external conscience that makes a bad character good, but a rendition that adds nothing to that thematic lineage, and is rather dry and unoriginal.

“The Fountain of Fair Fortune”: Four strangers seek a magical fountain that will more-or-less give them what they want/need.  Three witches and a knight all set out, meet obstacles along the way, and arrive at the fountain, only to find they may not need it as much as they thought.  The “surprise” denouement at the end was extremely predictable, and the story perpetually unsurprising.

“The Warlock’s Hairy Heart”: The best story of the collection, this tale of a man who wants to stop himself from going silly with love, and who learns the price of this, has a very dark ending that didn’t seem to fit the rest of the stories.  Hearts torn out of chests and pools of blood didn’t seem to jive with the other, very PG stories.

“Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump”: A magic-obsessed king seeks to learn its ways, and a liar pretends to teach him.  However, when an actual witch gets involved, things go awry.  Very much a tale of “be careful what you wish for,” and very much forgettable.

“The Tale of the Three Brothers”: A story of outwitting death that is basically verbatim from the final book of the Harry Potter series, this story loses much of its power when it stands on its own, rather than as part of the final novel’s plot.

Each story is concluded with remarks from Albus Dumbledore, which sadly don’t feel much like the Dumbledore you come to know throughout the series.  They are sometimes better than the stories themselves, but not by much.

This collection of fairy tales from the world of Harry Potter fails substantially to live up to the rest of the series.  The other two ancillary texts in the series, the two textbooks, managed to keep the feel of the series, the magic and the style.  The Tales of Beedle the Bard fails in that respect.  It feels nothing like the series.  The book has gigantic margins and spacing, making its scant 110-or-so pages carry even less text than it would seem.  Die-hard fans may enjoy this one, and at less than an hour’s reading time it won’t be unengaging for long, but this is one you will forget about very quickly.


1 comment:

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