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

tales-of-beedle-the-bard

Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
Author: J. K. Rowling.
Genre: Literature, fiction, adventure, fantasy, faerie tales.
Country: U.K.
Language: English.
Publication Date: December 13, 2007.
Summary: The book of 5 faerie tales. A spin-off of the Harry Potter series (as is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), containing stories that children in the wizarding world have grown up on. Every tale is accompanied by Albus Dumbledore's commentary. In The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, after a kind wizard who helps Muggles in his village by pretending that his magic comes from a magical pot passes away, his son refuses to honour his father's legacy, but each time the young wizard turns people asking for help away, the pot acquires the malady instead, and continues to jump after him and make excessive noise until he finally learns his lesson. Dumbledore's commentary discusses how the faerie tale is historically and socially important for the wizarding community, because of its portrayal of wizards helping Muggles, and how many Pureblood families had altered it throughout the years to make it more palatable for their anti-Muggle views. In The Fountain of Fair Fortune, three witches and a Muggle knight, each struggling with great misfortune, get a chance to cross several obstacles to gain admittance to a magical fountain that grants one person a year ever-lasting fortune and good luck, but as they earn their way onward, they learn a surprising lesson about luck and magic. Dumbeldore's commentary recalls a failed attempt to put the story on as a play at Christmas when he was a young Transfiguration professor at Hogwarts, and reveals how Lucis Malfoy's demand to remove the tale from the Hogwarts library due to Wizard Muggle relationship it portrayed, and Dumbledore's flat refusal to, first prompted Lucius's animosity towards him. In The Warlock's Hairy Heart, a wizard performs an act of Dark Magic in order to lock away his own heart and make himself immune to love, but when the woman he tries to win as a suitable wife convinces him to try and put it back where it belongs, it leads to horrible consequences. Dumbledore's commentary compares the spell to making of a Horcrux, and discusses fundamental laws of magic and how altering or dividing the self or aspects thereof most often leads to disaster. The Tale of the Three Brothers (as it appears also in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) is the basis for the Hallows legend, and tells of three brothers that trick Death and each claim a gift from him - an unbeatable wand, a resurrection stone to bring back the dead, and a perfect invisibility cloak that would hide one even from Death itself, and how all but the youngest brother succumb to the vanity and folly of their greed. Dumbledore discusses the legend of the Hallows, the human weakness that is fear of death and a constant need to best it, and the mentions of an unbeatable wand throughout history.

My rating: 8.5/10
My review:


♥ Beedle's stories resemble our fairy tales in many respects; for instance, virtue is usually rewarded and wickedness punished. However, there is one very obvious difference. In Muggle fairy tales, magic tends to lie at the root of the hero or heroine's troubles - the wicked witch has poisoned the apple, or put the princess into a hundred years' sleep, or turned the prince into a hideous beast. In The Tales of Beedle the Bard, on the other hand, we meet heroes and heroines who can perform magic themselves, and yet find it just as hard to solve their problems as we do. Beedle's stories have helped generations of wizarding parents to explain this painful fact of life to their young children: that magic causes as much trouble as it cures.

~~From the Introduction.

♥ A kind old wizard decides to teach his hard-hearted son a lesson by giving him a taste of the local Muggles' misery. The young wizard's conscience awakes, and he agrees to use his magic for the benefit of his non-magical neighbours. A simple and heart-warming fable, one might think - in which case, one would reveal oneself to be an innocent nincompoop. A pro-Muggle story showing a Muggle-loving father as superio in magic to a Muggle-hating son? It is nothing short of amazing that any copies of the original version of this tale survived the flames to which they were so often consigned.

~~From the Dumbledore's Notes on 'The Wizard and the Hopping Pot'.

♥ The three witches and the knight set off down the hill together, arm in arm, and all four led long and happy lives, and none of them ever knew or suspected that the Fountain's waters carried no enchantment at all.

~~The Fountain of Fair Fortune.

♥ Mr Malfoy submitted his demand for a ban on the story in writing:

Any work of fiction or non-fiction that depicts interbreeding between wizards and Muggles should be banned from the bookshelves of Hogwarts. I do not wish my son to be influenced into sullying the purity of his bloodline by reading stories that promote wizard-Muggle marriage.

My refusal to remove the book from the library was backed by a majority of the board of governors. I wrote back to Mr Malfoy, explaining my decision:

So-called pure-blood families maintain their alleged purity by disowning, banishing or lying about Muggles or Muggle-borns on their family trees. They then attempt to foist us to ban works dealing with the truths they deny. There is not a witch or wizard in existence whose blood has not mingled with that of Muggles, and I should therefore consider it both illogical and immoral to remove works dealing with the subject from our students' store of knowledge.*

This exchange marked the beginning of Mr Malfoy's long campaign to have me removed from my post as Headmaster of Hogwarts, and of mine to have him removed from his position as Lord Voldemort's Favourite Death Eater.

*My response prompted several further letters from Mr Malfoy, but as they consisted mainly of opprobrious remarks on my sanity, parentage and hygiene, their relevance to this commentary is remote.

~~From the Dumbledore's Notes on 'The Fountain of Fair Fortune'.

♥ I would argue that 'The Warlock's Hairy Heart' has survived intact through the centuries because it speaks to the dark depths in all of us. It addresses one of the greatest, and least acknowledged, temptations of magic: the quest of invulnerability.

Of course, such a quest is nothing more or less than a foolish fantasy. No man or woman alive, magical or not, has even escaped some form of injury, whether physical, mental or emotional. To hurt is as human as to breathe. Nevertheless, we wizards seem particularly prone to the idea that we can bend the nature of existence to our will.

♥ The hero in this tale, however, is not even interested in a simulacrum of love that he can create or destroy at will. He wants to remain for ever uninfected by what he regards as a kind of sickness, and therefore performs a piece of Dark Magic that would not be possible outside a storybook: he locks away his own heart.

The resemblance of this action to the creation of a Horcrux has been noted by many writers. Athough Beedle's hero is not seeking to avoid death, he is dividing what was clearly not meant to be divided - body and heart, rather than soul - and in doing so, he is falling foul of the first of Adalbert Waffling's Fundamental Laws of Magic:

Tamper with the deepest mysteries - the source of life, the essence of self - only if prepared for consequences of the most extreme and dangerous kind.

And sure enough, in seeking to become super-human this foolhardy young man renders himself inhuman. The heart he has locked away slowly shrivels and grows hair, symbolising his own descent to beasthood.

~~From the Dumbledore's Notes on 'The Warlock's Hairy Heart'.

♥ Whether there was ever a washerwoman who was able to transform into a rabbit is open to doubt; however, some magical historians have suggested that Beedle modelled Babbity on the famous French sorceress Lisette de Lapin, who was convicted of witchcraft in Paris in 1422. To the astonishment of her Muggle guards, who were later tried for helping the witch to escape, Lisette vanished from her prison cell the night before she was due to be executed. Although it has never been proven that Lisette was an Animagus who managed to squeeze through the bars of her cell window, a large white rabbit was subsequently seen crossing the English Channel in a cauldron with a sail fitted to it, and a similar rabbit later became a trusted advisor at the court of King Henry VI.*

**This may have contributed to that Muggle King's reputation for mental instability.

~~From the Dumbledore's Notes on 'Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump'.

♥ The moral of 'The Tale of the Three Brothers' could not be any clearer: human efforts to evade or overcome death are always doomed to disappointment. The third brother in the story ('the humblest and also the wisest') is the only one who understands that, having narrowly escaped Death once, the best he can hope for is to postpone their next meeting as long as possible. This younger brother knows that taunting Death - by engaging in violence, like the first brother, or by meddling in the shadowy art of necromancy, like the second brother - means pitting oneself against a wily enemy who cannot lose.

♥ What must strike any intelligent witch or wizard on studying the so-called history of the Elder Wand is that every man who claims to have owned it has insisted that it is 'unbeatable', when the known facts of its passage through many owners' hands demonstrate that not only has it been beaten hundreds of times, but that is also attracts trouble as Grumble the Grubby Goat attracted flies. Ultimately, the quest for the Elder Wand merely supports an observation I have had occasion to make many times over the course of my long life: that humans have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.

But which of us would have shown the wisdom of the third brother, if offered the pick of Death's gifts? Wizards and Muggles alike are imbued with a lust for power; how many would resist 'the Wand of Destiny'? Which human being, having lost someone they loved, could withstand the temptation of the Resurrection Stone? Even I, Albus Dumbeldore, would find it easier to refuse the Invisibility Cloak; which only goes to show that, clever as I am, I remain just as big a fool as anyone else.

~~From the Dumbledore's Notes on 'The Tale of the Three Brothers'.
Tags: 1st-person narrative, 2000s, 21st century - fiction, 3rd-person narrative, adventure, anthropomorphism, british - fiction, children's lit, faerie tales, fantasy, fiction, literary criticism, literature, my favourite books, personification, poetry in quote, scottish - fiction, series: harry potter, short stories, spin-offs, teen, ya
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