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January 7, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | January 7, 2009 |

Tales of Beedle the Bard is a wizarding fairy tale book that played a role in the 7th Harry Potter novel (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and J.K Rowling wrote the book herself, with commentary on each story from Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts included. The proceeds from this book go to the Children’s High Level Group which you can learn about here. Rowling also illustrated the book herself, but this adds to the idea of this book being an intrinsic part of the Harry Potter world. Had the book been illustrated by the same illustrator as the Harry Potter series, there would have been too much of a connection to Harry Potter himself. Rowling’s line-form drawings with dreamy dimensions and flourishes add to the feeling that these are tales that “exist” in the wizarding community independently of Mr.Potter and his friends.

The stories themselves are the same sort of tales one finds in Grimm’s fairy tales or the words of Hans Christian Andersen in the sense that they are morality tales using fantastical events to teach children life lessons. Save for one, none of them are as bleak as the original Grimm or Andersen fairytales, but the one story that does end in senseless death (“The Wizard’s Hairy Heart”) would be a fairly disturbing read for some of the younger Harry Potter fans. Most of the lessons in the book involve tolerance of Muggles (non-magic individuals, for those not familiar with the books), proper use of magic, the folly of telling lies, and in one tale the importance of opening your eyes to the world around you and learning how to make it better without using magic.

The commentary from Dumbledore elaborates on these themes and in some cases recounts the “history” of the myth, including efforts to change or alter the myths to remove them from wizarding literature entirely. The reasons behind these commentaries will make sense to people who have read the entire Harry Potter series (who may recognize some of the names that Dumbledore throws out) but for those who haven’t they act as allegories to similar book editing/banning efforts in western society. After all, most of us who have the original versions of popular fairy tales are well aware that the little mermaid did not live happily ever after and Cinderella’s step sisters did not survive that fairy tale without some pretty serious and gruesome injuries.

Overall, Tales of Beedle the Bard is a fun diversion for those familiar with the Harry Potter universe, and an interesting addition to that world over all. It’s a short, quick read and would be appropriate for any children over 11 and some younger readers who have high reading skills, although I would recommend parents of children on the younger end reading “The Wizard’s Hairy Heart” in advance so you can be prepared to discuss the meaning of the story with their children. The stories are also written in a way that they could be read out loud, which is another option for younger children and would allow the parents to pick and choose which stories they’d read, and allow an interactive experience where the parents could discuss the tale with the children using Dumbledore’s notes as a guide. However, it doesn’t offer any deeper understanding of the books, nor is it essential to understanding the novels in any way. The proceeds benefit a worthy cause, though, so it definitely makes a great gift for the young wizard or witch in training on your holiday list, either to supplement the novels or introduce them to the world of Harry Potter.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here. And check here for more of Genny’s reviews.

Cannonball Read / Genny (also Rusty)

Books | January 7, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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