Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

by J. K. Rowling


This collection of five stories, sprinkled with J. K. Rowling's black and white illustrations, may seem at first glance to be aimed at younger readers. It's a short book, and the stories read a little like the fairy tales of the brothers Grimm.

However each story is accompanied by Dumbledore's entertaining and somewhat rambling commentary. This volume is still part of the Harry Potter world, even though these stories seem unconnected to it at first. The Hogwarts headmaster tells readers in no uncertain terms that there's more to these tales than meets the eye. "A simple and heart-warming fable, one might think - in which case one would reveal oneself to be an innocent nincompoop", the character remarks on "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot". He then goes on to discuss the stories in the context of the persecution of witches and the history of the world of Harry Potter. It's not unlike the first time someone explains to you how "Ring A Roses" is actually about the black death. Underneath the straightforward moral lies a political struggle, bedtime propaganda for the hearts and minds of young wizards.

The commentary is peppered with spoilers and clues which mean that this is best read after The Deathly Hallows. Given that the final episode of Harry's adventures is a book for more mature teens, The Tales of Beedle the Bard seems a little oddly targeted. Yet the tales on their own are suitable for reading aloud to children who are too young to enjoy the books independently. This book seems to be trying to appeal to two separate age groups, but by trying to please both younger and older readers it may end up with less to offer to both groups.

Fortunately, like all of the best fairy stories these ones don't pull any punches or hold back on the gruesome details. "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" is especially bloody, but all of the tales have an element of colour or even horror that takes them away from the sickly-sweet realm that many kids' stories end up in.

This collection is entertaining in its way, but it's not J. K. Rowling at her funniest or most moving. Luckily Rowling is still pretty good even when she isn't at her peak, but the author is clearly more at home with longer novels. The Tales of Beedle the Bard don't have the gloss or detail that made the rest of the Harry Potter series so enjoyable. Nevertheless these are five tales that are told with originality and quirky charm, with something to delight readers of various ages.

Book Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Books

  Kids     Fantasy

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
More about J K Rowling

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