This slim little volume of short stories from Harry Potter's world is welcome to all those who have been missing regular visits to Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, the Weasleys' house, quiddich matches, and all those fun and magical places and situations. However, while there are some bittersweet ties to those characters and events we've been missing from the original Harry Potter series, this book is a separate entity altogether.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of stories told for generations to young wizards and witches - only this particular collection has been translated by Hermione Granger herself and contains notes written by Albus Dumbledore approximately eighteen months before the events at the end of the sixth book in the series. The tales have a fairly standard folkloric quality to them, reminiscent of fairy and folktales from around the world - only, as is pointed out in the introduction, rather than magic being the cause of the characters' problems, as happens in most muggle fairytales, these characters have magical abilities yet are still beset with problems that they must somehow solve themselves.
Topics range from witches dealing with recalcitrant kings, wizards learning lessons in dealing kindly with muggles, and dangerous magical quests. The final story in the collection, "The Tale of the Three Brothers," will be a familiar one to loyal Harry Potter readers and casts some light on events in the final book of the series.
This was an enjoyable read, particularly Dumbledore's notes, yet it had that superficiality of fairy and folk tales - characters with little depth, stories with a moral or lesson, inspiring little emotional involvement from the reader. I enjoyed the tales - they were clever and fun - but felt like I'd been served a portion of cotton candy when I was really craving a hearty, substantial meal. I love the fact, however, that all the proceeds of this book are going to a charity established by Rowling in 2005 called The Children's High Level Group, "to help the 1 million children across Europe still living in large residential institutions." To date sales from this book have raised more than 4 million pounds! The price is reasonable for this nicely bound little volume; the stories are sure to appeal to fans of Harry Potter; and the the cause is certainly a worthy one.
Books in the Harry Potter series:
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (Children's High Level Group, 2008)
Also reviewed at:
Fyrefly's Book Blog: "I definitely enjoyed Dumbledore’s commentary, but ultimately, I was left somewhat unsatisfied. They’re a nice supplement, and a fun read, but they’re over too soon, and we don’t learn much that we didn’t already know from the main series."
Musings of a Bookish Kitty: "The best part of this little book of stories is not the tales themselves, but Dumbledore’s commentary. He offers his own interpretation of each one along with the stories’ histories and how they have been perceived over the ages. His comments are both meaningful and hilarious. I found myself giggling quite often."