Book Review: The Tales of Beedle the Who?

Greetings, muggle.

As you’ve probably already noticed, I am a fan of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. My admiration came from a young age, but despite that admiration, I’ve yet to read all of J.K. Rowling’s works. What can I say? I’m a college student who always has her head stuck in a textbook.

This Halloween, I binge-watched the first three installments of the movies. Why? I was too scared to watch anything terrifying but still wanted to embrace the Halloween spirit.

It’s been a while since I immersed myself in the glory of the Harry Potter series and I’ll admit, I miss it. Still, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read all seven installments, therefore, I decided to read The Tales of Beedle The Bard.

“The heroes and heroines who triumph in his stories are not those with the most powerful magic, but rather those who demonstrate the most kindness, common sense and ingenuity.”


What You Need to Know

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Rating:***1/2

Genre: Fantasy

Age Group: 10+

Length: 105 pages

Illustrations were drawn by J.K. Rowling and Mary GrandPré, who also illustrated all seven of the Harry Potter books. According to Scholastic, proceeds of this novel will benefit the Children’s High-Level charity, which protects children’s rights and seeks to protect young people.


What It’s About

The Tales of Beedle The Bard is a collection of short stories that is first mentioned in the last installment of The Harry Potter series. The Tale of The Three Brothers, in particular, helped the wizarding trio defeat Lord Voldemort. These stories are popular among young wizards and witches, and have often been challenged by wizards who are anti-muggle. The current installment had been translated by Hermione Granger after it was given to her by Albus Dumbledore. The collection is comprised of 5 different tales: The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, The Fountain of Fair Fortune, The Warlock’s Hairy Heart, Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump, and The Tale of the Three Brothers.

The tales include commentary written by Albus Dumbledore eighteen months prior to his death.


What I think

One reason I was attracted to this novel was to explore the power of the short story. Having only read novels, I wanted to know if I could learn to appreciate short stories.

Author, Stephen King, says “A lot of writers […]have a tendency to think of the novel and once you get your mind set on the novel, it’s very easy to lose whatever trick is that involves writing a short story.”

This idea got me thinking, how many of my favorite authors can write short stories?

J.K. Rowling is one of them.

Each different story has a different message, as it should be, but one thing I enjoy is the way everything makes sense. What I mean is this, given that the events in The Harry Potter series deal with bloodlines and the balance between good and evil, it makes sense that these stories often depict the beliefs accumulated by pro and anti-muggle wizards.

The main reason this book got three and a half stars was because I didn’t feel like the stories, besides The Tale of the Three Brothers, were truly memorable. Still, I felt like this was a fun read that could be enjoyed while snuggled up in a fluffy blanket with a cup of hot chocolate at hand.

The Wizard and The Hopping Pot

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(Source: Illustrations by J.K. Rowling and Mary GrandPre via HarryPotter.Wikia)

The plot of the first story is fairly simple—a selfish wizard, whose father was a famous healer, inherits an enchanted pot. Inside the pot, there is a shoe with a note reading: “In the fond hope, my son, that you will never need this.” The mean-hearted man, refuses to help those who seek medical care. With each refusal, the pot is overcome with the malady of the person and grows a foot to follow him around. The wizard can no longer sleep due the noise and complaints made by the pot, and he decides to cure all of those who were brought before him. The pot then begins to settle down and once it is rid of the diseases, the shoe appears once more. The wizard then places the shoe on the foot of the pot, and they walk off into the sunset.

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t one of my favorite stories in the collection. It wasn’t that the writing was bland, but the I felt like I didn’t take much away from the story. In other words, it was easily forgettable.

I still felt that there were a lot of overlying messages that make it a perfect bedtime story for children—the consequences of greed and pride, as well as the importance of helping others.

I enjoyed the afternotes with Dumbledore and I felt like it did add to Harry Potter, however small it may have been. Dumbledore mentions that this story has been challenged by wizards because muggles are not depicted in a negative light. This was especially important because magic is usually seen as evil in the muggle world and wizards and witches are the subject of horror.

I can definitely see myself telling this story to my future children or even using it in a small in-class assignment for elementary students.

The Fountain of Fair Fortune

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(Source: Illustrations by J.K Rowling and Mary GrandPre via HarryPotter.Wikia)

The second story is about a mystical fountain, rumored to grant fair fortune to those who bathe in it. No person has been able to accomplish the feat, but one day, three witches are able to penetrate the walls surrounding the fountain. One of the witches accidentally drags a knight along with them, and so they are forced to work together to reach the fountain. The first witch wants to be given health, the second seeks to make a fortune, and the third wants to be cured of heartbreak. The knight has no hope that he will be given the opportunity to bathe in the fountain. The group comes across major obstacles, the first being “Pay me the fruit of your labors.” As the group solves each riddle, they are able to move a bit forward. Along the way, the second witch is able to mix a potion that cures the disease of the first witch and in return, will be able to give her fortune. Therefore, they no longer have use of the fountain. The third witch comes to the realization that she never loved the man who broke her heart and lets the knight bathe in the fountain. The knight, who has fallen in love with the third witch, bathes in the fountain and then asks her to marry him. She accepts and all three of the witches, along with the knight, live full and happy lives without realizing the fountain had no powers at all.

An article by The Statesman, reports that fantasy books are twice as popular with young readers than novels set in a more realistic world. While I definitely believe this to be true and include myself in this statistic, I think it is equally important to relate fantasy to reality.

The Fountain of Fair Fortune is a great example of using fantasy to draw from realism. The knight from the story feels that he is less than the women who have been gifted from magic but finds that he is able to create his own fortune after all.

I feel that the underlying message of this story, magic isn’t necessary to solve problems, is a powerful one. We often tend to escape reality by reading, but it’s also crucial (especially for children) to know that things can be achieved of their own merit.

I like this.

The Warlock’s Hairy Heart

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(Source: Illustrations by J.K. Rowling and Mary GrandPre HarryPotter.Wikia)

This story is about a wizard who recurs to dark magic in order to keep his heart from feeling emotion. For years, the wizard thinks he is the envy of all, but when he overhears a negative conversation about him, he decides to take a bride. He chooses a beautiful woman and begins to court her. The woman is not fooled by his facade and tells him she will not marry him because he is incapable of love. The wizard then shows her his heart, which has been locked away, and has been so neglected that it is covered in hair. In order to prove the woman wrong, the wizard opens his chest and puts the heart inside his body. Still, the years have taken their toll, and when he realizes his hairy heart will take away his magic, he decides to switch the woman’s heart with his own. He kills the woman, but before he is able to replace the heart, he dies with a heart in each hand.

Out of all the stories, this is the darkest and most disturbing. In reality, most fairytales, such as Cinderella, are as dark as this one so it isn’t a surprise that J.K. Rowling wrote this. Still, I should warn parents about reading this to children under 10.

Despite the uncomfortable mental image this story conjured, one of my favorite things about this story is the sophistication in which it was told. The message in this story is that emotions, albeit conflicting at times, make people human. This can be a difficult thing to explain to children, but I think that J.K. Rowling wrote it in a way that leave an impression on children.

One thing I’ve always loved about J.K. Rowling’s writing is that she talks to children as though they’re adults. This, I feel, is an important thing because, according to Time Magazine, children are more perceptive than adults. That’s right people, they know things.

 Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump

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(Source: Illustrations by J.K. Rowling and Mary GrandPre via HarryPotter.Wikia)

The fourth story is about a man who pretends to be a wizard in order to receive money and gold. The king, who wants to keep all magic for himself, solicits the help of a wizard who will train him in magic. The fake wizard, who has fooled the king, is then tested but when he realizes that one of the servants is a real witch, he threatens her into helping him. The king puts on a show to display his new skills but does not know that the witch is behind these acts. When he is asked to revive a dead dog, the woman stops using her magic. She is soon discovered to be a witch and the con-man admits he has lied. The witch is hunted but threatens the king that if any witch or wizard is harmed in his kingdom, he will feel the strike of a blade. It is then proclaimed that no witch or wizard will ever be harmed, and a statue of her is built. The witch then leaves the kingdom, never to be seen again.

From the very beginning, the title of this story compelled me. Babbity Rabbity is a fairly strange name and truthfully, I thought it was about a rabbit.

Of course, I was wrong (kinda), but I didn’t feel that this story resonated with me on a bigger scale. I liked the messages within the story—lies are always uncovered, magic is not to be trifled with, arrogance can lead to treachery.

My biggest issue with this story was that it didn’t provide much besides minor details about the wizarding universe.

The most enjoyable thing about this story are comments by Dumbledore. He talks about the persecution of magic folk and the importance of respecting magic’s limitations. As the blogger, WriteMeg, said “Any fan of Potter will be delighted to relive one hundred pages with Dumbledore’s running dialogue, and there’s some insight to be gained about the Wizarding world from Beedle, who lived in the fifteenth century.” A fun historical lesson is always appreciated.

The Tale of the Three Brothers

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(Source: Illustrations by J.K. Rowling and Mary GrandPre via FanPop)

The last story is one that may be familiar to all who have read or seen the Harry Potter movies. This is the story of the three brothers. The three brothers are walking through the forest when they encounter a river that has claimed the lives of many. Skilled in the magical arts, they build a bridge, but are stopped by death who feels cheated. Faking admiration, death asks them what they might like in return for their skills. The first brother receives the most powerful wand on the earth, the second receives a resurrection stone, and the third receives a cloak of invisibility. The first two brothers meet untimely deaths because of the gifts, but the third brother, who chose his gift wisely, is able to evade death for years. It is only after he reached a great age, that he passes down the cloak of invisibility, meeting death and departing life as equals.  

This is my favorite story in The Tales of Beedle the Bard. 

One of the reasons that I feel this story is cherished by people is that it adds to the story of Harry Potter. The deathly hallows are introduced which in turn helps Harry, Ron, and Hermione defeat Lord Voldemort. This is what I was expecting from this collection, I wanted the stories to interweave with Harry Potter. This is a story that both mystifies the reader and demonstrates powerful tropes: immortality cannot be reached, humility is prized, and wisdom is a virtue. Blogger, JCarsonWrites, says “It’s the sort of story you can imagine reading as a child and being totally intrigued by.” I wholeheartedly agree.

While I understand that this collection is its own, I felt like it was just a fun read. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it.

Like I mentioned previously, I felt like it would have been more memorable if it added to the story of Harry Potter. Overall, I think this is a book that will most likely appeal to readers that want to know every detail of the wizarding world.

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(Source: Giphy)

Still, it’s the wizarding world. Who doesn’t want to read about that?

Happy reading!

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