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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Tales of Beedle the Bard


The Tales of Beedle the Bard played an important role in the last of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, The Deathly Hallows, where the title was presented as being a storybook well known to children in the Wizarding world.

After the publication of The Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling produced seven handwritten and illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Six she gave to people who had been helping her in different ways with the Harry Potter series. The seventh was offered for auction and bought for £1.95 million by Amazon.com, the highest price ever at an auction for a modern literary manuscript. The money was donated to The Children's Voice charity campaign.

I found out just before Christmas 2008 that the book had now also been published for the general public, the proceeds going to the Children's High Level Group. Since I've been a Harry Potter fan ever since I first started reading the books in 2001, of course I bought it as a Christmas gift for myself!

My first impression of The Tales of Beedle the Bard was that they reminded me a lot "in general" of old folk tales, like the ones I used to read in my childhood in an old book at my grandfather's house - an old (Swedish) reader printed in 1910 that my grandfather (born in 1904) used in school. There weren't all that many children's book in their house, so I used to return to that old reader every now and then. I still have it, and I sometimes still return to it in search of certain old stories, fables and myths.

I think Rowling has caught the style of old fairy tales very well, but also as ususal managed to add her own twist. Just a bit school-mistressy perhaps that she thinks she needs to point that out herself in the Introduction... ;)

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 year's 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.
J.K. Rowling, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Introduction


I enjoyed the stories though, including Professor Dumbledore's Notes, which follows each of the five stories. I'm glad it was decided the book should be made available for all readers!

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