Saturday, December 06, 2008

Granger, Rowling, and Dumbledore: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

"In Muggle fairy tales," J.K. Rowling writes in her foreword, "magic tends to lie at the root of the hero's or heroine's troubles--the wicked witch has poisoned the apple, or put the princess into a hundred year's sleep....

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. Beedle's stories have helped generations of Wizarding parents to explain this painful fact of life to their young children: that magic causes as much trouble as it cures."

In her new post-Harry Potter publication, Rowling presents five tales purported to have been written by the fifteenth-century wizard folklorist, Beedle the Bard, as translated by the talented Hogwarts graduate, Hermione Granger. Granger's versions of these venerable stories, taken from the original runes, are graced by an extensive commentary from the late Hogwarts' Headmaster Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Order of Merlin.

And indeed, as Rowling promises, each tale features wizards, warlocks, and witches who share the same faults known to plague the Muggle world. In the first tale, "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," for example, a kindly wizard devoted to helping the mortal sufferings of the nearby Muggle village dies and leaves his self-absorbed son only an old cauldron with one worn bed slipper inside, with a note expressing his hopes that his heir will never need use the contents of the pot. When the young wizard turns away the villagers pleading for magical intervention against sickness and want, he finds to his sorrow that the pot is then plagued with all the misfortunes and illnesses of the supplicants. Indeed, the pot sprouts one bare foot and hops after him noisily, groaning, wailing, and retching. As the bedeviled wizard is finally forced to quiet the pot's hopping with the worn slipper, he realizes that he can only gain peace and happiness by helping cure the ills of his neighbors, and in the future the repentant young wizard is careful to give magical aid to his fellow mortals whenever it is needed.

In my favorite story, "The Fountain of Fair Fortune," three young witches and a down-on-his-luck knight are the only supplicants allowed to cross the barricade and seek to climb the mountain to the Fountain, said to have the power to cure any ill and grant any desire. Asha suffers from an incurable malady; Altheda has lost her wand and her fortune to an evil sorceress; Amata mourns the loss of her only love, and Sir Luckless, the knight, is a total failure in all things. As they climb the magical hill, the four must rely on each other for salvation, and when at last they reach the Fountain, they learn that together they have what is needed to end their own misfortune and gain lifelong happiness.

The three witches and the knight set off down the hill together, arm in arm, and all four led long and happy lives, and none of them ever knew or suspected that the Fountain's waters carried no enchantment at all.

It is in Dumbledore's commentaries that we learn that the marriage of Amata and Sir Luckless in this story is the source of the Malfoy family's hatred of Muggles. Likewise, in the full version of "The Three Brothers" we learn the complete story of the origin of the Wand, the Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility which play major roles in the seven Harry Potter novels.

For Potter fans, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition is a must-read, one which within its slim covers reveals much that went unexplained in the seven books.

All proceeds from the sales of this book will go to J. K. Rowling's chosen charity, The Children's High Level Group, which seeks to help orphaned and abandoned children in institutions throughout Europe.

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