Fantasy: January 2008 Archives

Amazon.com has a page reviewing J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which she wrote out by hand, distributed four copies of to people important to her, and sold the fifth to the highest bidder (with the proceeds donated to charity), and the highest bidder turned out to be Amazon. Unfortunately there's no way to read these stories for yourself, since it's not (at least at this point) being published (and I know of no plans ever to do so. One of them, at least, is already present in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it plays an important role in the plot of that book, but the others are new (although I believe all the titles were mentioned in that book).

It consists of five short fairy tales told in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. A few elements of magic as Rowling conceives of it do appear, but mainly these can stand alone as simply good fairy tales. I was less impressed by "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" (although it may be better as a story than the impression I get from the review), but the other four strike me as very well-conceived stories with excellent moral lessons, often with nice twists at the end, excellent ironies, and so on.

Many of the things I appreciate about her books seem to be in these stories as well, especially in "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" and "The Warlock's Hairy Heart", which serve as illustrations of what great virtue and its opposite, respectively. The latter tale strikes me as something Edgar Allen Poe could have written. It's impressive that she managed to turn her title "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump" into what's not just a plausible story for such a name but a fun romp illustrating a nice moral lesson. "The Tale of the Three Brothers" is, of course, not new to those who have read the seventh Harry Potter novel, but it is a great fairy tale in its own right, and that one we can actually read in its published form (which apparently differs in a few details from the handwritten version in this work).

I really wish these end up being published so we can all read the actual stories. Until then, I do appreciate having the Amazon reviews. I'm glad they ended up with the fifth copy.

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