Dec 12, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Introduced in the Harry Potter universe in the last volume of the series, the fairy tales of Beddle the Bard – a sort of equivalent of our Brothers Grimm, you could say – made it to our hands at last. The Tales of Beedle the Bard collects five fairy tales, including “The Tale of the Three Brothers”, a story whose importance readers of the series will be aware of.

I loved each and every one of the stories, but my favourite really was “The Tale of the Three Brothers”. Not only because of its connection with the main plot of the series, but because even more so than the others, it truly did feel like a fairy tale. There are several folk and fairy tales about unsuccessful attempts of cheating or overcoming death. "Godfather Death" is probably the best known example, and while I’m at it let me point everyone towards this retelling by Jane Yolen just because I love it so much. Anyway, stories of this kind have always resonated with me, and this was no exception.

“Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump” deals with a similar theme, while “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot” is about compassion. And I loved the annotations by Dumbledore as much as I loved the stories themselves. Once again, J.K. Rowling brought this beloved character to life with perfection. His comments are insightful, perceptive and often humorous. They point out many of the themes of the stories without being overly analytical or making them sound didactic. And, along with the footnotes, they provide background information about the wizarding world. (We get to learn a little more about Nearly Headless Nick!)

Both the stories and the annotations and very human, and they manage to be both dark and full of warmth. Reading them reminded me of why I love Harry Potter so much. The Tales of Beedle the Bard is definitely my favourite of all the Harry Potter companion books so far. (I still hope we get a Potter encyclopaedia at some point.)

And of course, now I want to read the series all over again. Especially Deathly Hallows, because reading this made me realize that I have forgotten some details already. I was kind of trying to save re-reading it for when I have time to read the whole series back to back. But I can always revisit it now, and then still do that later. The problem is that with Harry Potter I never seem to be able to stop at just one.

Reviewed at:
Dolce Bellezza
Stella Matutina
In Spring it is the Dawn
Out of the Blue
Hello, My Name is Alice
Melody's Reading Corner
Age 30+: A Lifetime of Books
Everyday Reads
where troubles melt like lemon drops
Fyrefly's Book Blog
Books of Mee

(Let me know if I missed yours.)

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  1. I just bought this for my hubby for Christmas. That means I can read it too!

  2. Excellent review, as always. :) Kiddo and I are reading this together now - we just have one Tale left. I'll be posting our Mom & Son Book Club review of it sometime next week.

  3. It sounds wonderful! What other Potter companion books have you read?

  4. Bermudaonion: lol, indeed it does :P Enjoy it!

    Heather J: I look forward to your review!

    Jeane: I meant of the official ones - Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, and now this. But I have read an official one, actually: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter by David Colbert. I think only the first four or five books were out when it was published, so it only covers so much, but I enjoyed it. It points out lots of mythological and folkloric influences in the books, and I always like reading about that sort of thing.

  5. I'm ashamed to say that I never made it past the sixth book in the Potter series. I might have to, though, because this sounds interesting.

  6. Your post makes me reconsider picking it up.

    I was afraid Beedle the Bard might just be way of making great cash from the Harry Potter fans. Glad it's not so.

    I am so cynical...:(

  7. I loved your review of this because you have a deeper appreciation of the Harry Potter series than I do, and you tied in the relevance of this book to them in a meaningful way. I took them more at face value: for the fairy tales themselves, and I could go so far as to say that I liked The Tales of Beedle The Bard best of all Rowling's written. Her creativity, her imagination, the phrasing and the lessons never cease to amaze me. I think she deserves the accolades (and cash!) she's been given.

  8. I haven't bought this yet, and now you will have me rushing to the bookstore :)

    I love the review. And I can't believe I haven't read Jane Yolen's "Godmother Death" yet! I just did, and it's really lovely.

  9. Great review Nymeth. I want to delve into this one so bad. I loved Nearly Headless Nick-he's hilarious. I really miss the series and I keep talking about re-reading them but I do want to start at the beginning again. I did a few years back and I really feel like I'm due for a big does of Harry Potter again. lol. Thanks for some insight into this book. I can't wait to read it.

  10. I didn't know or didn't remember that The Tales of Beetle the Bard was actually introduced in the series! That makes me even more excited. I really don't know why I haven't read this one yet. It's just sitting on my shelf :p

  11. Great review, Nymeth! I can't wait to dive into this. I just received a copy this morning!! Yay!! :D

  12. For some reasons I don't understand myself, I kept putting off buying this book. I just placed an order with Kino yesterday but yet did not buy this one although I did consider it. I should just buy it. :D

  13. It sounds wonderful! Thanks for a great review!

  14. This companion book sounds like just what the doctor ordered for the new year. Hmm...

  15. I already know I'm going to read this one... the question is how soon can I get my hands on it??

  16. This sounds more interesting than the Harry Potter books, which I have never made much of a secret of strongly disliking... Anyway, maybe I will read this someday...

  17. I loved Dumbledore's notes! Reading this totally made me want to go back and read Deathly Hallows again especially since I read it in such a rush. I've forgotten a lot of details too and barely remember this book being mentioned in it. Maybe next year before movie 6 comes out I'll reread the last 2 books.

  18. Loved your review! As a die-hard HP fan I can't miss this book.

  19. Loren: How come? I know a lot of people who read the first few books and just didn't care for them enough to continue the series, but I have a hard time imagining stopping at 6, just one book away from knowing how it all ends. Even if I didn't like a series I think that at that point I'd just have to see how it would end :P

    Dark Orpheus: lol, I understand the cynicism :P But at least it's for charity. And the stories really are good ones.

    Bellezza: You know, as far as the writing itself is concerned, these tales might be my favourite too. And I think she deserves her popularity too. I just love her books.

    Marineko: I'm really glad you enjoyed it! I re-read it recently and I started seeing all these nods to Neil Gaiman's Death. The symbol that is drawn in the sand, which is never described but could very well be an ankh, the fact that there is a reference to Dream being Death's brother, Death being portrayed as a young it just me? :P

    Dar: Nick is great, isn't it? I miss the series too! I think it's time for a big doses for me as well.

    Chris: You knew for sure, and once you start the book it will come back to you, you'll see. We actually get the whole of the "Tale of the Three Brothers" in Deathly Hallows. I'd forgotten about it too, but once I started reading I immediately remembered.

    Melody: yay! Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

  20. Alice: I only got my copy yesterday, actually. Then I got home and read it right away :P

    Jenclair, it really is wonderful :)

    Kim: hope it's soon!

    Kailana: I know, I know :P But these stories are perfectly enjoyable just as fairy tales, even by someone who hasn't read or isn't a fan of the series.

    Tanabata: Same here...I think we were all too eager to get to the end to let the details sink in. I really need to re-read it.

    Alessandra: You'll love it then!

  21. Nymeth: I think I succumbed to Potter fatigue! I waited and checked them out from library en masse. Perhaps not the best strategy, eh?

  22. this is a great review about a book I thought I'd have so little to say about, I'm afraid.
    I enjoyed it but I didn't stop to think about it much. I liked the illustrations, and my favourite tale was the one about the fountain. I just wished it was longer.

  23. It sounds so good, I cant wait to read this one.
    I loved the series, I think my three favorites were The Sorcerers Stone, Prisoner of Azkaban and The Deathly Hallows.

    I remember when we didnt know if she would publish The Tales of Beedle the Bard, so glad she did!
    Great review :)

    I didnt know you guys had a HP blog, I would have jumped in to discuss too! lol
    I'm a big fan of Snape :)

  24. I'll read this hopefully by next week. Or the week after. I'm a bit swamped and behind at the same time on my readings.

    Looking forward to the stories actually. And yours is the first review I read and sounds like a lot of fun indeed.

    I myself planned on reading all the HP books again, books 1 to 7. But I can't find the time to do so :)

  25. I'm supposed to get a copy for my birthday present!

  26. I think I'd like that Fantastic Beasts one, too.

  27. I loved the emphasis on strong female characters and the non-reliance on magic. I thought those were good lessons for younger readers to hear. :)

  28. I had completely forgotten about this until I saw it listed on someone's site a few days ago. I had no idea what it was about, but I love the idea of retelling stories (and creating new ones). I'm definitely putting it on the list!

  29. Loren Eaton: I can understand the fatigue, especially at those times when nobody would talk of anything else but the books. I hope you enjoy the ending when you get to it!

    Valentina: I actually thought I'd have nothing to say too until I started writing :P That happens to me so many times. I wish it had been longer too, though!

    Naida: The Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my favourites too! I think it's plotted so masterfully. How I wish I could read it for the first time all over again. About the blog: Dewey created it when Deathly Hallows was released so we could all discuss it freely with no fears of giving people spoilers on our own blogs. So it's another thing that will always remind me of her. I had so much fun sharing the excitement of the last book's release with her and other bloggers.

    Lightheaded: Same here. Actually, I kind of fear that if I tried to read the books in the free time I do have, I'd soon cast all my responsibilities aside to be able to do nothing but read :P

    Ladytink: Is your birthday soon? It'll make a great present for sure!

    Jeane: That one is a lot of fun!

    Jessi: Me too! I marked a passage from the introduction about magic not solving all problems, but then I forgot to include it in my post.

    Trish: I also only remembered about it about a week after the release. Which is surprising, considering how well-informed about everything Potter I used to be :P But yeah, it's a delightful little book.

  30. Picked it up today! I can't believe how short it is, but it will make for fun "break" reading.

  31. I loved this book! I agree, so far it is the best Potter companion (though I have yet to read Quidditch Through the Ages, to be fair). I hope the encyclopedia won't be too far in the future...

    My review is available here.

    My favorite was The Fountain of Fair Fortune, because it also sounded more like a fairy tale than most of the others (except the Brothers story), and because it had a couple unexpected twists in it. I also loved Dumbledore's commentary on it.

  32. Trish: It's too bad it's so short - it took me less than 2 hours to read, and I wanted more! But it was a lot of fun.

    Amanda: Thanks for the link! You know, at first I didn't read the Quidditch little book either because I didn't think I'd enjoy it...but it's actually hilarious! And I loved Dumbledore's commentary too.

  33. Good to know, Nymeth. I plan to read Quidditch next year as my "Q" book for the A-Z challenge. That worked out quite nicely. :D

  34. My copy just came in at the library. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm excited about dipping into HP's world once more.

  35. I really should be hung up by my big toes for not having bought this for Annie yet! Bad Mom! Annie reread the whole series early this year, and I think she's ready to do it again. Maybe she'll make it a yearly thing. I hope you get the chance to do it soon!

  36. I've got to read this one. I loved the Harry Potter series. I wasn't too sure I'd want to read it, but after I heard about Dumbledore's annotations, I knew I just have to get a copy. Great review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  37. I might have to pick this one up. I'd love to re-read the HP series but those books are so big and I still have 170 unread books to read the first time! *sigh*


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