Beedle’s stories resemble our fairy tales in many respects; for instance, virtue is usually rewarded, and wickedness punished. However, there is one very obvious difference. In Muggle fairy tales, 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, 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. 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.
Another notable difference between these fables and their Muggle counterparts is that Beedle’s witches are much more active in seeking their fortunes than our fairy-tale heroines. Asha, Altheda, Amata, and Babbitty Rabbitty are all witches who take their fates into their own hands, rather than taking a proglonged nap or waiting for someone to return a lost shoe. The exceptions to this rule—the unnamed maiden of “the Warlock’s Hairy Heart”—acts more like our idea of a storybook princess, but there is no ‘happily ever after’ at the end of her tale.
Beedle the Bard lived in the fifteenth century, and much of his life remains shrouded in mystery. We know that he was born in Yorkshire, and the only surviving woodcut shows that he had an exceptionally luxuriant beard. If his stories accurately reflect his opinions, he rather liked Muggles, whom he regarded as ignorant rather than malevolent; he mistrusted Dark Magic, and he believed that the worst excesses of wizardkind sprang from the all-too-human traits of cruelty, apathy or arrogant misapplication of their own talents. 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.”
We find five fairy tales in this work: “The Wizard And The Hopping Pot”, “The Fountain of Fair Fortune”, “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart”, “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump”, and “The Tale of The Three Brothers”. Interspersed with these stories is a commentary from Albus Dumbledore “which include observations on Wizarding history, personal reminiscences, and enlightening information on key elements of each story, (that) will help a new generation of both Wizarding and Muggle readers appreciate The Tales of Beedle The Bard.”
Truly, it’s a special book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s what I’ll begin reading to my class first thing tomorrow morning, anyway.
A review of this book, from the Chicago Tribune, can be found here.