Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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


*** WARNING: Spoiler Alert! ***

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but somehow this brief collection of fairy tales from the wizarding world fell short.

The first three stories kind of bothered me because I wasn't fond of the messages they sent. In "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot", it seemed like the wizard only decided to help others out of fear of being punished if he didn't - not exactly the type of motivation we generally want to instill in children. In "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" (which reminded me of The Wizard of Oz), I didn't understand why Sir Luckless was considered worthy of Amata's hand and heart - he tagged along accidentally and practically against his will (he first tried to back out), and he didn't do a single useful thing along the way. Seems to me like Amata could have done a lot better. And then, in "The Warlock's Hairy Heart", the literally heartless warlock actually had a change of heart for a woman's sake, but instead of allowing for a happy ending, the warlock was doomed to pay the ultimate price for his youthful folly - the message being that even if you want to change for the better, you can't.

After those three stories, I took a step back and reminded myself that these are supposed to be fairy tales, and not fables. I mean, what's the worthy message in stories like Sleeping Beauty, anyway?! So I shouldn't be so hard on them. But then, in Dumbledore's notes on "The Tale of the Three Brothers", he clearly discusses a moral - so then, maybe it's not wrong to look for the moral in each story? Then again, I reminded myself that there are fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty that seem to have entertainment value only, and then there are stories like The Three Little Pigs, which does have a moral. So... maybe I should just stop over-analyzing these made-up fairy tales!

The best parts of the book, actually, were Dumbledore's notes. While the fairy tales themselves were only so-so, Dumbledore provided some context and background for each story, and his commentary was usually better than the story itself.

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