J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard should come with a consumer warning label: ”May disappoint if read with great expectations.” This 107-page supplement to the now-?complete Harry Potter saga doesn’t give you what you most want it to — namely, Harry Potter. Nor does it do what it probably needed to do — provide a cathartic coda that helps Potterphiles properly grieve the phenomenon’s passing. Some people think that’s why God invented Twilight, but really, kids: just not the same.
Not that Beedle the Bard is significantly better, though it could have been. The book — proceeds from which will benefit a European children’s philanthropy — is a typeset, mass-merchandised widgeting of a hand-written, hand-drawn gift created by Rowling for six close associates. (See page 66.) A seventh edition was auctioned for charity. It purports to be a scholarly tome (”translated from the ancient runes by Hermione Granger”; commentaries by the late Professor Dumbledore) concerning a clutch of moralistic bedtime stories ? attributed to the titular scribe. ”The Wizard and the Hopping Pot” is a charmer about social responsibility. ”The Tale of the Three Brothers,” which appeared? in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, tracks the ?consequences of cheating Death and has the requisite mythical heft. ”The Warlock’s Hairy Heart” mustn’t? be spoiled with a word of summary.
Dumbledore’s witty, richly imagined analysis permits Rowling to vent her spleen on various pet issues:? censorship, intolerance, condescending children’s lit. Rowling also interjects some choice barbs in her own voice; in the foreword, she asks us to note the absence of passive, hapless sleeping beauties needing knightly rescue. How do you like that apple, Bella Swan? Still, while this small book is long on cleverness, it is short on charm. It’s a shame Scholastic couldn’t ?replicate the handcrafted edition Rowling made for her friends. If it had, Beedle the Bard could have ? been a real gift for fans. B