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The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J. K. Rowling
(The Children’s High Level Group; December 4, 2008; $12.99)
Reviewed by Ócháni Lele

When first I stumbled across J. K. Rowling’s latest offering from the world of Harry Potter, I thought this would be a simple read, a delightful way to pass an uneventful afternoon, and then I’d be done with it. How wrong I was!

Behind every book is a “story behind the story,” a timeline of events leading up to the eventual publication of a single volume. Sometimes the stories are entertaining, almost eventful; and sometimes, they’re not. The story behind the publication of The Tales of Beedle the Bard is massive, and it took hours of research to unwind.

Reference to this collection of tales was made in the final novel of the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (published in 2007). As a plot device, Albus Dumbledore bequeathed the volume posthumously to Hermione Granger from his own personal library. In the story, it is an original, handwritten and handmade edition by the Beedle the Bard himself. As an important plot device in her novel, the volume is used to introduce the Deathly Hallows, the central theme of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. While some stories are mentioned briefly, the only tale unveiled completely in the seventh Harry Potter novel is the one titled “The Tale of the Three Brothers.”

After finishing work on the final Harry Potter novel, Rowling turned her pen to completing The Tales of Beedle the Bard. It was not a book meant for publication; it was a book meant as a “thank-you” from the author to the people most closely associated with the massive work behind the world of Harry Potter. Quickly, she created seven handmade copies of the volume with her own illustrations, and employed Hamilton & Inches of Edinburgh to add the final embellishments (leather bindings, semiprecious stones, and silver ornaments). Six copies were distributed to Barry Cunningham, Arthur Levine, and four other unidentified people. Rowling auctioned the seventh copy to raise money for her charity, “The Children’s Voice.”

When asked about the seven handmade books at the auction , Rowling was quoted as saying, “The idea came really because I wanted to thank six key people who have been very closely connected to the 'Harry Potter' series, and these were people for whom a piece of jewelry wasn't going to cut it. So I had the idea of writing them a book, a handwritten and illustrated book, just for these six people. And well, if I'm doing six I really have to do seven, and the seventh book will be for this cause, which is so close to my heart.” [See interview at]

The charity is one that Rowling created that “campaigns for child rights across Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe where over a million children and teenagers are growing up in institutions, often in unacceptable conditions.” The auction of the seventh handmade copy generated 3.98 million dollars; Rowling started the auction at $62,000 dollars, and had no expectation of such high bids. The proceeds from this book’s public sales go directly to that charity as well.

While meant to be a children’s book, as a fan of the Harry Potter universe and the series of books behind it, once I began reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard, I couldn’t stop until finishing the last page. Very quickly, I was able to believe that not only was I reading through a work translated from the original runes by Hermione Granger herself, but also notated by the late Professor Albus Dumbledore. It was total immersion.

For all those fans of Harry Potter and the series of novels, this is essential reading, especially if you enjoyed the last book in the series Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. For those with children, they are a wonderful collection of modern fairy tales teaching various morals, ethics, and virtues. And for those who are children at heart, it will give you an hour or two of pure bliss.

And by reading, one supports the work of a charity that helps a quarter of a million children every year. For that reason alone, this is a book worth adding to one’s private collection.

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by OchaniLele

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