Though I haven’t always been entirely enamored of your prose, and have sometimes wished for stricter editing in the Harry Potter universe, I’m still a delighted fan of the series. As such, it was only a matter of time before I got my hands on a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. I’m glad I finally did! Though infinitely shorter than your other books (I whipped through it in half an hour or so), it was entirely entertaining. The tales had all the whimsy of your Wizarding world with the same patterned backbone of Muggle fairy and folk stories, and Dumbledore’s commentary and analysis of each made me feel like a Hogwarts student, reading for class. I mean that in a completely enjoyable way–I’m very fond of literary analysis. The metafictive quality of this little volume was deeply pleasing, the illustrations were quite cute, and all in all it’s a great little addition to the Harry Potter universe. My only complaint is that seven pages of your introduction, in such a small book, felt like too much, and had a slightly contrived aftertaste to it.
In spite of my enthusiasm for this little book, I am interested in the reaction of pre-teen girls I overheard in the store just a few days ago:
“Have you read Beedle the Bard?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Don’t. It SUCKED.”
“Yeah, so-and-so read it and she said it sucked.”
“It’s, like, the worst book EVER WRITTEN.”
Now I’m forced to consider that perhaps I find this title funny and clever because I’ve taken college and graduate courses, and I’ve read many of the kind of academic literary theory and analysis that I think Rowling is parodying. The genius of Harry Potter is the wizarding take on ordinary things that we Muggles are all familiar with–maybe theoretical analysis of folk stories is not something the usual HP audience has had enough experience with to make it as funny as I thought it was.
Still, I’m standing by my rating of four stars, though a younger audience may not agree!