Tales of Beedle the Bard Failed to Charm Me

tales of beedle the bardOh boy- I had mixed feelings about this one. I mean, I didn’t hate it, so there’s that. I think this just exemplified why I rarely read Rowling’s newer, spinoff stuff. Because while there were some things I did like, they were few and far between.

I’ll admit, I only have myself to blame for picking it up in the first place, because I know that I’m unlikely to enjoy an unnecessary expansion of the Potterverse. BUT it’s always the setup and the fact it’s part of the wizarding world that draws me to it in the first place- which is a bit of a catch 22. In fact, the setup and references to Hermione and Dumby were some of the things I actually liked.

The thing is though, the only story I genuinely enjoyed was The Tale of the Three Brothers– possibly because it’s a carbon copy of the medieval tale and because it already worked so well in Deathly Hallows. But other than that, none of the tales lit a spark under my cauldron. The Wizard and the Hopping Pot felt juvenile and obvious. I could also hardly be disarmed by how overly moralistic and facile The Fountain of Fair Fortune was. Babbity Rabbit was alright, but in some ways it felt like a bad version of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

I particularly hated The Warlock’s Hairy Heartit was like all the worst bits of the Voldemort backstory (the ones I had such huge issues with) were distilled into a disappointing potion worthy of Neville Longbottom. The focus on the villain that can’t love has always left a bitter taste in my mouth- and this was no exception. I wish Rowling hadn’t pinned her sails to that mast- especially since it ended up being a not-so-great inversion of the Beauty and the Beast story. Instead of showing that there’s a way back for someone who is lacking a heart, this story suggests there’s *no redemption*- which I just can’t get behind.

Now I’m all for retellings, even ones like Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber collection that subvert or challenge the originals. However, I kind of object to the angle that Rowling went with here. In her introduction, it’s described how these tales would be used as a criticism of all passive female characters and we’re told that any inactive or bad character will be punished. I have problems with that on two counts:

1) I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to damn all passivity and suggest that any character in a situation where they’re victimised is necessarily doing something wrong. Take Cinderella for instance- too often she’s condemned for just accepting her lot- but as a great youtube video pointed out, couldn’t her attempts to go to the ball be seen as her seeking agency from her abusive family? This view of female heroines being too passive can often be reductive and unproductive when exploring some of the more complex themes in fairy tales. Isn’t there a reason we’re still drawn to these stories? I’m reluctant to view see everyone who enjoys fairy tales as being in some sort of mini-masochistic trance. Fairy tales are a bit more complicated than they’re often given credit for– which leads me onto…

2) Being *told* how to interpret the tales takes the sting out of them– there’s no room to puzzle out the meaning, it’s just there. Which is why I felt the tales didn’t come across as nearly as complex as they were perhaps intended to be. Especially since most of them had the same “peace and love” message (not a bad message, but actual fables are usually a) a bit deeper and b) have some more diverse themes). For me, this ultimately failed as a critique of fairy tales- they were just far too simplistic and didn’t offer nearly as much depth.

And yes, I recognise that these are for children– yet as a child, I don’t imagine I’d have been especially interested in a mostly bland collection that’s somewhat patronising in its obvious messaging. Especially when it made out like some of them would be too dark for children in the notes- which was blatantly not true on the most part.

The thing I should cut it slack for is that it was for charity- which is why I almost feel bad for tearing it apart. Almost. Unfortunately it being for a worthy cause doesn’t mean it was actually a good collection.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Phew- lots of mini rants there! So have you read these? Have you planned to? Let me know in the comments!

29 thoughts on “Tales of Beedle the Bard Failed to Charm Me

  1. I’ve had this pretty book sitting around for months now. I haven’t had a chance to read it as yet. Maybe I’ll just use them as bedtime stories for my kids. Lol. They’re all under 8 so the themes might be just fine for them 😉

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  2. Haha…sometimes it’s very good to rant. And it does sound that this isn’t really worth the read. It’s certainly not a book I would be interested in any way. Shame it wasn’t any better though 😢

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  3. That’s certainly an interesting introduction to have the author actually straight-up saying its what its a criticism of and that certain characters will be punished. That would (and does) put me off immediately in all honesty. I appreciate the review charity or not its good to know what you thought 🙂

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  4. Oh wow, I remember picking this one up months ago, reading it, and wanting to throw it at the wall! I couldn’t believe Rowling wrote these stories. It’s really tricky with the post Potter stuff, because the Bard was an important part of one of the books, but I guess it set itself up for an almighty fall if it wasn’t up to usual standard, and then it was for charity, so? You made some great points!

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  5. I read this years ago, didn’t even remember the tales LOL, but I think it was an okay read for me! This is a great and honest review!!

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  6. Honestly, I’ve never been interested in anything in the Harry Potter universe being the original books… and I love those books immensely. Despite the joy the Potterverse gives me I wonder if the spin off stuff simply reveals the way the original story was a sort of protean inspiration, and that anything else is clearly built to fit, rather than being part of the lore, as it were.

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  7. The fact that you ranted shows how genuine and passionate you feel about the wizarding world and all the books, etc. I haven’t read any of the other books by Rowling that aren’t the Harry Potter ones, I don’t really know why, but I like that she’s keeping it alive with all the other stories.

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  8. I have read them (in fact we own the collectors’ edition) but apart from the tale of the three brothers that tied directly to the books the rest failed to impress me. I am also sceptical of the attempted expansion of potterverse, one should know when enough is enough. Unfortunately this is the norm for successful series.

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  9. You pointed really valid arguments here. And yes it’s easy to condemn someone for his passivity but as long as you haven’t walked in their shoes you should not judge. Confession: I won this book for years now but haven’t read it so far and now don’t know if I should!

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  10. Oh I’m so sorry this wasn’t one you enjoyed. I love the Harry Potter series but actually never got around to reading Tales of Beedle the Bard (I recently brought the illustrated editions so i will be getting around to it sooner rather than later (I hope)). I suppose on one hand at least you enjoyed one story, but in a way it kind of sucks that it was the one we already knew from the seventh book. I dunno if it’s just me but if you’re going to expand and add new stories you kind of want the ones you haven’t read to be better right?
    Still great review for this book, and like you said at least it was for charity, that’s something. 🙂 ❤

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  11. Definitely an issue I’d have to when an author spells it out for you and leaves no opportunity to truly reflect on it and draw our own conclusions. Can’t blame you for wanting to read this too. I have a hard time steering away from spin-offs of things that I enjoyed too hahahah Great honest review! 😉

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  12. I’ve been having doubts if I should read this one, as I’ve also come to learn that I don’t really like all that spinoff stuff by her. But somehow I feel compelled to read every thing she writes even if I know up front that I won’t like it! 😂 LOL! At least now I’m forewarned. Thanks! 😉💕

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  13. I have zero interest in reading this, so good to know I’m not missing anything! I’m not keen on morals being pushed at me (even if I might agree with the overall message). Also, nice Angela Carter reference – I’ve enjoyed a few of her novels but not heard of the one you mentioned 😊

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  14. I didn’t enjoy the stories apart from The Three Brothers when I was in junior high. To this day, I haven’t liked the rest of the story collection. I think I’m at a point where I want more Wizarding World (with much less connection to Dumbledore, Voldemort, and Harry), but I’m not confident in its execution, judging by the current spinoffs.

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