Friday, March 2, 2012

Musings: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard
I haven't had a Harry Potter fix in quite some time!  I saw The Tales of Beedle the Bard in the library and immediately sighed with reminiscing about the glory of the Harry Potter series and quickly picked it up.  I devoured it over the course of little more than an hour, and am now once again left without a truly engaging, humorous and imaginative fantasy series to read.  Does anyone have any suggestions for other series similar to Harry Potter that I should look into?

The first thing I realized when I opened The Tales of Beedle the Bard was that it has been a very long time since I've read a Harry Potter book.  And I miss them.  I don't know that another series has appealed to me as fully as this one has, except for Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series (which, in my opinion, should get much more attention than it does), and part of the reason Harry Potter appealed to me so much was because it truly was a generational experience.  Really everyone who was around the early 2000s knows about Harry Potter and how we all waited with bated breath for each subsequent book or movie.  And I miss that collective excitement and wonder and discussion.

Based on that, I am not surprised that I found The Tales of Beedle the Bard woefully inadequate.  But let me explain.  The stories themselves were very engaging and interesting.  Professor Dumbeldore's notes and details and explanations were truly excellent.  J. K. Rowling's forward was great, too.  But there were only five stories and I can't help but think that Beedle the Bard must have had more in him and is just holding out on us all.  I wanted more!

One of the things about Trickster that frustrated me was that most of the stories included there showed women as passive objects.  So I was thrilled to open Beedle the Bard and see, right in Rowling's forward, that "Beedle's witches are much more active in seeking their fortunes than our fairy-tale heroines...[they] are all witches who take their fates into their own hands, rather than taking a prolonged nap or waiting for someone to return a lost shoe."  I loved Rowling for her creation of the fantastically geeky and wonderfully loyal Hermione Granger, and my literary girl crush continues with her determination here to show women in leading roles and choosing their own destinies.

I also really loved the stories.  I love folk tales of any sort, and Rowling created five that fit the mood, feel and general characteristics of these oral traditions that pass down generation to generation through the whole world.  I thought Rowling had great literary pitch in the narration of the stories, and I just wish there were more of them.

I also loved Dumbledore's commentary and the way he used the tales to make points about how people attempt to wash over historical fact, limit people's access to knowledge, and persist in ideologies of bigotry based on fear.  The stories really took on a whole new context once I read Dumbledore's notes, and I am glad that Rowling chose to include them in this small collection.

Really enjoyed this small book's ability to transport me back to to the world of Harry Potter.  I just wish that Beedle had written more tales for all of us to enjoy.

31 comments:

  1. Apparently Rowling is going into adult literature now so we shall soon know if the writing magic continues

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    1. Oh, really?! I didn't know that! I am looking forward to see what happens, but I don't envy her the pressure she must be under!

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  2. You could always reread Harry Potter! :D

    I recently read the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones. I don't think it was quite as good or expansive as the Harry Potter series, but it was similar in some ways.

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    1. Haha, yes, I could reread! I like DWJ, but haven't read the CHrestomanci series. I'll give it a try if I see it soon.

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  3. In terms of extreme imaginativeness, I'm fond of the Edgewood Chronicles (the first book is basically exposition, but they get really good after that).

    The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy is excellent, but not magic-oriented. Have you read A Series of Unfortunate Events? Books 1-9 are great, but it kind of lost it around book 10 (there're 13 total).

    Assuuuuming you've read Chronicles of Narnia. I started the Septimus Heap series and it seemed pretty good, but I was reading too many other things and abandoned it.

    Mmm Tales of Beedle the Bard, you are so awesome.

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    1. Ooh, I haven't heard of the Edgewood Chronicles - I will look those up! I also have tried to find the Mysterious Benedict Society many times in libraries, to no avail. I will keep trying! I don't really like the Lemony Snicket books. They are very repetitive to me.

      Thanks for all the suggestions!

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  4. Have it on the TBR shelf for a while now, waiting for its turn. I think a re-read of the full series is in order soon. Did the book capture the essence of an old fairy Tale book? When Hermione reads the story of the 3 brothers in the movies it really *feels* like a fairy tale.

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    1. Yes, I think there was a great fairy tale feel to the stories. Very old European-esque.

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  5. I am surprised that I haven't read this yet, based on how much I loved the Harry Potter series. It seems like it would be such a good fit for me, but I am also sad that it's short. I need to get this one right away and give it a try. It sounds like a great read, and I loved that you explored some of the deeper issues behind the stories in your review.

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    1. I think many people haven't read this one yet because they want to keep the magic alive! It took me a long time to read it, but I am glad I did. It was so evocative and made me remember why I love well-written fantasy so much.

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  6. What a great "complaint" to have about a book, that it's not longer, not more of what it already is. That's pretty sweet!

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  7. I've been subconsciously saving Beedle's tales. I'm not sure for what... probably for the day I desperately need a fresh, magical reading experience. I haven't been so desperate yet (with Beedle in the area), but eventually I'll break down and will succumb to Rowling's writing one final time... Your review makes me hope that day is sooner than later.

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    1. It's funny. I am doing the same thing!

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    2. That doesn't surprise me as I think MANY of us have done the same thing!

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  8. I've read these stories and remember enjoying them, but they definitely didn't have the same magic as the HP series. I've been re-reading (via audiobooks) the HP series for several years running - while I do my housework. I keep thinking this will be the time I take a break from them. Then I finish the last book and am heartbroken that it is all over - and reach for the first book once again.

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    1. Ooh, I haven't ever tried the series through audiobook...

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  9. Great review. I've been looking for a copy of this book for years, and still haven't had any luck. I think that excerpt you posted from the foreword just made me realize once again how completely amazing J.K. Rowling is. I can't wait to reread the Harry Potter series once I have more time.

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    1. I know, she's so great! I want to read more female-focused fairy tales like these. Ana told me about the Virago book of fairy tales, so I'm hoping to find a copy of that some time.

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  10. Have you read the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix?

    I also really really loved Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. Her Goosegirl books are supposed to be great, though I haven't read them.

    I don't know that there's anything really *like* Harry Potter (unfortunately!) but these books gave me similar feelings. (Along with some you have reviewed, like Howl's Moving Castle and Graceling/Fire [isn't it so hard when a book is so hyped it could never live up to your expectations?]).

    Tamora Pierce is also great, if you haven't read much by her.

    Also try Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, and now I'm just listing comfort books!

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    1. Wow, awesome! Thanks so much, Jessica. I know I have some book by Hale, but I don't remember which one or if I have read it already (eek!). I think it's a pretty short book, though. I haven't read Nix at all, so I will definitely look into that one.

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  11. You know, I never actually read this and I don't even own a copy. Which really surprises me! I think I just always wanted to keep something out there, waiting for me, for when I need to go back to Harry Potter and read something new, not just reread the old books. I know I'll read it one day, but for now I'm happy to let it wait.

    I'm really intrigued by everyone's recommendations (including your own!), so I'm going to go ahead and put them on my TBR. There are definitely series that I have loved, but I don't know if I loved them as much. There's one called So You Want to Be A Wizard... which has a delightfully cheesy title and the first book is VERY cheesy, but the books mature as the main characters get older and the author has a little more experience. I remember really loving them and I'd like to read them again.

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    1. I've never heard of that series! I love cheesy titles for fantasy myself :-) So I will look into that series, especially if it grows as you continue on with it.

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  12. I didn't expect to care much for this book -- in spite of the infinite love in my heart that I have for Harry Potter -- but oh gosh it sure did make me happy. Reading Dumbledore's commentary made me feel so awfully, awfully fond of him. DUMBLEDORE. Dumbledore just is the BEST.

    (I miss Harry Potter too! Ever so much. Those were good times, and I feel lucky forever that I was of a suitable age for that.)

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    1. I agree! Dumbledore was glorious. I wish he had been my mentor, too.

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  13. Sounds cute, I guess I should read it one day :)

    Sadly I do not have any recommendations for you :/

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    1. That's ok, I already have many epic fantasy recs from you!

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  14. I've resisted reading these because I thought there was just NO WAY they could be as charming or lovely as a full-blown chunky Harry Potter book. And they can't. But they can still be wonderful on their own. Thanks for the inspiration, Aarti! This might be a good plane book for an upcoming trip. :)

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    1. I think that would be an excellent place to read them! Really fun illustrations, too, though not many of them.

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  15. I've loved Lev Grossman's The Magicians and The Magician King. The first one was described as "adult Harry Potter" and "Harry Potter with sex" which led Grossman to write in a blog post that he wished someone would call it "dirty Harry." I still can't believe I missed that one.

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    1. Lev Grossman sounds like a fun guy ;-) I know that these books had a lot of hype when they came out, but I haven't read them. I'll add them to the list, too!

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