Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Books: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

"The Tales of Beedle the Bard" is a collection of five short stories from the "Harry Potter" universe; the proceeds go to author J.K. Rowling's charity, Lumos. These fairy tales range in tone from the Grimm ("The Warlock's Hairy Heart" has a particularly bloody ending) to the happy ("The Fountain of Fair Fortune"). The collection is easily finished in one sitting; the upside is that all five are short enough to be good bedtime stories.

Actually, I suspect Rowling likes to write these spin-off books. Most fantasy authors are locked in to huge, multi-volume epics with page counts measured in the thousands - it must be nice to write something without having to check whether it conflicts with some bit of continuity you generated five years and 3,000 pages ago. "Beedle the Bard," for instance, only has one firm link with the main "Potter" plot: "The Tale of the Three Brothers."

I've never read a single word of the main "Harry Potter" series, but I've enjoyed the various one-offs that J.K. Rowling has produced for charity over the years. Whatever your opinion of the ├╝ber-successful author or her work, you have to tip your hat to someone who has put pen to paper in order to help others (Rowling's previous "Potter" companion books, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and "Quidditch Through the Ages," earned millions for the charity Comic Relief). Because of the charitable hook, "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" earns a pass in spite of its brevity.

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