|"Are you a wizard or not?"
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- "However, a cunning charlatan with no magical power saw a chance of enriching himself."
- —The Charlatan's description[src]
The Charlatan was the male antagonist in Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump, a wizarding fairy tale written by Beedle the Bard and included in a collection of his stories known as The Tales of Beedle the Bard. In the story, he tricked a foolish King into thinking that the charlatan was a wizard, while he was just a mere Muggle who knew no magic at all. The King appointed him as Grand Sorcerer in Chief, the King's Private Magic Master, so he could teach him his "magic". The King was fooled until Babbitty made him confess that he was a fraud. He was then ordered to the dungeons.
Instructor of Magic
The King wanted to learn how to use magic, so he had proclamations read in every village across the country, looking for someone with magical abilities to teach him. No real wizards or witches responded, due to the King's earlier decree that all wizards and witches be hunted down and killed by the Brigade of Witch-Hunters. However, the cunning Charlatan pretended to be a wizard of enormous skill. He took the post as the King's Magic Master for purely selfish reasons of gaining money, rubies, a silver chalice and fame.
One day, while the King and the Charlatan were practicing waving their twigs and chanting meaningless rhymes, they heard Babbitty cackling hysterically from her cottage. This enraged the King, who demanded that the Charlatan perform in front of his subjects to show off his new abilities. The Charlatan attempted to back out by saying he had to go out of town, and could help him, but the King threatened to send the Brigade after him. And if he stayed, and anyone ridiculed the King, the Charlatan's head would be cut off.
Help from Babbitty
The Charlatan headed to Babbitty's house, from where she had been spying on the King and the Charlatan, and found out that she is a real witch. He demanded that she helped him, threatening that should she refuse, he would turn her in to the Brigade of Witch-Hunters. Babbitty agreed to help out the Charlatan. He told Babbitty that she would hide in the bush tomorrow, and do anything in her power to help in this charade.
The next day, with help of Babbitty, the King and the Charlatan performed their "magic". They astonished the crowd by making a hat disappear, levitating a horse, but when one of the brigade asked if the King can make his dead hound return to life, the King attempted in vain. Babbitty did nothing, because she knew no magic can raise the dead. The crowd laughed at the King, and the King wanted to know why the spell wasn't working. The Charlatan pointed to the bush, and said that a wicked witch was blocking them. Babbitty ran from the bush, and when the hounds chased after her she disappeared, leaving the dogs barking at a tree.
Discovery of his Trickery
- "…as he raised the axe the charlatan fell to his knees, screaming for mercy and confessing all his wickedness."
- —The Charlatan confesses When threatened[src]
The Charlatan told the crowd that Babbitty had turned into an tree, and that the tree must be cut down, because she is an "evil" witch. The tree was then cut down. As the crowd started to leave, they heard a cackling coming from the stump. Babbitty told the crowd that real witches and wizards cannot be cut in half, and that they should cut the "Grand Sorcerer" in two to prove it. Begging for mercy, the Charlatan then confessed that he was a fraud and was sent to the dungeons.
When the King called for wizards or witches to teach him magic, the Charlatan came to the palace claiming to be a gifted wizard with great talents. He performed a few simple tricks, presumably a form of sleight-of-hand, which convinced the King of the Charlatan's magical powers. From then on, the Charlatan pretended to teach the King "magic," despite not knowing any magic himself. In order to get "supplies" for the "magic lessons," he asked for treasures to finance this venture.
- "Cut her down, Your Majesty, that is the way to treat evil witches."
- —The Charlatan[src]
Babbitty was the king's washerwoman. She thought the Charlatan and King's "lessons" were ridiculous and laughed at the King, putting the Charlatan in great danger due to the King's rage. When the Charlatan came to see her, he blackmailed Babbitty to perform the King's spells for him without the King's knowledge, or else he would denounce her as a witch to the Brigade of Witch-Hunters. Babbitty agreed to help him. The following day, with help of Babbitty, the King and Charlatan pretended to perform "magic". But when one of the brigade asked if the King could bring his dead hound back to life, the King attempted to do so in vain. Babbitty did nothing to try to help.
Being a true witch, she knew it was useless to attempt to bring back the Dead. The crowd laughed at the King, and the enraged King asked the Charlatan why the "magic" was not working. The Charlatan betrayed Babbitty and pointed out the bush behind which Babbitty was hiding, claiming that an evil which was blocking the King's spells. Babbitty ran, and a chase began. The King's hounds chased Babbitty, until she "disappeared," while the dogs stood barking at a tree. The Charlatan convinced the King and the crowd that Babbitty had turned into an apple. He told the King to cut down the tree, for that was the way to treat evil witches. After the men eagerly cut down the tree, a loud cackling sound comes from the stump of the tree. Babbitty told the crowd that real wizards and witches cannot be cut in half. She suggested they cut the Charlatan in half to prove it. The terrified Charaltan admitted his trickery, and was sent to the dungeons.
Personality and traits
- "The charlatan bade the King give him a large sack of gold, so that he might purchase wands and other magical necessities"
- —The cunning Charlatan[src]
The Charlatan is very cunning man, capable of coming up with the idea to trick the King, and using the King and Babbitty to gain money and fame. He is also extremely greedy, asking the King for various precious treasures, including a silver chalice, rubies, and a large sack of gold. He betrayed Babbitty to the King to get out of his own troubles, proving his selfishness. His greed and schemes turned against him as Babbitty persuaded the King to slice him down to prove whether he is a wizard or not, which led to the Charlatan to confess in cowardice.
Behind the scenes
- In 1998, Ron Weasley mentioned being told the story of Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump by his mother when he was a child.
Notes and references