The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of stories written for young wizards and witches, published by Chelf Press. They were popular bedtime stories for centuries, with the result that The Wizard and the Hopping Pot and The Fountain of Fair Fortune were as familiar to many of the students at Hogwarts as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are to various Muggle children.
Beedle's stories resemble Muggle fairy tales in many respects; for instance, virtue is usually rewarded and wickedness punished. However, there is one very obvious difference. In Muggle fairy tales, magic tends to lie at the root of the hero or heroine's troubles - the wicked witch has poisoned the apple, put the princess into a hundred years' sleep or turned the prince into a hideous beast.
In The Tales of Beedle the Bard, on the other hand, we meet heroes and heroines who can perform magic themselves, and yet find it just as hard to solve their problems as the Muggle heroes do. Beedle's stories have helped generations of wizarding parents to explain this painful fact of life to their young children: that magic causes as much trouble as it cures.
Another notable difference between these fables and their Muggle counterparts is that Beedle's witches are much more active in seeking their fortunes than our fairy-tale heroines. Asha, Altheda, Amata and Babbitty Rabbitty are all witches who take their fate into their own hands, rather than a prolonged nap or waiting for someone to return a lost shoe. The exception to this rule - the unnamed maiden of 'The Warlock's Hairy Heart' - acts more like a Muggle's idea of a storybook princess, but there is no happily ever after at the end of her tale.
Most of these tales (with the exception of The Warlock's Hairy Heart) have been rewritten by Beatrix Bloxam and compiled into her book The Toadstool Tales; which has since been banned since it had a tendency to induce nausea and vomiting in the children who read, or had to listen to, them.
The Tale of the Three Brothers
One story by Beedle is "The Tale of the Three Brothers". This story was about brothers who meet Death on the road and avoid his clutches; each in turn receives a gift from him, although Death attempts to twist each boon into a bane.
In 1998, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley came to hear the legend. The three brothers were Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus Peverell. They came to a river which was too deep to wade across, and built a bridge using magic. Death appeared to congratulate them for their ingenuity, and offered them rewards (or so he said; his real intent was to give them traps which would be their undoing, because he felt cheated by their survival.) Antioch asked for a weapon that would always win any battle, a weapon worthy of one who had cheated Death. Death snapped a twig off an elder tree and gave it to him — the Elder Wand. Cadmus asked for something to give him power over Death, for he had lost his loved one before this encounter. It was also an attempt to humiliate Death. Death gave him a river stone, which, by the terms of the deal, became the Resurrection Stone. Ignotus, however, did not trust Death, and asked for something that would allow him to avoid Death. Death was trapped by his words, and handed over his own Cloak of Invisibility. The brothers continued on and went their separate ways.
Time passed. Antioch provoked a duel with a wizard he disliked, left him for dead, and afterwards boasted of his unbeatable wand. He was killed that very night by someone who had heard his boasting, and wanted the wand. Cadmus found misery when he brought his former lover back to life with the Resurrection Stone and learned she had been happier dead, ultimately committing suicide in order to truly join her. Ignotus hid from Death his entire life using the cloak until he finally reached a ripe old age, and he gave the cloak to his son. He and Death finally "met as old friends," and departed as equals.
The items mentioned in the "tale" became legendary artefacts known together as the Deathly Hallows. If joined together, they would make the wielder extremely powerful, the "Master of Death." (Dumbledore later states that the true Master of Death is one who accepts that it is inevitable, in much the same way Ignotus did. Dumbledore is also the one to reveal finally that the three brothers were the Peverells, though he believes that the tale of how they received the items is a fabrication which would naturally appear around such powerful items, whereas the Peverells simply created the items.)
Lord Voldemort sought the Elder Wand because he believed it would allow him to defeat Harry Potter. However, it was Harry himself who temporarily became the Master of Death, when he ultimately united all three artefacts.
Other tales include:
- "The Fountain of Fair Fortune"
- "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot"
- "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump"
- "The Warlock's Hairy Heart"
Behind the scenes
- Antioch is also the name of the ancient town (in Phrygia, now southern Turkey) where the disciples of Jesus Christ were first dubbed "Christians".
- Cadmus was also the name of the legendary Greek founder of Thebes. He introduced the alphabet to the Greeks.
- Harry is surprised that Ron has heard of the book while Hermione has not; Hermione has to remind Ron that she and Harry were both raised by Muggles.
- The Warlock's Hairy Heart is the darkest of the five stories within the book, and the only one that has not been censored from its original gruesome version.
- A real version was written by J. K. Rowling and seven copies were produced on the 1st of November 2007 - a copy for herself, five for her close friends, and one copy being auctioned for charity. A mainstream edition was published for the general public on the 4th December 2008, with all proceeds going to charity.
- Unlike her other spin-off works which were written under the name of one of the characters in the book, Rowling writes an in-universe introduction to the book (which ostensibly has been edited and translated by Hermione Granger). As such she establishes that J. K. Rowling also exists in the Potter universe.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the book did not appear to be written in ancient runes because when Hermione shows Harry the symbol of the Deathly Hallows on the introductory page of the book, the title and other information were shown to be in English.
- In the iPad app for Harry Potter Film Wizardry, there is a behind the scenes look at Hermione's copy which shows that the book was in fact written in runes.
Notes and references