- The Tales of Beedle the Bard
The Tales of Beedle the Bard held the secret to the Deathly Hallows in the final book of the Harry Potter series; here the tales are retold in full, translated by Hermione Granger, with commentary from Albus Dumbledore, and introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling. This thorough interpenetration of the fictive and the metafictive is cleanly accomplished: Rowling’s formidable imagination produces stories that have the sleek lines of actual folktales, which are limned with sly humor, folk morality, and a sense of the macabre, and well integrated into the wizarding world that she created in the series proper. Dumbledore’s commentary is precisely what you would expect and wish; in his unmistakably professorial voice—gentle and scholarly with occasional bites of sarcasm and worldly wit—he combines personal associations and memories with history, lore, ideological context, and even a jab at the attempts of certain protective authors who have foolishly tried to sanitize dark stories for the consumption of children. The tales themselves are suitable for reading aloud to early elementary school children not yet ready to tackle the entire series on their own; the commentary would serve as a teachable introduction for older students to the kinds of essays and topics one might take up in writing about stories. Thus this is a text that straddles the lines between the casual reader and the literary critic/historian, between the child just entering the world of Harry Potter and the readers who have grown up with the series and are looking to re-enter the world and begin what promises to be an extended process of filling in gaps and fleshing out complexities.