December 7, 2008

Full-immersion fiction

One of the great advantages of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is its richly imagined wizarding society, which exists parallel to but hidden from our own.

Rowling's new book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, is the real-world version of the book that guided the heroes through the final installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

At first glance, it seems that what Rowling has done in Beedle is to take the stories out of the story, and put them in their own setting.

It is ingeniously done. Each of the five tales reads just like an old fairy tale. Except, of course, that in these stories, the witches and wizards are rarely the villains. They are the heroes.

Following each tale is a "commentary by Albus Dumbledore," and the text is indeed imbued with his character, such as his observation "…clever as I am, I remain just as big a fool as anyone else."

For fans of the series, these commentaries in Dumbledore's own voice are like a visit with an old friend. Perhaps it is more accurate to say they are like finding the old letters of a deceased relative. They are what gives the book much of its charm.

For those unfamiliar with Harry Potter, this book will not be meaningless, because each of the tales functions as a morality play in its own right.

But for the rest of us, The Tales of Beedle the Bard conjures a precious spell indeed, because it offers the opportunity, for a few moments, to forget you're a Muggle and pretend these stories are a familiar part of your cultural lore.

1 comment:

  1. I've been dying for Hogwarts: A History to be published ever since she wrote up those two text books as a charity project. Hopfully the Tales of Beedle the Bard will not be the last of the books referenced in Harry Potter that we see published.