Rowling as Storyteller-Not Novelist

The Tales of Beedle the BardThe Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised, finally sitting down with Rowling’s extra-textual contrbution to the Wizarding World (before Pottermore, that is), to discover an absolute gem. Though very short, just 5 tales plus notes, as an offering of wizarding world folktales ostensibly documented by a 17th century wizard, then translated by Hermione Granger and annotated with exegetical notes by Albus Dumbledore, ‘Tales from Beedle the Bard’ is Rowling’s commentary on a midrash of her own scripture. And this concise wizarding midrash confirms what I’ve long felt–that it is character and world-building, rather than narrative, which Rowling does best. In five short tales, Rowling introduces and expands new wizarding histories, philosophies, and personalities with precision and simplicity– qualities often lost in the inflated latter texts of the Harry Potter series. But just as compelling and enjoyable are the way she employs Dumbledore as interpeter and apologist for the origins and meanings of how these (fictional) stories of communal memory have formed wizarding identity. (I was also very appreciative to finally receive an explanation of what the term ‘warlock’ means in a reality where ‘witch’ and ‘wizard’ appear to denote gender rather than craft). If the creativity, ambiguity, and organic quality of these tales and their imagined commentary are any indication of what Rowling’s non-Potter/Hogwarts wizarding world narratives such as the upcoming ‘Fantastic Beasts’ film and ‘Cursed Child’ stage drama will be like, then I am ready to be impressed.

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Posted on Sat, Jan 9th, 2016 at 1:54 pm
Filed under Books, intertextuality, Pop Culture.

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