Slim chance of recapturing the Potter magic
SINCE J. K. Rowling completed the Harry Potter series, publishers have been desperately searching for the holy grail: a children’s author who can match the stratospheric sales of Rowling’s wizarding novels. Everyone from virtual unknowns to Mormon housewife turned publishing sensation Stephenie Meyer has been hailed as the next Rowling, even though the extraordinary appeal of the bespectacled boy on a broomstick is probably a once-in-a-century phenomenon.
Rowling’s seven Harry Potter books sold more than 9.5 million copies in Australia and upwards of 400 million worldwide, proving that
be children’s fiction reckoned with.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is Rowling’s first book since the release last year of the final instalment in the Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Does she still have the magic touch? Only just. At 108 pages, The Tales is disconcertingly slight ( Deathly Hallows was a hefty 605 pages). Moreover, the new book’s stories are padded out with annotations by Professor Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts.
While these scholarly notes — discussing the stories’ themes and historical context — are well written, I often found them irritating, a preachy intrusion on the tales.
The tales are attributed to Beedle, an invented 15th-century bard.
Yet Rowling’s book is an outgrowth from her blockbuster fantasy series: it’s at once a stand- alone collection of morality tales and a work swimming with Potter references.
As Potter fans will remember, the tales were originally left to Harry’s friend Hermione by Dumbledore in the final Potter novel. Within them are clues that helped Harry defeat his nemesis, the evil Lord Voldemort.
One of Beedle’s stories, The Tale of the Three Brothers — essentially about the folly of trying to cheat death — was recounted in Deathly Hallows , and in his notes Dumbledore explains how Beedle’s tales were attacked for being preoccupied with horrid subjects. Here, Rowling is having a sly dig at those who criticised her