Slim chance of re­cap­tur­ing the Pot­ter magic

Rose­mary Neill

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Feature -

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

is

a

mar­ket

force

to

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

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