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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

J K Rowling on Children's Illustrations

Three Witches and a Knight explore an enchanted garden in
"The Fountain of Fair Fortune."

While watching "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" recently, I was struck by "The Tale of the Three Brothers," a fairy tale which the characters in the movie tell Harry at one point. Like Harry, my Muggle upbringing prevented me from reading the stories most magical parents read to their children. Unlike Harry, I lack a wand, as well as the magical capability to wield it. Nevertheless, the way the filmmakers brought "The Tale of Three Brothers" to life through dialogue and images, made me want to read it. Then I realized I had purchased The Tales of Beedle the Bard some time ago, and until now it had been languishing on my bookshelf.

Thankfully, it's not one of those books that behave like monsters, and attempt to bite your hand when you pick it up. Nor did it seem irritated with me, and scold me for ignoring it for so long. So I was charmed as I read "The Tale of the Three Brothers," as well as the other four stories in this slim volume. I found it interesting to read fifteenth century stories whose popularity had ensured not just their survival, but their relevance for contemporary readers. Beedle's writing harkened me back to the Medieval era, when Muggles had reasons to fear magic, as there was no Ministry of Magic to police witches and wizards properly, and warn them of the dangers of indulging in the darker arts. For as J. K. Rowling points out in her Introduction, Magic (regardless of its power or effectiveness) doesn't solve problems. Magic is just another tool that (some) Humans use to solve problems. Unfortunately, time proves most of our decisions wrong, and we often find ourselves working hard to manage or correct problems our choices and actions have created.

In addition to Beedle's prose, Professor Albus Dumbledore also gives us his thoughts on each story. He tells us which ones he enjoyed most, and suggests how each fairy tale may have differed from reality. He explains the reasons why some of these stories may have changed throughout the centuries to address new situations. His commentary provides insight into a world Muggles like me can only dream of inhabiting.

While I enjoyed reading this slim volume, I was shocked to discover that J. K. Rowling actually drew the illustrations. I do a little drawing now and then, and when I'm working on a story, drawing the characters and the setting help me better visualize a scene. Hopefully, this helps me to better convey it through words. Unlike my drawings, J. K. Rowlings illustrations are actually good. It's no wonder her Harry Potter novels have proven so popular, given her ability to visualize scenes through her sketching. Her work inspires me to devote more time to my own drawing, which was the last thing I expected when I picked up this slim volume.

There are lots of reason why you should buy this book. If you love Grimm's Fairy Tales, you'll appreciate the differences in the stories collected within this magical volume. If you've always wanted to read the Harry Potter novels, but worried about committing yourself to seven books, you can start here. If, like me, you'd simply like another glimpse into J.K. Rowling's magical world, this slim volume can provide that for you. But there's a better reason than all of those to pick up The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and that's because proceeds from the book go to fund Lumos, a charity that provides educational, medical, and social benefits to disadvantaged children across Europe. Buying this book will help institutionalized children find loving families, and better prepare them for adulthood. Plus, as I said, it's a safe magical book: it won't bite the hand that buys it, or shriek at you for not reading it sooner. For me, that makes buying The Tales of Beedle the Bard a Win/Win situation for everyone. But then, maybe I'm not seeing the whole picture. After all, I'm only a Muggle.

Dragon Dave

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