Last night, I finished reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard, the latest book from J.K. Rowling. Having finished reading her seventh and final installment of Harry Potter last year, I wasn't sure what to make of this newest addition to my collection. I love Harry Potter, and will always hold a special place in my personal library for those books. My trepidation about Beedle was not the tales themselves, but whether Harry Potter would be continually written about, ad nauseam. As Jenn pointed out, there's such a thing as too much of a good thing. As soon as I started reading the book, though, I knew I was in for a treat. I pride myself on the fact that I had already read the first three books in the Harry Potter series by the time the first book became explosively popular, and like some black-lipsticked emo kid who's been into that one band from the very beginning, I bring this up as often as possible. Years ago, I read somewhere (I forget where I read it) that J.K. Rowling said that she could have full encyclopedia volumes written about each of her characters. The Tales of Beedle the Bard are all the proof I need to believe that.

I'm drawing my own conclusions here, but my take on the tales is not so much that they're newly written, by any means. Rather, it's like Rowling has had these tales in her head, or in some written form, for years, and finally got around to editing and publishing them. The tales are whimsical, creative, and reminiscent of many children's tales with which at least most of us are familiar. A good fairy tale does not need length, nor does it need great detail. All it needs is a simple plot, perhaps a moral, interesting characters, and the ability for the listener/reader to let his imagination run free. And Rowling definitely delivers.

After each tale, Rowling included notes from none other than Dumbledore. The notes are more like standard literary criticism than anything, and they're full of detail. They further prove to me that not only is Rowling a shrewd and creative storyteller; she has a wonderfully observant eye regarding human nature and human history. You don't have to look too far to see a variety of social commentaries. Despite Beedle's short length (it's barely over 100 pages), I've been delighted by how thought-provoking is each tale and its subsequent notes.

On a tangential note, when I went to Amazon to snag the link for the book, I decided to scroll down and read some of the customer reviews. They're always fun, perhaps less so for the content, and more so for the angry reviews that showcase incredibly poor grammar and spelling which always seem to slam an author for being "bad at writing."

The reviews for Beedle are many, but there are certain consistencies between them. There's the ones from the emo-style Harry Potter fans, who lavish praise on the book in five-paragraph essay form. Then there's the ones that are crushed that there's only five stories and they're not nearly as complex as Harry Potter (um, DUH, they're just simple tales). Just for kicks, here's two of my favorite reviews:

The Morality of Harry Potter by Charles E. Stevens

For me, the stories themselves are not the highlight of this short volume. Indeed, Rowling's wit and attention seem more focused on the commentaries than on the actual stories, which are a little too short, predictable, and simplistic to represent the artistry which Rowling is capable of. Instead, it was the commentaries which made me miss the world of Harry Potter, as it was here where the humor, irony, and subtle complexity of that universe shines through.

As Rowling makes fully clear in the introduction, these tales are about morality, just as "Muggle" fairy tales are. As Rowling notes, the only major difference is that the balance between free will and fate is tilted more toward the former. In these tales, she returns to themes familiar to readers of the Harry Potter series--generosity, self-reliance, love, and the irreversibility of death (and its corollary: the irreplaceable value of life). This insight into the moral universe of the world of Harry Potter is nothing new, but ultimately it is this moral background that gives the Harry Potter series its appeal to readers of all ages. For fans of the series, The Tales of Beedle the Bard will be a solid if not spectacular add to your bookshelf.

Cool, cool. And then there's this next one, which is considerably shorter and, of course, written by an emo kid who obviously doesn't believe in fairies.

Very childish, Dumbledore notes are boring too!! by "Gaby"

I found this book to be a disappontment, it is absolutely childish and Dumbledore note are boring boring boring

To which I reply, YOU'RE boring. But hey, way to come up with a title that actually said the same thing as your review, but with fewer words and better grammar. You're going to go far in life, I can tell.