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Literature / The Tales of Beedle the Bard

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A collection of Fairy Tales that exist in the world of Harry Potter and which describe the eponymous plot devices of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. After Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling gave Beedle The Bard the Defictionalization treatment. Published in 2008.

The tales are as follows:

  • "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" — A nice old wizard helps his Muggle neighbors with his magic pot. After his death, his decidedly less nice son decides to help no one and the pot treats him to some karma.
  • "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" — Three witches and a Muggle knight overcome Threshold Guardians to reach a magical fountain.
  • "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" — A young rich warlock fancies himself attuned to the fact that Love Hurts and cuts out his heart to save himself the hassle. Then he finds out that everyone thinks he's a loser for not having a girl and sets out to bag himself a trophy wife. This does not end well.
  • "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump" — A Muggle king decides to eliminate wizards and learn magic himself, unaware that it does not work that way. He asks for an instructor in magic and only a fraud responds since real wizards were not born yesterday. Then the fraud encounters a real witch...
  • "The Tale of the Three Brothers" — The One With… the Deathly Hallows. Three brothers literally cheat Death, who in turn offers to grant them wishes with the intention of being a Jackass Genie. Youngest Child Wins.

The tales are interspersed with commentary by Albus Dumbledore. J.K. Rowling herself said that The Pardoner's Tale may have provided inspiration for "The Tale of the Three Brothers". Said Tale was adapted as an independent short film in 2014 with J.K. Rowling's permission.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Heroism: In-universe, anti-Muggle wizards rewrote "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" so that the mean, Muggle-hating young wizard becomes a nice wizard being persecuted by his magic-hating Muggle neighbors.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Likewise, the innocent Muggles who just wanted help for their problems get turned into a torch-and-pitchfork-bearing mob who want to kill the wizard for doing magic, and promptly get eaten by the hopping pot.
  • Aesop Enforcer: The hopping pot is this for the young wizard who inherits it.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" states that many witches were attracted by the warlock's "haughty mien" and fantasized about conquering it. It may also be a Take That! at the Draco in Leather Pants crowd, which Rowling has complained about before. invoked
    • Subverted with Amata, who finally realizes that she's better off without her boyfriend.
  • Alliterative Title: The story, "The Fountain of Fair Fortune"
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Dumbledore's commentary occasionally treads into this territory.
  • Anvilicious: Invoked. The Tales of Beedle the Bard were essentially the wizarding equivalents of Aesop's Fables.
  • Artistic License: In-universe, Dumbledore chalks up the fact that Babbity Rabbity was able to talk in her animagus form as a case of this trope.
  • Asshole Victim: Loxias, a wizard who at one point had the Elder Wand, according to Dumbledore's notes on The Three Brothers. Several people, including his own mother, claimed to have killed him.
  • Ban on Magic: The Muggle king from "Babbity Rabbity" imposes one, with the sole exceptions being himself and his "teacher" of magic.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Tale of the Three Brothers and The Warlock's Hairy Heart.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: You can guess from the title of "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" what happens when the warlock in question removes his heart from its usual place in an attempt to keep himself from falling in love.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Some of the French characters' names, like Lapin (Rabbit) and Pensées-Profondes (Deep Thoughts).
  • Bowdlerize: Beatrix Bloxam was a witch who rewrote several wizarding stories into sappy, infantile versions without all the objectionable parts. Naturally, wizarding children hated them.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Warlock's Hairy Heart compared to the other stories in the book. Lampshaded in Dumbledore's commentary.
  • Death of a Child: Implied outside the fairy tales, Dumbledore all but states that if a medieval witch hunt caught a real witch (as opposed to a muggle false-positive) chances are the victim was not an experienced and trained adult...
  • Didn't Think This Through: So the Muggle king from "Babbity Rabbity" sets out to persecute magic users, and then asks for someone to teach him magic? Did he really think a real wizard would come forward under those circumstances?
  • Direct Line to the Author: This book is supposedly a transcription from Hermione's copy in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It includes a translation from the original runes made by Hermione, accompanied by a set of notes on the tales written by Albus Dumbledore, with J. K. Rowling only adding a foreword and some notes for us Muggles' benefit. It also refers to the aforementioned novel as the "seventh book of the biography of Harry Potter", making those books Recursive Canon.
  • Disneyfication: Spoofed: In one of Dumbledore's commentaries he describes how a Beatrix Bloxam republished Beedle's tales, taking them to ridiculous heights of Tasting Like Diabetes - her wizarding card in one of the video games even says her book was banned for inducing vomiting. He later explains that this happened after she was horrified as a child by "The Warlock's Hairy Heart", which incidentally she was never able to "sweeten" to her satisfaction. All this, and the fact that kids hated the Bloxam versions, might very well be a Take That! against the many real-life Moral Guardians who worried that Harry Potter was traumatizing children.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: The moral of the final story. The youngest brother is the only one of the three who learns this.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: In-Universe. After all her regrets from her time with her lover are gone, Amata realizes he was actually a Jerkass and is glad to be rid of him.
  • Driven to Suicide: The middle of the three brothers, when he finds out that the Resurrection Stone can't truly bring his One True Love Back from the Dead.
  • Epic Fail: The attempt at Hogwarts to put on a production of "The Fountain of Fair Fortune." The In-Universe Romance on the Set mentioned below led to a fierce duel between two of the actresses while an ashwinder was busy setting the place on fire. No further attempts at stage productions have been made at Hogwarts since. The professor in charge of the play became a full-time playwriter after that, but never attempted to do that story again, thinking it was cursed.
  • Fair for Its Day: "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" and "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" were controversial in-universe, especially at the time they were published, for their positive depictions of wizards helping and marrying Muggles, respectively.
  • Fake Wizardry: The con artist that Babbitty deals with.
  • Fantastic Aesop: What this book comprises.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The three brothers, or more precisely Death's gifts to them, fall under each of the three archetypes: The Elder Wand, being unbeatable and giving its owner lots of raw power, falls under the fighter archetype; the Resurrection Stone, being preternatural even by wizarding standards, falls under (the wizard equivalent of) the mage archetype; the Invisibility Cloak, naturally, falls under the thief archetype.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Asha, Altheda, Amata and Sir Luckless in "The Fountain of Fair Fortune", who all become lifelong friends after their journey to the titular fountain (and the last two marry).
  • Footnote Fever: Thankfully they're all compiled into their own mini-chapters between each Tale.
  • Freudian Excuse: Beatrix Bloxam's hatred of anything not overflowing with glurge apparently stems from her overhearing "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" as a child and being traumatized by it. That it somehow segued into "ghastly details of the dreadfully unsavory affair of my uncle Nobby, the local hag and a sack of Bouncing Bulbs" didn't help; she was in bed for a week after that. invoked
  • Friendly Enemy: "The Tale of the Three Brothers" ends with the youngest brother voluntarily dying after evading Death with the cloak of invisibility after years and years. They had apparently arrived at something resembling friendship at that point.
  • The Grim Reaper: More simply known as Death in "The Tale of the Three Brothers".
  • Hostility on the Set: In-Universe. In the commentary for The Fountain of Fair Fortune, Dumbledore mentions the unfortunate casting choices in a theatrical version of the aforementioned story - the students playing "Amata" and "Sir Luckless" had been dating until "one hour before the curtain rose," at which point "Sir Luckless" dumped "Amata" for the girl who was playing "Asha." Then "Amata" and "Asha" ended up dueling on stage, contributing to the disastrous production that prompted a ban on School Play in general inside Hogwarts.
  • In Vino Veritas: The first brother gets drunk and blabs about his new wand, which ends up biting him in the ass...
  • Irony: According to Dumbledore's commentary on The Tale of the Three Brothers, the moral of the story is to highlight The Problem with Fighting Death, in that death is inevitable. Dumbledore notes that any attempts to fight or subvert death inevitably end in failure, as was the case with the two older brothers. However, Dumbledore then goes on to point out that a legend has sprung up around the tale, in that anyone who obtains all three Deathly Hallows will become the "Master of Death", a title popularly taken to mean that the person will become immortal and/or invulnerable. Dumbledore states twice in close succession how this interpretation of the story is the exact opposite of the message Beedle was trying to send.
  • It's the Journey That Counts: The Fountain of Fair Fortune. The actual fountain doesn't do anything, but the efforts of the three witches and the knight to get there end up giving them the things they wished for.
  • Magic Feather: There is no magic in the waters of the Fountain of Fair Fortune; it is the efforts of the three witches and the Muggle knight that solve their own problems. When Sir Luckless is chosen to be the one to bathe in the fountain, all it does is give him the confidence to confess to Amata.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: At the end of "The Fountain of Fair Fortune". As indicated by his letter, Lucius Malfoy did not approve.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe. "The Tale of the Three Brothers" is a story about the futility of beating Death, but many wizards who heard the story figured they could do just that if they had all three Hallows.
    • Dumbledore's bemoaning the continued folly of wizards who seek to defeat death and his observation that "humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are worst for them" all take a serious tint of Heroic Self-Deprecation when you remember that he's guilty of every single one of those things, and knows it all too well.
    • Voldemort takes it a step further: having never heard "The Tale of the Three Brothers" in the first place due to his Muggle upbringing, he has no idea of the true significance of the Elder Wand (or that it's part of a set) - he just wants it because he believes it will make him invincible.
  • Moral Guardians: Besides Beatrix Bloxam's revisions mentioned above, Dumbledore notes that some tales got rewrites through the ages because they were deemed too pro-Muggle. Specifically, he explains that the Hopping Pot went from causing trouble for the mean wizard who refused to help his Muggle neighbors, to swallowing threatening Muggles until they left the nice wizard alone.
  • Muggle–Mage Romance: The Muggle Sir Luckless and the witch Amata get married. Pureblood supremacists don't like that ending.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Downplayed. Dumbledore notes in the post-text for Babbity Rabbity that yes, there were real witch hunts in the Potterverse and yes, wizards and witches tend to lose and get arrested when they stand and fight. As a result the wizarding community went underground, where they've been almost completely undetected for the better part of a millennium.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Dumbledore's commentary mentions that Lucius Malfoy had some choice things to say about him, "but as they consisted mainly of opprobrious remarks on my sanity, parentage, and hygiene, their relevance to this commentary is remote."
  • Nightmare Fuel: "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" is an In-Universe example. Dumbledore points out that many parents only read it when the children are old enough to handle it. Beatrix Bloxam claimed that overhearing the story being read to her older cousins left her so traumatised that she never got over it, ultimately leading to her Bowdlerising Beedle's stories to make them "suitable for children's innocent ears". However, she was unable to do this with "The Warlock's Hairy Heart".
  • Out-Gambitted: In "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump", the charlatan finds himself outwitted when he tries to make Babbitty Rabbitty do his bidding.note 
  • Princess Classic: Dumbledore describes the maiden in "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" as your typical "storybook princess", but her fate isn't happy.
  • The Problem with Fighting Death: "The Tale of the Three Brothers"
  • Retcon: In earlier books, it was established that the Witch Trials of Muggledom had been utterly meaningless to wizards and witches, as their powers easily compensated for the fatal trials and punishments that Muggles used — particular mention was given to how a simple "Flame-Freezing Charm" could effortlessly thwart an attempt to Burn the Witch!. This book instead asserts that the Witch Trials forced the magical people to go underground. Apparently, the retcon was triggered when an individual lambasted the author for "writing off" the very real suffering and torment that the real victims of the Witch Trials had undergone.
  • Riding into the Sunset: The wizard and the hopping pot do this at the happy ending of their story, when the wizard learns his lesson.
  • Romance on the Set: In-Universe. In the commentary for The Fountain of Fair Fortune, Dumbledore mentions the unfortunate casting choices in a theatrical version of the aforementioned story - the students playing "Amata" and "Sir Luckless" had been dating until "one hour before the curtain rose," at which point "Sir Luckless" dumped "Amata" for the girl who was playing "Asha."
  • Running Gag: Aberforth's proclivity for goats gets mentioned again. According to the notes, he and Albus argued a lot as kids about which story their mother would read to them at bedtime. Albus liked the story about the three brothers and Aberforth wanted her to read them a story about goats.
  • Sadistic Choice: This is how Babbitty Rabbitty manages to have the charlatan Out-Gambitted, as she makes a claim about the power of immunity against the axes the king's executioners use to try to kill her and challenges said executioners to test her claim on the charlatan, who had just tried to make her The Scapegoat by outing her as a witch, all while she hides inside the empty space within a tree stump. Faced with the executioners readying their axes, the charlatan is forced to come clean about his fraudulent claim of being a wizard for the sake of enriching himself and is then taken away into the dungeon.
  • School Play: In one of his commentaries, Dumbledore describes how Hogwarts once had a disastrous production of "The Fountain of Fair Fortune." The disastrous results prompted a ban on all theatrical productions at Hogwarts.
  • Second Love: Sir Luckless is this to Amata at the end of "The Fountain of Fair Fortune".
  • Seeks Another's Resurrection: The second brother, for his dead lover. It doesn't end well.
  • Shield Surf: In The Fountain of Fair Fortune, Sir Luckless tries to do this when faced with a river. He sinks about as swiftly as you'd expect from a Muggle in armour with a heavy metal plate.
  • Sickeningly Sweet: "The Toadstool Tales" tends to induce uncontrollable vomiting in its readers.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: The ending of "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" - the third witch, Amata, whose heart had been broken, moves past her disastrous first love and comes to love Sir Luckless.
  • Slain in Their Sleep: The eldest of the three brothers; his killer then takes the Elder Wand.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: In the commentary on "Babbitty Rabbitty", Dumbledore quotes A Study into the Possibility of Reversing the Actual and Metaphysical Effects of Natural Death, with Particular Regard to the Reintegration of Essence and Matter:
    "Give it up. It's never going to happen."
  • Soul Jar: Dumbledore's notes on "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" mention that the notion of storing one's heart in a vessel may have been inspired by the Horcrux.
  • Stylistic Suck: We are not only informed of Beatrix Bloxam's Disneyfication of the Tales, but shown just how sickeningly sappy her version of "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" was.
  • Take That!: In-Universe, at the end of the commentary for the Fountain of Fair Fortune: "This exchange marked the beginning of Mr. Malfoy's long campaign to have me removed from my post as headmaster of Hogwarts, and mine to have him removed from his position as Lord Voldemort's Favourite Death Eater."
    • The whole last page and a half of the commentary would suffice, including the last footnote.
  • Terrible Ticking: The Hopping Pot for the wizard who inherits it from his father, who used it to help their Muggle neighbors before he died. When the wizard denies the Muggles' requests for help, the pot starts hopping and making noises that are reminiscent of the suffering the Muggles endure as a result of the wizard's selfishness. Eventually, this drives the wizard to relent and thereafter start following his father's example.
  • A True Story in My Universe: The foreword mentions that an In-Universe Squib J. K. Rowling wrote a seven-volume biography based on Harry Potter's life.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Dumbledore's notes on the Tale of the Three Brothers contradict or omit some things we know he knew about the Hallows. This is Lampshaded by the very Prologue of the book, which more or less tells you to make your own opinion as to why Dumbledore played ignorant.
  • The Unreveal: A sixth tale titled "Grumble the Grubby Goat" is mentioned as having been Aberforth Dumbledore's favourite story in childhood, but we are not privy to the details.
  • Values Dissonance: It's pointed out by Dumbledore's In-Universe notes that this is why "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" was both so negatively received when it was first written and why it has been subjected to more anti-Muggle rewrites; at the time of writing, helping Muggles out with magic was seen as akin to gathering firewood for your own pyre due to the persecution of wizards and witches by Muggles.
  • Wish Fulfilment: "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump" ends with the line, "No witch or wizard was ever persecuted in the kingdom again," which would have been an especially happy ending to Beedle's contemporary wizarding audience back when witches and wizards were being burned at the stake and still resonated with readers in Harry Potter's time, when the magical community still lived in hiding due to (among other things) fear of persecution. invoked
  • Women Are Wiser: "No witch in history has ever claimed to own the Elder Wand. Make of that what you will." The implication being, of course, that women are too smart to either want the wand or advertise that they have it.
  • Youngest Child Wins: In "The Tale of the Three Brothers", the youngest brother is the wisest and the one to outlive his older brothers.