Who was Beedle the Bard?

Beedle the Bard was a storyteller who wove his tales in the 15th century. Although much of his life remains a mystery, we do know he was born in Yorkshire and that he was a wizard. There is also one surviving woodcut that depicts him with ‘an exceptionally luxuriant beard’. Aside from his facial hair, it’s impossible to truly know Beedle, but perhaps we can catch a glimpse of him in his stories. A wizard who was sympathetic to Muggles, ‘mistrusted Dark Magic’ and believed that ‘kindness, common sense and ingenuity’ were more admirable than even the most powerful magic.

What’s special about his tales?

‘You’ve never heard of The Tales of Beedle the Bard?’ Ron asked Hermione incredulously in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This just about sums up why the tales are so special. For centuries, the fables have been the staple of wizarding childhoods, the sound of bedtime stories. To children who grew up in wizarding families, ‘the Hopping Pot and the Fountain of Fair Fortune are as familiar’ to them ‘as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are to Muggle (non-magical) children’.

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Are they fairy tales?

The question of whether Beedle’s stories are fairy tales is an interesting one. Can you have a fairy tale in the wizarding world – where magic is as normal as eating a bowl of porridge? In some ways they do ‘resemble our fairy tales in many respects; for instance, virtue is usually rewarded, and wickedness punished’. They also contain lessons for children to unpick and ponder over with their parents. Though what can we say about the magic? Might it be that the magic of a fairy tale is in its words, in its writer’s imagination – in yours? So perhaps Beedle’s stories don’t differ from fairy tales so much after all, as long as the words transport you somewhere magical, whether there are spells in the story or not. As Dumbledore once told Harry: ‘‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’’.

The Tales

The Wizard and the Hopping Pot

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A kind old wizard helps Muggles with their sicknesses and sorrows by pretending the magic he uses to heal them comes directly from his ‘lucky cooking pot’ rather than his own power. When he dies, he leaves the pot to his uncaring only son who refuses to help the local Muggles as his father did. But the pot has other plans…

The Fountain of Fair Fortune

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On the longest day of the year, one lucky person is chosen to bathe in the waters of The Fountain of Fair Fortune. Three witches down on their luck decide to join forces and enter the enchanted garden together, with a knight accidentally in toe. Their journey to the fountain isn’t quite as simple as they thought…

The Warlock's Hairy Heart

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A handsome young warlock observes his friends falling in love and decides he never wants to ‘fall prey to such weakness.’ Secretly, he employs some grisly Dark Arts to ensure his heart is never won by another. This plan, as you might expect, goes very hairy…

Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump

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Particularly familiar to Ron Weasley, this is the story of a foolish king entranced by the idea of being the only person in his land with the power of magic. To achieve his goal he forms a Brigade of Witch-Hunters to hunt down all witches and wizards, and at the same time demands an Instructor to teach him magic – and sure enough, someone volunteers. But Babbitty the washerwoman knows something about him that the king doesn’t…

The Tale of the Three Brothers

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This is the origin story of the Deathly Hallows. Three brothers conjure a bridge to make an impossible crossing at twilight. They meet Death halfway across the bridge and he is angry that he has been cheated of three victims of the river. Pretending to congratulate them, Death gives each brother the prize they have asked for, but the results might not be quite what they wished for…

Thoughts from Albus Dumbledore

In the more recent editions of The Tales of Beedle the Bard you will find commentary on Beedle’s stories from none other than Professor Albus Dumbledore himself. These notes were found ‘among the many papers that Dumbledore left in his will to the Hogwarts Archives’. They include ‘observations on wizarding history, personal reminiscences and enlightening information on key elements of each story’. The tales have much to teach us, but Dumbledore’s notes really do shine a light into their very depths.

And now –like Ron – you too can experience the joy of being read The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The cream of Wizarding World talent, from Noma Dumezweni to Jude Law, have joined forces to tell the stories of Beedle the Bard for the first time in audio, in support of J.K. Rowling’s charity Lumos. New audiobook The Tales of Beedle the Bard will be released 31 March. Until then, you can pre-order it exclusively with Audible right here in the UK, here in the US, or here for Canada.

As Dumbledore wrote in his will: ‘To Miss Hermione Jean Granger, I leave my copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, in the hope that she will find it entertaining and instructive.’ And we hope that you do too…