This is technically a review, but it’s going to be a very different sort of review. This is for two reasons, the first is that this book is a very short (I read it in the last hour) collection of wizard fairy tales inspired by the Harry Potter series. The second reason is that I’m really not that much of an expert on fairy tales, so one of the first things that I’m going to do is link to two posts by Morgan over at The First Gates where he discusses structure in folklore. Also, there may be some small spoilers for the Harry Potter series in this review, but if you’re interested in this book at all you’ve probably read the series at least once.
Now that that’s set up, lets get on with the semi-standard review.
Companion to the Harry Potter series
This book is a collection of 5 tales that originate in the wizard part of the world that we were all introduced to in the Harry Potter books. The first tale that most people will think of is the one that is told to us in the HP books, The Tale of the Three Brothers, which is used to explain the Deathly Hallows in book 7 of the series.
One of the main things that I enjoyed about reading this is that the stories did not fall into the Disnified “And they all lived happily ever after” branch of fairy tales. Although I haven’t read many of the original versions of fairy tales (such as those originally collected and written down by the Brother’s Grimm) I know that a good portion of them are quite dark in nature. In some ways, these stories serve as a warning to people about proper ways to behave, much like the ancient Greek Mythology (which I am more familiar with).
I hope I’m remembering these details correctly, and if I’m wrong I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m not looking any of this up now, I’m just writing what I remember from my Greek Mythology class several years back. One of the main goals of most Greek Myths was to instruct people on how to behave. One of the best ways to explain this is by discussing the idea of arranged marriages in Ancient Greece. Arranged marriages were very common in Greece, and while they were accepted as an aspect of life, I’m sure in many cases they were not the most pleasant affairs, especially for the young women who were essentially sold off to their future husbands. A very common theme in Greek Myth is that trying to fight against an arranged marriage to be with the one you really love will often end in disaster. I don’t recall the exact myths, but we discussed several examples in class of people both fighting against and submitting to arranged marriages. Every example of going against the arranged marriage ended poorly, with at least 1 and many times both people dead.
In a similar way, these stories are used to introduce ideas to the wizards of the Harry Potter universe. Many of the themes are lessons that Dumbledore tries to instill in the students at Hogwarts. The first tale, The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, deals with the idea that magic should be used to help the muggles rather than to overpower them. The Fountain of Fair Fortune discusses a very true to life idea that you are responsible for your own fortune, even if you end up attributing it to something else. The Warlock’s Hairy Heart is by far the darkest tale and is really a way of showing the negative consequences of using different forms of dark magic.
Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump is interesting in that one of the things that it shows is that the mere threat of using magic can greatly alter how muggles interact with the wizards. It also shows that muggles are both afraid of and awed by magic, simply because they don’t know exactly what it is able to do. The last tale, The Tale of the Three Brothers, shows the folly of chasing after great power as well as the folly of trying to cheat death.
Overall, each of the stories are very short, but manage to serve well as teaching tools in much the same way that our fairy tales do. Once again, I’ve not studied many of our fairy tales, but I think that in many cases these would fit right in with some of our own fairy tales (many of which do contain magic and supernatural elements). The commentary on the tales in the book is also very well done, and it really serves to both expand Dumbledore as a character as well as the world of the Harry Potter books as a whole. It’s a very quick and enjoyable read.
Quick and adds depth to the world of Harry Potter, if you’re a fan of the series you would do well to check out this book.