10 May 2013

Tales of Beedle the Bard

All hail, Alice, host of the bestest readalong, and her ability to make us all stick to deadlines like good little Hufflepuffs. It really has been a ton of fun, and I appreciate the emotional breathing room she's given us between tomes 6 and 7.  But it must be said that reading Tales of Beedle the Bard has left me feeling siriusly underwhelmed. See what I did there?

In fact, this is how I felt about reading them:

Very shruggy.  I mean, part of the point of fairy tales is that there's no real character development--they're supposed to be blank enough for Every Reader (or in some cases, Every Listener) to be able to read a little of himself or herself into them. And to be fair, I've gone back and read some of the Grimm tales in recent years and didn't love them either.

But do you want to know what really bothers me about this book? Well, quite a lot, actually.  But one of them is the bogus 4th wall play that JKR does with her annotations for Muggle readers.  And another of them is Dumbledore's annotations to begin with.

For starters: If these tales, which must have been old when Beedle managed to write them down, were so progressive in terms of gender equality, why, 600 years later, does Slytherin not have any female quidditch players?  Why do witches still stay home and do the child-rearing while their husbands go off to work in the ministry?

While I don't think I would be able to sit through a reading of Mrs. Bloxam's expurgated version of "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," the few excerpts Dumbledore included in his annotations filled me with glee--there are so many good words in there: "poorly tum-tums," "teethy-pegs," "kissed and huggled," etc. And you can't tell me that Hoppity Pot isn't a better name than Hopping Pot.  Considering Dumbledore's own few words of nitwit, oddment, and tweak, I'm surprised he's not more drawn to this version himself.
One of the more benign images from googling "teethy peg"
Did anybody else think that Babbity Rabbity's Cackling Stump was going to be a story about an amputee? Back when I read Deathly Hallows, where Ron is naming various tales to Harry and Hermione, utterly astonished they've never heard of any, this was one of them, I thought that and was kind of hoping for it.  Like an olden-days version of Mad-Eye Moody, whose pegleg talks back to its owner.

I also wanted to pull my hair out re: the deathly hallows re: Dumbledore's purely Byzantine machinations with those in our upcoming book to be discussed. Deathly Hallows, thy name is Red Herring. Just like communism.

And what's up with the Malfoys being badmouthed all the time? JKR, you could make your names a little less heavy-handed and it would be more effective. Brutus Malfoy? Really?

Anyway, I'm glad that net profits from this book go to benefit some children's fund or other, but honestly, this book seems to be the equivalent of Meryl Streep filming "She-Devil" because she needed some beer money. In other words, it's not quite up to the standards I usually associate with JKR's stories.
See what I'm saying?


  1. I dunno if the Slytherines not having female Quidditch players means the wizarding world hasn't evolved in terms of gender equality. It's just JK's way of saying "Look at another way the Slytherines suck. Aren't they just the worst?"

    1. Yes, but they're the worst because JKR makes them the worst as the author of the 7 books on the life of Harry Potter, and that's why my feeling get all tangled up about this book because I feel like she's being kinda smug in these notes.

  2. Aw, no, I like it! It's a nice little HP reprieve and I think it builds on the world a bit. Just because the wizards of yore were rather advanced in gender equality in their stories doesn't mean that they were in life. Also, we know that Mrs. Weasley is a stay-at-home mom, but are there any others we know of for sure? Ladies definitely work in Potterverse, and that Slytherins would still discriminate against women is no surprise to me since they also tend to be...racist? Elitist? Magicist? Not sure what to call a sense of anti-Muggle superiority. Mugglist?

  3. Re: Progressiveness, I don't really think it's a straight line, and ALSO just because there are STORIES that are vaguely progressive, doesn't mean society as a whole has been, at all. AND they also seem to be kind of more pro-wizard/witches than pro-women, so it's more like, witches are going to be superior to muggles of any gender, but they're not necessarily superior to wizards (and I can't think of an example where they are in any of the stories).

    *Breathes* AND Slytherins don't have any girls on their team because they ARE the worst. They just are. The whole point of them is to be there, being the worst.

    I DID think that Babbity Rabbity's Cackling Stump was going to involve amputation in some way though! Great minds and all that...

  4. I never got a huge sense of gender inequality in the series... Ron and Malfoy's parents are the only ones mentioned often - It seems as though Molly doesn't work, but Narcissa might and maybe it just never got mentioned... Or maybe she doesn't want to work because Lucius makes enough money already. But there are plenty of working women sprinkled throughout the series.

    Also, I don't think women staying home instead of working is anti-feminist or gender inequality, unless these husbands are FORCING their wives too. But again, no evidence of that has ever been given.

    JK's breaking the fourth wall does kind of drive me nuts. Why couldn't her random footnotes have been written by Hermione instead? It's like JK featured herself in the HP world and that's not really cool.

  5. I loved Dumbledore's notes. I loved them muchos.

    I'm pretty sure we've only seen Molly stay home. I'm sure there are as many instances as there are in the "Muggle world" of both parents working or a husband staying home.

  6. Yeah, fine. Y'all love on the book all you want to. I'll just go skulk off into my little corner...

    I wasn't entirely coherent when writing my post, but I'm not sure I want to spend the time to go back and make my arguments any clearer. More clear? I dunno.

    It's true: Molly and Arthur are the parents we're most privy to in the series. And just because they make choices I wouldn't make doesn't mean they're bad choices (well, at least not most of 'em). BUt it does somehow seem backwards to me that the Weasleys are constantly struggling for money and Molly doesn't join the workforce after the kids have been raised and Ginny starts school.

    Anyway, I'm glad that y'all liked the book, and I was happy enough for a reprieve before the Deathly Hallows discussion begins.

    1. That is a really good point about Molly not working when they really need the money. That's so problematic I really don't want to think about it.

      And hey! This is a safe space. You are entirely allowed not to like a thing.

    2. Don't worry, you're not alone! I skipped this week because I read this when it first came out and was a big ol' pile of meh about it. I don't remember enough re:progressiveness but I remember enough to know I couldn't be bothered hunting for a copy.

    3. Kayleigh/Nylon Admiral: I was wondering where your post was. Look forward to your thoughts as we begin the end; not dissimilar, I suppose, from the snitch's opening at the close.

      Kayleigh/Comma: Thanks!


Please, sir, may I have some more? (Comments, that is!)