An Audiobook Review: Harry Potter and the Saccharine Overdose


The Tales of Beedle the Bard

By J. K. Rowling

Unabridged Recording published by Childrens High Level Group

Read by Unknown…

The Book:

 

I have not yet reviewed the audio recordings of the Harry Potter Series although I have listened to both the American and British editions. I guess I am saving that for some time when I am stuck and need a topic. For now, however, let us discuss J. K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

This is a rather thin book of five short fairy tales for children set in the world of Harry Potter… sort of. Amazon.com described it as an artifact from right out of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,  is presented as a translation from the original runes by Hermione Granger complete with scholarly commentary by Albus Dumbledore and occasional remarks from Ms Rowling herself.

Well first of all if this is Hermione’s translation, why is J.K.R. writing ex camera comments in the book too? It is not, I guess a true breaking of the Fourth Wall, but it does kill the mood. Fortunately, the book is not all that good so rather than kill the mood it might be safe top say such commentaries put the mood out of its misery.

The collection of stories was written to benefit the Children’s Voice campaign of The Children’s High Level Group, a charity founded by J. K. Rowling and Emma Nicholson, MEP in 2005. The charity campaigns for children’s rights across Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe. It was originally produced as six or seven (depending on which article you read) hand-bound copies (bound by Ms Rowling herself in Morrocan leather – they are quite a production and easy to find pictures of on the Web) to be auctioned off. Due to fan demand the book was later issued in hard cover and paperback for the general public. Well, it is definitely a worthy cause and I think a good reason to buy a copy. (NB: as I will explain later, mine was borrowed but I think I ought to make a donation in any case)

If you want to make a donation to the CHLG by way of buying a copy of this book, good for you! However, do not expect quality or even imaginative story telling between the covers.

I had expected a Wizarding World version of something from the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. Sadly, the stories are far too sweet and one dimensional. They do carry a lesson of tolerance and understanding, but these lessons are driven in with the subtlety of a nuclear-powered sledge hammer. The commentary by Professor Dumbledore rambles and frequently has nothing to do with the stories trailing off in to complaining about the machinations of the Malfoys over history although he does take the time to point out that most of the magic presented in these tales bears little or no resemblance to how “real” magic works, which led me to wonder whether Beedle was actually a Muggle whose stories had been taken to heart by some wizards and witches. I was a bit disappointed that this did not turn out to be the case.

There is one attempt to make the stories not seem like a diabetic’s nightmare by quoting a passage from a supposedly even sweeter “cleaned up” version of the tales but for me all it did was point out how saccharine the lot were to begin with. Ms Rowling’s comments seem even less necessary to the book than Dumbledore’s especially the one in which she evidently felt it was necessary to point out that Professor McGonagall had never done anything even slightly illegal or mischievous even though she was an animagus. Really? She always impressed me as the sort who might have been a real hell-raiser as a kid.

The Audiobook:

Because this was a borrowed copy I do not know who read the stories. For all I know it may have been J.K. Rowling herself. I did try looking up the credits on the Web, but it was hard to even find a mention of the audio edition and when I did find such mentions they only said the stories were written by J. K. Rowling. So maybe she did read them. Whoever it was, she did not do a bad job. It sounded like someone reading fairy tales to young children, which is fully appropriate. The bits with Dumbledore, well that was a bit odd with the woman reading attempting to sound masculine… about as bad as many male readers trying to sound like a woman, so no points off for that.

By the way, do not go looking for the reader’s name on bittorrent sites or any other site offering the book for free. I never use such sites to download stuff from. As an author I try to respect the copyrights of others, but I did go to a few to see if I could learn who read this audiobook. One of those site attempted to infect my machine with malicious software. Fortunately my anti-virus program caught and stopped it before it could get too deeply into my machine although I had to do full scans with both AVG and Malwarebytes to get all the traces out. So do yourself a favor and stay away from those sites. Not only is most of what they offer illegal copyright infringements, many of them are infected. If I were not a computer professional and recognized the infection from the start, this would have cost me a bundle. That is a heck of a lot to pay for the name of a reader.

So, in conclusion, if you are a Harry Potter collector or just want to donate to the above charity, by all means buy this book. Otherwise, I recommend giving it a miss and go back to listen to the main series once more.

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This entry was posted in Audio Books, Books, Children's, Fantasy, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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