The Tales of Beedle the Bard Read online

Page 5

  But which of us would have shown the wisdom of the third brother, if offered the pick of Death’s gifts? Wizards and Muggles alike are imbued with a lust for power; how many would resist “the Wand of Destiny”? Which human being, having lost someone they loved, could withstand the temptation of the Resurrection Stone? Even I, Albus Dumbledore, would find it easiest to refuse the Invisibility Cloak; which only goes to show that, clever as I am, I remain just as big a fool as anyone else.

  * * *

  [1] It is true, of course, that genuine witches and wizards were reasonably adept at escaping the stake, block and noose (see my comments about Lisette de Lapin in the commentary on “Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump”). However, a number of deaths did occur: Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington (a wizard at the royal court in his lifetime, and in his death-time, ghost of Gryffindor Tower) was stripped of his wand before being locked in a dungeon, and was unable to magic himself out of his execution; and wizarding families were particularly prone to losing younger members, whose inability to control their own magic made them noticeable, and vulnerable, to Muggle witch-hunters.

  [2] [A Squib is a person born to magical parents, but who has no magical powers. Such an occurrence is rare. Muggle-born witches and wizards are much more common. JKR.]

  [3] Such as myself.

  [4] Professor Beery eventually left Hogwarts to teach at W.A.D.A.

  (Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts), where, he once confessed to me, he maintained a strong aversion to mounting performances of this particular story, believing it to be unlucky.

  [5] See Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for a definitive description of this curious beast. It ought never to be voluntarily introduced into a wood-panelled room, nor have an Engorgement Charm placed upon it.

  [6] Professor Kettleburn survived no fewer than sixty-two periods of probation during his employment as Care of Magical Creatures teacher. His relations with my predecessor at Hogwarts, Professor Dippet, were always strained, Professor Dippet considering him to be somewhat reckless. By the time I became Headmaster, however, Professor Kettleburn had mellowed considerably, although there were always those who took the cynical view that with only one and a half of his original limbs remaining to him, he was forced to take life at a quieter pace.

  [7] My response prompted several further letters from Mr Malfoy, but as they consisted mainly of opprobrious remarks on my sanity, parentage and hygiene, their relevance to this commentary is remote.

  [8] According to her own diary, Beatrix Bloxam never recovered from overhearing this story being told by her aunt to her older cousins. “Quite by accident, my little ear fell against the keyhole. I can only imagine that I must have been paralysed with horror, for I inadvertently heard the whole of the disgusting story, not to mention ghastly details of the dreadfully unsavoury affair of my uncle Nobby, the local hag and a sack of Bouncing Bulbs. The shock almost killed me; I was in bed for a week, and so deeply traumatised was I that I developed the habit of sleepwalking back to the same keyhole every night, until at last my dear papa, with only my best interests at heart, put a Sticking Charm on my door at bedtime.”

  Apparently Beatrix could find no way to make “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart” suitable for children’s sensitive ears, as she never rewrote it for The Toadstool Tales.

  [9] [The term “warlock” is a very old one. Although it is sometimes used as interchangeable with “wizard”, it originally denoted one learned in duelling and all martial magic. It was also given as a title to wizards who had performed feats of bravery, rather as Muggles were sometimes knighted for acts of valour. By calling the young wizard in this story a warlock, Beedle indicates that he has already been recognised as especially skillful at offensive magic. These days wizards use “warlock” in one of two ways: to describe a wizard of unusually fierce appearance, or as a title denoting particular skill or achievement. Thus, Dumbledore himself was Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. JKR]

  [10] Hector Dagworth-Granger, founder of the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers, explains: “Powerful infatuations can be induced by the skilful potioneer, but never yet has anyone managed to create the truly unbreakable, eternal, unconditional attachment that alone can be called Love.”

  [11] Horklumps are pink, bristly mushroom-like creatures. It is very difficult to see why anyone would want to fondle them. For further information, see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

  [12] Not to be confused with Hairy Snout, Human Heart, a heart-rending account of one man’s struggle with lycanthropy

  [13] [Wizarding photographs and portraits move and (in the case of the latter) talk just like their subjects. Other rare objects, such as the Mirror of Erised, may also reveal more than a static image of a lost loved one.

  Ghosts are transparent, moving, talking and thinking versions of wizards and witches who wished, for whatever reason, to remain on earth. JKR]

  [14] [Professor McGonagall, Headmisrress of Hogwarts, has asked me to make clear that she became an Animagus merely as a result of her extensive researches into all fields of Transfiguration, and that she has never used the ability to turn into a tabby cat for any surreptitious purpose, setting aside legitimate business on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix where secrecy and concealment were imperative. JKR]

  [15] This may have contributed to that Muggle King’s reputation for mental instability.

  [16] As intensive studies in the Department of Mysteries demonstrated as far back as 1672, wizards and witches are born, not created. While the “rogue” ability to perform magic sometimes appears in those of apparent non-magical descent (though several later studies have suggested that there will have been a witch or wizard somewhere on the family tree), Muggles cannot perform magic. The best - or worst - they could hope for are random and uncontrollable effects generated by a genuine magical wand, which, as an instrument through which magic is supposed to be channelled, sometimes holds residual power that it may discharge at odd moments – see also the notes on wandlore for “The Tale of the Three Brothers.”

  [17] For a full description of these curious little tree-dwellers, see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

  [18] The Cruciatus, Imperius and Avada Kedavra Curses were first classified as Unforgivable in 1717, with the strictest penalties attached to their use.

  [19] [Necromancy is the Dark Art of raising the dead. It is a branch of magic that has never worked, as this story makes clear. JKR]

  [20] [This quotation demonstrates that Albus Dumbledore was not only exceptionally well read in wizarding terms, but also that he was familiar with the writings of Muggle poet Alexander Pope. JKR]

  [21] [Invisibility Cloaks are not, generally, infallible. They may rip or grow opaque with age, of the charms placed upon them may wear off, or be countered by charms of revealment. This is why witches and wizards usually turn, in the first instance, to Disillusionment Charms for self-camouflage or concealment. Albus Dumbledore was known to be able to perform a Disillusionment Charm so powerful as to render himself invisible without the need for a Cloak. JKR]

  [22] [Inferi are corpses reanimated by Dark Magic. JKR]

  [23] Many critics believe that Beedle was inspired by the Philosopher’s Stone, which makes the immortality-inducing Elixir of Life, when creating this stone that can raise the dead.

  [24] An old name for “elder”.

  [25] Such as myself.

  [26] Also an old name for “elder”

  [27] No witch has ever claimed to own the Elder Wand. Make of that what you will.