— Да, а уж эта книга, — сказала Гермиона, — «Сказки барда Билля»... Я о них и не слышала никогда!
— Не слышала о сказках барда Бидля? — не поверил ей Рон. — Шутишь, что ли?
— Нет, не шучу, — удивленно ответила Гермиона. — А ты их знаешь?
— Еще бы я их не знал!
Гарри, забавляясь, смотрел на них. То, что Рон читал книгу, которой не читала Гермиона, было обстоятельством попросту беспрецедентным. Рона, однако, ее удивление поразило.
— Ну брось! Все старинные детские сказки принято приписывать Бидлю, разве не так? «Фонтан феи Фортуны»... «Колдун и прыгливый горшок»... «Зайчиха Шутиха и ее пень-зубоскал»...
— Как-как? — Гермиона захихикала. — А это про что?
— Да ладно тебе, — ответил Рон, недоверчиво переводя взгляд с Гарри на Гермиону. — Уж про зайчиху Шутиху ты наверняка слышала...
— Рон, ты же отлично знаешь, мы с Гарри выросли среди маглов, — сказала Гермиона. — И когда мы были маленькими, никто нам этих сказок не рассказывал, нам рассказывали про «Белоснежку и семь гномов», про «Золушку»..
(Джоанн Роулинг, "Гарри Поттер и Дары Смерти")
Пока народ тут спорит за копирайты, эксклюзивный рукописный список "Сказок барда Бидля" купил на Сотбис Амазон. Единственный из семи существующих экземпляров, выставленный на продажу.
И не только купил, а потихонечку стал выкладывать в Интернет.
Пока там краткое содержание двух сказок:
1. "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot"
As in her Harry Potter series, garnishing the top of the first page of the first fairy tale, "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," is a drawing--in this case, a round pot sitting atop a surprisingly well-drawn foot (with five toes, in case you were wondering, and we know some of you were). This tale begins merrily enough, with a "kindly old wizard" whom we meet only briefly, but who reminds us so much of our dear Dumbledore that we must pause and take a breath.
This "well-beloved man" uses his magic primarily for the benefit of his neighbors, creating potions and antidotes for them in what he calls his "lucky cooking pot." Much too soon after we meet this kind and generous man, he dies (after living to a "goodly age") and leaves everything to his only son. Unfortunately, the son is nothing like his father (and entirely too much like a Malfoy). Upon his father's death, he discovers the pot, and in it (quite mysteriously) a single slipper and a note from his father that reads, "In the fond hope, my son, that you will never need this." As in most fairy tales, this is the moment when things start to go wrong....
Bitter about not having anything but a pot to his name and completely uninterested in anyone who cannot do magic, the son turns his back on the town, closing his door to his neighbors. First comes the old woman whose granddaughter is plagued with warts. When the son slams the door in her face, he immediately hears a loud clanging in the kitchen. His father's old cooking pot has sprouted a foot as well as a serious case of warts. Funny, and yet gross. Vintage Rowling. None of his spells work, and he cannot escape the hopping, warty pot that follows him--even to his bedside. The next day, the son opens the door to an old man who is missing his donkey. Without its help to carry wares to town, his family will go hungry. The son (who clearly has never read a fairy tale) slams the door on the old man. Sure enough, here comes the warty, befooted clanging pot, now having captured both the sounds of a braying donkey as well as groans of hunger. [Spoiler alert!] In true fairy tale fashion, the son is besieged with more visitors, and it takes a few tears, some vomit, and a whining dog before the wizard at last succumbs to his responsibility, and the true legacy of his father. Renouncing his selfish ways, he calls for all townspeople far and wide to come to him for help. One by one, he cures their ills and in doing so, empties the pot. At the very last, out pops the mysterious slipper--the one that perfectly fits the foot of the now-quiet pot--and together the two walk (and hop) off into the sunset.
Rowling has always made her stories as funny as they are clever, and "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" is no exception; the image of a one-footed cooking pot plagued with all the "warty" ills of the village, hopping after a selfish young wizard, is a good example. But the real magic of this book and this particular tale lies not just in her turns of phrase but in the way she underlines the "clang, clang, clang" of the pot for emphasis, and how her handwriting gets messier when the story picks up speed, like she's hurrying along with the reader. These touches make the story uniquely her own and this volume of stories particularly special.
2. "The Fountain of Fair Fortune"
Featured at the top of what may be one of our favorite fairy tales ever is a picture of a sparkling, flowing fountain. Now that we're thirty pages into the book, it has become clear that Rowling enjoys (and is quite good at) drawing stars and sparkles. The beginning and ending of almost every tale appears sprinkled with pixie dust (à la Peter Pan--fans know that Rowling's pixies are less likely to leave such a pretty trail). This first page of the story also features a small rose bush below the text. It is quite lovely, and as anyone who has tried to draw a rose knows, not that easy to pull off--a fact that makes it less likely that Rowling did it to cover up a mistake (the way some of us might). It is a gorgeous way to start, and it gives "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" a lot to live up to. Perhaps this is why the story begins so grandly and with such a perfectly lush and mysterious fairy tale setting: an enchanted and enclosed garden that is protected by "strong magic." Once a year, an "unfortunate" is allowed the opportunity to find their way to the Fountain, to bathe in the water, and win "fair fortune forever more." Ahhhh, such is the stuff of Harry Potter fans' dreams. In fact, this tale stands out as a favorite partly because it follows the quest arc that fans fell in love with in her novels—the kind we still crave.
Knowing that this may be the only chance to truly turn their lives around, people (with magical powers and without) travel from the far reaches of the kingdom to try and gain entrance to the garden. It is here that three witches meet and share their tales of woe. First is Asha, sick of "a malady no Healer could cure," who hopes the Fountain can restore her health. The second is Altheda, who was robbed and humiliated by a sorcerer. She hopes the Fountain will relieve her feelings of helplessness and her poverty. The third witch, Amata, was deserted by her beloved, and hopes the Fountain will help cure her "grief and longing." In just a few pages, Rowling has not only created terrific fairy tale drama, but an interesting conflict--readers young and old can relate to at least one the woes of Asha, Altheda, and Amata (and can we talk about how great those names are?), so how can you choose which one should win? The witches (much like the characters from our favorite series) decide that three heads are better than one, and they pool their efforts to reach the Fountain together. At first light, a crack in the wall appears and "Creepers" from the garden reach through and wrap themselves around Asha, the first witch. She grabs Altheda, who takes hold of Amata. But Amata gets tangled in the armor of a knight, and as the vines pull Asha in, all three witches along with the knight get pulled through the wall and into the garden.
Since only one of them will be permitted to bathe in the Fountain, the first two witches are upset that Amata inadvertently invited another competitor. Because he has no magical power, recognizes the women as witches, and is well-suited to his name, "Sir Luckless," the knight announces his intention to abandon the quest. Amata promptly chides him for giving up and asks him to join their group. It is heartening to see Rowling continuing to embrace the themes of friendship and camaraderie so prevalent in her series, not to mention her ability to draw strong, intelligent, female characters. We spent seven books watching Harry learn that it is okay to need the help and support of his friends, and that same notion of sharing responsibility and burden is strong in this tale.
On their journey to the Fountain, the motley band faces three challenges. We're in familiar fairy tale territory here, but it is the strong, simple imagery (a "monstrous white worm, bloated and blind") and way the characters work together to triumph over adversity that makes this story such a rich read, and pure Rowling. First, they face the worm who demands "proof of your pain." After several fruitless attempts to attack it with magic and other means, Asha's tears of frustration finally satisfy the worm, and the four are allowed to pass. Next, they face a steep slope and are asked to pay the "fruit of their labors." They try and try to make it up the hill but spend hours climbing to no avail. Finally, the hard-won effort of Altheda as she cheers her friends on (specifically the sweat from her brow) gets them past the challenge. At last, they face a stream in their path and are asked to pay "the treasure of your past." Attempts to float or leap across fail, until Amata thinks to use her wand to withdraw the memories of the lover who abandoned her, and drop them into the water (hello, Pensieve!). Stepping stones appear in the water, and the four are able to cross to the Fountain, where they must decide who gets to bathe.
Asha collapses from exhaustion and is near death. She is in such pain that she cannot make it to the Fountain, and she begs her three friends not to move her. Altheda quickly mixes a powerful potion in an attempt to revive her, and the concoction actually cures her malady, so she no longer needs the Fountain's waters. Some of you see where this is going, but stay tuned--Rowling has more surprises in store.) By curing Asha, Altheda realizes that she has the power to cure others and a means to earn money. She no longer needs the waters of the Fountain to cure her "powerlessness and poverty." The third witch, Amata realizes that once she washed away her regret for her lover, she was able to see him for what he really was "cruel and faithless"), and she no longer needs the Fountain. She turns to Sir Luckless and offers him his turn at the Fountain as a reward for his bravery. The knight, amazed at his luck, bathes in the Fountain and flings himself "in his rusted armour" this is the genius of Rowling--the addition of one word gives us the hilarious image of the knight bathing in full body armor in the Fountain) at the feet of Amata and begs for her "hand and her heart." Each witch achieves their dreams for a cure, a hapless knight wins knowledge of his bravery, and Amata, the one witch who had faith in him, realizes that she has found a "man worthy of her." A great "happily ever after" for our merry band, who set off "arm-in-arm" it’s particularly nice the way this is handwritten, with the hyphens supporting a visual of linked arms). But the story wouldn’t be Rowling's without a kicker at the end: we learn that the four friends live long, never realizing that the Fountain's waters "carried no enchantment at all." Best. Ending. Ever.
As in her novels, Rowling emphasizes that the true power lies within, not merely in a wand and in a mind, but in a heart. Faith, trust, love give her characters the strength to meet the challenges before them. She doesn't preach to her readers, but the message is definitely there: if you allow yourself the chance to trust and love others, you can harness the power that you already have. What a great message for kids and adults) to learn, and oh, what a lovely and memorable package.