Children's column - Beedle the Bard

Nicolette Jones
Opinion - Children Friday, 5th December 2008

I am disappointed about The Tales of Beedle the Bard . Not about the book, which is clever and entertaining, but about the sales price. I wish the book trade would - belatedly, and for once - sell this volume at the cover price of £6.99. It is £3.49 at Tescos, Waterstone's, on Amazon, and at W H Smith, though from 3-8 December it is only 99p at Smiths IF you spend another £15 (including on stationery or gifts). At Borders it is £5.29 online, though on launch night it was £4.99 and while stocks lasted came with two free books, Jonathan Stroud's The Amulet of Samarkand and Justin Somper's Demons of the Ocean - each the first in a series, and thereby properly encouraging future sales. On the whole, though, such an opportunity has been thrown away over the years by the discounting of the Harry Potter books.

Meanwhile Amazon seems to have been rewarded for its winning bid at Sotheby's of £1.95m for the handwritten 'Moonstone' edition by having the exclusive right to sell the £50 Collectors' Edition (of up to 100,000 copies). At least, whatever the sale price, £1.61 per edition still goes to Rowling and Baroness Nicholson's charity the Children's High Level Group.
Of course, what the reader is getting is only four new stories, not five: the fifth story, The Tale of the Three Brothers , is quoted in its entirety (give or take a couple of altered words) in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, because Beedle is the book that Dumbledore bequeaths to Hermione, in order to help her and her friends identify the three crucial magical objects that are the Deathly Hallows: the stone of life, Death's invisibility cloak, and the elder wand. Albus Dumbledore's notes on the story are a new addition, however, as are J K Rowling's illustrations. Throughout, these reveal Rowling to have a talent for decorative line, with elongated figures as in medieval illumination, even if there is something not quite right about her drawing of a falling horse.
One quibble: in the seventh book, Hermione is alerted to the importance of The Tale of the Three Brothers by Grindelwald's mark, a circle inside a triangle, at the head of the story. (This mark appeared on the spine of Deathly Hallows.) In this printed book, the mark is not there.