What to do onscreen with J.K. Rowling’s ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’

Dec. 16, 2008 | 9:46 p.m.

Bard It’s already become the fastest-selling book of the year, so it’s no surprise to hear that Warner Bros. is interested in making a movie out of J.K. Rowling’s latest book, “The Tales of Beedle the Bard,” a collection of fables set in the (pre-“Harry Potter”) world of wizards and muggles Rowling knows best.

The titular Beedle the Bard wrote five tales, each accompanied with commentary from Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts’ now-late headmaster who met his end in the penultimate “Potter” novel, “The Half-Blood Prince.”

For those, like myself, who’ve already zipped through the vignettes more than once, it’s hard to imagine crafting a single movie out of any or all of them, however much we’d like to indulge in another big-screen adaptation of Rowling’s magical characters. Each story exists separately from the other, and each averages 10 pages (in a double-spaced, large-font-ed-children’s-book way).

Though the author packs “Tales” densely with the sort of attention to detail that brought the wizarding world — with its quidditch, house elves, horcruxes, and dementors, etc. — to life, each story is little more than a morality tale told in a few pages (spoilers start now): “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot” warns against the evils of prejudice in a story about a wizard whose negligence of his neighboring muggles manifests into one horrid pest of a pot. “The Fountain of Fair Fortune” concerns a trio of sisters searching for a magical fountain to cure life’s troubles, but find that the right attitude is the best cure. “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” which would surely frighten young children, tells the story of a literally heartless warlock whose vanity ends in tragedy. “The Tale of Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump” cautions against the disregard for the laws of magic. And “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” Dumbledore’s favorite of the five, teaches that trying to cheat death will always result in disappointment. Throughout, Dumbledore peppers the narratives with backstory, personal asides and a rather saucy sense of humor.

So what to do with the Bard’s tales? How best to bring them to life? A few suggestions:

Make a “Potter” prequel using Dumbledore’s commentary. We follow a new batch of wizards and muggles in the 17th century, when anti-Muggle sentiment was growing and the witch hunts for pro-Muggle wizards began. We’ve already got the era’s “fruity epithets” from Dumbledore: “mudwallower,” “dunglicker,” and “scumsucker” and a lead villain in Brutus Malfoy, a distant relative of Draco, who’s mentioned as a vocal opponent of the non-magical. It could be darker, to be sure, but we’d get to see how and why the magical world went into self-concealment.

Expand “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart” — and don’t fuss with the ending. The darkest of the stories is also the most ripe for fleshing out into a two-hour movie, should Rowling be interested in picking the unconventional fairy tale back up. We’d need to see the Warlock before he decided to stow away his heart, lest we watch the selfish wretch for two hours straight, it’d be kind of gory, and without a happy ending. But there are directors who know a thing or two about dark fantasies. (“Pan’s Labyrinth” anyone? Looking at you, Guillermo del Toro.)

Ask Rowling to write a few more fables and spin off an animated TV series. Think “Wallace & Gromit.” Think “Creature Comforts.” So much said in just 12-15 minute episodes. The same could be said for the Bard’s cautionary tales. Also, while the “Harry Potter” movies were able to pull off dazzling feats of magic using special effects, wouldn’t Rowling’s shorts be just as adaptable — if not more so — using CGI animation or claymation or hand-drawn cartoons? Kids, not to mention their parents, would be grateful for the addition to children’s TV lineup.

Make the greatest “Harry Potter” DVD extras ever. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” doesn’t come out until July, and there are two more films after that (remember “Deathly Hallows” was split into two), so there is plenty of time to whip up five shorts as DVD features. Live-action, animated, it doesn’t matter as long as they’re there. And hey, Pixar gives us fun shorts all the time without us even asking.

Other ideas and suggestions? Leave a comment below. Between us, we can figure a way to bring these stories to the screen.

— Denise Martin



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17 Responses to What to do onscreen with J.K. Rowling’s ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’

  1. oakmonster says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. And YES! A HP fan will take anything. :)

  2. Nia says:

    They could just do a movie of all 5 stories, each being a roughly 15-20 minute segment, kind of like how Paris, je t'aime and the coming New York, I Love You are compilations of completely unrelated stories/shorts that center around a common theme.

  3. Deborah says:

    Ms. Martin, I think your ideas are fantastic!!! I hope Rowling and WB read your article :-)

  4. Ian Martin says:

    Beedle movie structure/suggestion:
    each tale is a bed time story told to a child by his father (Ignotus Peverall) and after each tale the next day/s events unfold in a way that illustrates the tale. However, the tales are spread across several years or decades ending with Ignotus as an old man telling the last tale (3 brothers) to his son & grand son and at the end giving his very surprised son the cloak as he walks away to meet Death.
    The illustrating plot vignettes can be used to carry expansions of Dumbledore's commentary with original/new linked narrative elements that further add cohesion to what will be a very episodic structure.

  5. Samantha says:

    The Fountain of Fair Fortune might be more kid friendly as a movie adaptation, and also more adventurous, something we've come to expect from Harry Potter.
    Also, the tales as extras for the dvds would fit perfectly into the 7-8th movies, as the seventh book actually contains one of the tales!

  6. egc52556 says:

    QUOTE: "Deathly Hallows" was split into two
    Yes, like a soul-splitting horcrux, it will keep the series alive beyond the time it rightfully should have died.

  7. celia says:

    I would LOVE it if this book was made into a movie…but I would want to see ALL of the fairy tales translated to screen not just one…My favorite is the Fountain of Fair Fourtune so that one would have to be translated. But this book was BRILLIANT and I'm sooo happy that it sold so many copies because that money is going to a very great cause! But I love the idea of it being an extra on the HBP dvd, but then again I would also LOVE to see it on the BIG SCREEN!!!!

  8. Sheldon says:

    While Ian Martin's suggested movie sounds fabulous, I think that The Tales of Beedle the Bard would best be served by a a five-episode TV miniseries. Each ep would cover one tale, and would fit a half-hour timeslot.
    It would be the first TV adaptaion of J.K. Rowling's work – and the first mini-series to work in the half-hour format. Plus, it would likely garner a far wider audience than a movie, both in terms of total numbers and demographic groups.

  9. Horace says:

    Stop stop stop stop stop!!!!!!!!! You don't have to make a movie out of everything that goes into print. Why can't people just leave this alone. It is clearly not movie material any more than Quidditch Through the ages or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is.
    "Yes. Yes. Yes. And YES! A HP fan will take anything. :)" Try taking a little respect and reverence for the books, and not trying to exploit every last penny out of the series. The tales of Beedle the Bard is a book from Harry's world which J.K. Rowling has brought into ours. Let's keep it that way. A book. Must we destroy everything? An animated series? Really? I hope this article is some kind of joke, because all of these ideas sound absolutely awful, and dripping with cheese. Leave Beedle alone.

  10. Becca says:

    They should film it like this:
    A younger Dumbledore reads to his sister Ariana in Godrics Hollow. Every tale he tells her, is played by actors. After every tale, Dumbledore tells Ariana his personal opinion on the tales (his notes in the book).
    That would be AMAZING….

  11. T-Vey says:

    I would definitely prefer to have a single film over a series!!! Some ideas i imagined was having Hermione sitting at her house researching Dumbledore's notes and translating the stories from ancient runes, and then . But however it comes across, it needs to be portrayed as the stories having some connection like that, and not just five stories that go from one to… (boom) the next. Another way to show it, is by setting it up to show Beedle the Bard traveling around and encountering the different tales, much like in Brother Grimm, where the brothers witnessed or somehow had an effect on each of the stories they recorded, to help the flow of the film.
    Just some ideas, let me know if you agree with any of it :))
    I've heard another good idea in which each of the stories are being read by someone, or a several different characters! Mrs. Martin, you had some really good input! I would also like some Dumbledore commentary, especially more detail on the magical world's self-concealment. We know that hundreds of years ago there was some (stature of secrecy?) that was enforced. But just what events put the wizards/witches into hiding from the muggle population?

  12. Mr. FAMU says:

    "Expand "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" — and don't fuss with the ending"
    This is the best idea to me. As a huge fan of Pans Labyrinth this strikes me as the most intriguing. I have always dreamed of what would happen between a JK Rowling and Guillermo del Toro meeting. It would be PERFECT. I know he would do the short story so much justice.

  13. Wendy Skroskznik says:

    Why not make The Three brothers story into a little extended short story that can be seen along with the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 movie? That would be awesome because than we fans could get a glimpse of some of the background behind Book 7 and Harry's heritage and how he gets the cloak passed on into his family.

  14. Stephanie says:

    I think the fountain of fair fortune would be the best of them all to make a movie with. It's a sweet story and think of how directors can manipulate the journey to the fountain. I can picture some good stuff
    However, I like the idea of shorts coming as an extras piece on one of the dvd's

  15. Juan-John says:

    Fountain of Fair Fortune. Animated. No contest. It could be fleshed out into a 2-hour film easily, and if Warner Bros. is smart, they'll poach some of the animators from Pixar or Dreamworks.

  16. Sheri says:

    I would love to see the book, as the author suggested, as a ""Potter" prequel using Dumbledore's commentary. We follow a new batch of wizards and muggles in the 17th century, when anti-Muggle sentiment was growing and the witch hunts for pro-Muggle wizards began." It would not only enrich our understanding of the motivation, history and mindset that influenced Voldemort, it would also bring depth to our further understanding of Dumbledore, the acquisition of the invisibility cloak by the Potter family, and provide a further history of the magic world and how Voldemort found a foothold to power and revenge against his muggle family (that deserted him) in that world. I would love it! I'm hoping….

  17. anna says:

    They should do it in the style of Mickey's Once upon a Christmas, just have about 20 minutes per story, hell they should do what they did for The tale of the Three Brothers in the deathly hallows! I loved that!

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