It was with considerable interest that I took up a friend's copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling. I have enjoyed the "Harry Potter" series, and found her other marginalia, Quiddich Through the Ages, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, amusing, if not up to the level of the author's main work. Ultimately, Tales falls into the same category. I was curious about the stories, since not only is "The Tale of the Three Brothers" important to the final Harry Potter novel, but because the work is supposed to be very central to Wizarding culture. If that were so, I would have to say that the Wizards have a very impoverished literature: the Tales, as presented, consists only of five very short, and not that wonderful, stories. Of course Rowling does not have the time or inclination to write dozens of stories as did Perrault or Anderson, or collect hundreds, as did the Bothers Grimm, but one wonders why the collection wasn't presented as a "Best of". One could have had lots of fun making up names for other stories not reprinted, but that probably would have provided endless fodder for fan fiction--. The back cover blurb compares The Tales of Beedle the Bard with the greatest fairy tales of the past, which is a distinct overreach. There is not one that is nearly the equal of "Cinderella," "Snow White," "Beauty and the Beast," or "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," all of which are have much more plot, development, and mythic quality. One can at least say that Beedle's tales are mostly original: fairy tale tropes recur in infinite variation, but with few exceptions Rowling has recoined them in fairly fresh ways. "The Hopping Pot" combines ideas of the legendary magic cauldron of Celtic Myth with that of the son who unwisely ignores his dead parent's wishes. The oddly named "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" combines the 'severable soul' myth with a Bluebeard-like theme. "The Tale of the Three Brothers" is a straightforward 'beat the Devil' plot. "Rabbity Babbity and her Cackling Stump" derives quite closely from "The Emperor's New Clothes," but with a wizarding twist. "The Fair Fountain" is the prettiest story, and follows a well-worn quest theme with a few interesting variations. The commentaries by "Albus Dumbledore" are potentially interesting, but in fact very weak. They purport to put the stories into context in the Wizarding culture, but do not convince. They also tend to expose Rowling's broad but shallow knowledge of classical themes, since Dumbledore is portrayed as making a spurious distinction between the literal severable soul that occurs in the making of a Horcrux, and the metaphorical severable soul associated with the hidden "hairy heart." Dumbledore also comes across as rather egotistical, but that may be because the notes were supposedly not ready for publication at the time of Dumbledore's death. (Amusingly, the book is presented as supposedly a new translation from the "ancient runes" by Hermione Granger, with commentary by Dumbledore and footnotes by Rowling.) Completists can justify adding the book to their collection on the basis that proceeds go to a good cause, the Childrens' High Level Group, which seeks to provide adoptions or foster care for children presently housed in orphanages.