The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

In a week that opened with some very bad news — the death of a dear friend at age 50, from cancer — I’ve been looking for little things to console me. Comforting things like grandchildren… LOST reruns… Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream. You know, the stuff that makes life worth living.

Books always are a consolation, of course. For one, I have Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed awaiting me. It’s his first novel in a solid decade.

I can’t help wondering if, somewhere inside it, I will find the reason the author chose this particular title. It comes from the second of six verses in that most famous of Christian hymns, “Amazing Grace”:

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

A new Wally Lamb is something to anticipate, indeed. But for me, today, there’s something even better:

This morning at 10, the UPS man rang the doorbell and left me a slender box. Today being December 4, of course I knew what the box held, because I’d been waiting for it since July 31. It is J.K. Rowling’s U.S. edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. (The UK edition also is on its way, at insane expense, via Royal Mail.)

How happy it makes me to unwrap this little book! Such pleasure is nothing I need explain to any Harry Potter fan, of course.

Like millions of others, I’ve bought and enjoyed everything Jo Rowling has ever put between book covers. Her deft storytelling and subversive sense of humor have made me her abject slave: content to stand in midnight book-release lines, resigned to two- or three-year waits between books. (Hey, at least she never pulled a Wally Lamb on us and made us wait a decade!)

I have lived more hours than I can count in the world of Jo’s imagination, and I consider them hours well spent. Her work is indeed magic, or at least a universal panacea for whatever may ail me.

With Beedle the Bard, I will read slowly, savoring each fable for the first time. In the back of my mind, I will think of the bright smile that I will miss so much, the kind voice that brought such wisdom and strength into our lives.

Two very special women with a gift for words, who even share a name. Goodbye, dear Kathleen.

And hello, Joanne Kathleen.