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