On 'Beedle the Bard's' Big Day, Some Readers Are Still Wild About Harry Potter

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 5, 2008

Okay, so the release party at the Fairfax Borders is not exactly wizard-tastic. Of the eight Harry Potter fans sitting in "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" discussion group last night, only two are wearing full black Hogwarts robes. ("I did think there would be more," whispers Jo Crane, 15.)

Could the magic be gone? Possibly. But for the few, the proud, the very, very Harry, J.K. Rowling's latest book, released yesterday as a companion work to the series, is a test of devotion. A year and a half after "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the seventh and final book, We. Can. Not. Let. Go.

"She's had ['Beedle'] on her calendar for months." Marcy Crane gestures to daughter Jo. Jo visits Mugglenet.com regularly, searching for new scraps of news. Her cloak is homemade; on it she wears a small Hogwarts pin.

She is not alone.

"The community has needed something to look forward to," Emerson Spartz says in a phone interview. Spartz has been the preeminent Potter scholar for so long it's easy to forget that he's still just a student at Notre Dame. The sixth movie was recently postponed, he notes, and "after the seventh book came out, people felt like it was the end of Harry Potter. Like that was a fun period in your life and now it's time to move on."

Yes. Time to move on. Everyone thought so. Rowling had "made it pretty clear" that she wasn't going to write about Harry anymore, Jo says.

But now, after all that anguish and withdrawal, "Beedle."

Harry Potter is like that guy who breaks up with you, then keeps calling to see how you're doing.

All right, let's PG-ify that analogy. Rowling is like the mom who forces the whole fam to accompany her on a diet. For 10 years, she gorged us on candy, glorious candy -- books released steadily almost every year. When she said last summer that she was completely cutting us off, we cried our eyes out, but we got over it. No new Potter-sugar. And now, 17 months later, this. Have a piece of cake, love. What's the harm?

Of course, it's low-carb cake. "Beedle" doesn't provide any new information about Hogwarts or its inhabitants. Instead, it's a collection of five short fables about the magical world -- the wizarding equivalent of Grimms' fairy tales, with titles like "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump." It includes footnotes and analysis "by" Albus Dumbledore. Rowling wrote "Beedle" last year and planned to auction off just a few copies for charity; this summer she announced that it would be released to the general public.

Fans held their collective breath.

"There are no new secrets to get your hands on," says Melissa Anelli, author of "Harry, a History." "So there won't be quite the hysteria that there was" with the novels.

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