While all the apps on my phone had failed to entertain me during a particularly raucous night, I laid my eyes on Audible. Amazon's offering for audiobooks of all sorts. I hadn't used it in more than two months but audiobooks always held a special place in my heart. So I opened it to see what I have in the library. To my dismay, it was full of self-help and technology-related books which only increased my insomnia induced angst. But among the weeds, I found hope, The Tales of Beetle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.
I had originally downloaded it because it was free 😉. But I had left it untouched for months since its addition to the library. However, at 4 in the morning, it seemed like I had all the time in the world.
While the book could've simply started out with the tales, I was walked through the history of the 'Tales of Beetle the Bard' and how they were tales told to young wizards and witches just like fairy tales are told to young humans. Unlike human (or muggle) fairy tales which always had a happy ending these did not. And that some of these tales were quite peculiar in how they start, carry on and end (Read in dumbledore's voice).
And if that wasn't enough, the preserver of these tales is none other than our favourite bearded wizard, **Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore**.
From there, the narration of each tale starts, carefully setting the scene of the magical world with all the beautiful little details better fabricated by the human imagination than any screen ever could. The most nuanced use of background noises ranging from dogs howling to trees rustling to the cackling of witty witches. It is a treat to the auditory senses.
Each tale ended with Dumbledore's notes about the story providing much needed historical context. For some of these tales are quite peculiar, take for instance the story of a powerful and wealthy warlock which has a shocking end that leaves the reader/listener puzzled. And despite not being an active narrator in this book, for only his notes are read, you grow to admire the thoughts and ideas of the great wizard.
One tale that brought me delight was the one involving the foolish king, the charlatan and the witch. It was so wonderfully enunciated by subtle background sounds. Every little sound was perfectly placed like a beautiful choreography that seamlessly enters the stage of your imagination, serves its purpose of conveying a beautiful detail and leaves gracefully like it was never there before.
When done right, audiobooks provide the perfect balance between the rich experience that cinema lovers crave and the unfettered imagination of book readers. And this particle audiobook is a testament to that.
It was also that moment I realised the beauty of fantasy and why it appealed to so many of us when we were younger. Recently, I had almost completely banished books of fantasy from my library, favouring non-fiction, self-help, technical texts and a sprinkle of fiction. But the Tales of Beetle the Bard had given me something special like it had given something special to hundreds of young wizards and witches before me.
It had given me the joy of wonder. If you haven't read fantasy in a while, let this be your cue to immerse yourself in your favourite fantasy novel, audiobook or movie.