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J.K. Rowling

New Rowling Book Adds On to Wildly Popular Series

December 04, 2008 12:31 PM
by Emily Coakley
J.K. Rowling’s latest book, “Beedle the Bard,” is a companion piece to her Harry Potter series and is yet another example of expanding a fictional universe.

New Book of Fairy Tales Hits Stores

“Beedle the Bard,” which was released to the public at midnight Wednesday night, isn’t a new Harry Potter book—those stories ended last year—but it is a book of stories that was mentioned in the final installment. Rowling auctioned off a handmade copy of the book for charity for nearly $4 million. She made six other copies for friends.

She also has kept tight control over commercial accompaniments to her widely acclaimed series. Earlier this year, Rowling successfully blocked publication of “The Harry Potter Lexicon,” which was written by a man who ran a fan Web site. She testified in a New York court that the book “constitutes wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work.”

Rowling is hardly the first author to pen a companion piece to further capitalize on a popular series. Another example is “Lyra’s Oxford,” a book Philip Pullman wrote to accompany his “Dark Materials” trilogy. On his Web site Pullman describes the book, which was published in 2003, as a “sort of stepping-stone between the trilogy and the book that’s coming next.” The last story in the trilogy, “The Amber Spyglass,” was published in 2000, according Random House.
Sometimes a series is extended after an author’s death. J.R.R. Tolkien’s son, Christopher, finished his father’s book, “Children of Húrin,” which published last year. It was the last in the “Lord of the Rings” series, and was the elder Tolkien’s first new novel in 30 years, according to The Independent.

And books bearing Robert Ludlum’s name are still being published, despite the fact that Ludlum passed away in 2001. The Ludlum books are usually partially written by someone else.

Opinion & Analysis: “Beedle the Bard”

Michelle Olsen of the National Post’s Ampersand said that Rowling’s intentions “seem noble,” because profits from the book are going to Rowling’s charity for children. Olsen acknowledges that “some might despair at the idea of dragging out the series.” She also predicts that the book won’t say anything new about Harry Potter’s story.

Related Topics: Real-life quidditch

In another example of how bits of fiction from the Harry Potter series have crossed over into reality, the second intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup was recently held in Vermont. Quidditch is a fictional sport that Potter and classmates play on flying broomsticks at school. Marina Hyde of The Guardian, a British newspaper, was not impressed with the real-life version. She described the sport as, “basically three poor versions of existing games running simultaneously: basketball, a sort of bodyline swingball and something we might summarise as ‘looking for a lost ball.’”

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