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The Real Nicholas Flamel

Posted on 2011.07.21 at 21:20
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: Stones - Neil Diamond
Like many of you, I have read all seven of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. If the name Nicholas Flamel seems familiar to you, it’s because he plays a small but vital role in the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to you Brits). Flamel is the owner of the stone, which confers immortality to him. But here’s something I recently learned that I found fascinating: there really was (is?) a historical figure named Nicholas Flamel, and according to legend, he achieved immortality and is still out there somewhere! Here are the basics:

Flamel was born sometime in the 1330s in France and became a scribe and manuscript dealer. In 1378, so the legend goes, he acquired a 21-page booklet from a relic seller. Over the next several years, Flamel and his wife translated the book’s arcane language and found themselves in possession of the ancient secrets of alchemy. They began creating gold and soon became wealthy philanthropists, noted for their generosity to the poor. But that was hardly the most remarkable recipe divined by Flamel from the pages of that ancient booklet, for he ultimately learned how to craft a Philosopher’s Stone, causing both he and his wife to become immortal.

In 1418, when he was in his 80s, Flamel presciently ordered his own casket and died soon thereafter. But a year later, a local priest, suspecting Flamel of faking his own death, hired a known grave robber to unearth Flamel’s body. The tomb was indeed empty. Flamel is rumored to still be living a quiet, unobtrusive life as a philanthropist. His house in Paris is still standing, and it is thought to be one of the oldest houses still standing in that city.


And there are those who believe that while someone named Nicholas Flamel may indeed have inhabited 14th century Paris, the whole story about his alchemical exploits was created from whole cloth by the editors of texts on alchemy in the 17th century.

I don’t know; I wasn’t there.

But I thought it was pretty cool of Rowling to work Flamel into her work of undisputed fiction.

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