Welcome, Wizards and Muggles!
Today on Muggles and Mocha, we’re venturing outside the realm of Harry Potter… It’ll be exciting, and hopefully, you’ll learn something new. I know I did!
For our video this week, we’re covering both chapters thirteen and fourteen. Quidditch and Norbert! Wow. Buckle up, because we’re going to be moving fast!
Our article today will be a little different, though… We’re talking about the mysterious Nicolas Flamel and the Philosopher’s Stone—the real legend! Now, maybe I’m behind the times, but I didn’t realize Nicolas Flamel was actually a real person, and I thought the Philosopher’s Stone was more of a theme used in literature rather than a known myth. But I was wrong! I did a lot of fun research in preparation for this, and I’m excited to discuss it with you guys.
Before we dive into these fascinating subjects, we have to talk about the elephant in the room—the title of the first Harry Potter book was changed from the “Philosopher’s Stone” to the “Sorcerer’s Stone” in the United States. I always heard this was because the publishers thought American children were too dumb to understand the term… which is kind of the answer. Apparently, American children were supposedly not as familiar with the real-world mythology surrounding the Philosopher’s Stone as children from Europe.
Based on my ignorance about the subject as a twenty-five-year-old, I GUESS THEY WERE RIGHT. Sorry, guys. I’m one of the reasons for this decision, I suppose. Since they thought Americans were unfamiliar with the term, they chose “sorcerer’s” to reflect the magical subject matter in the book. But I do think maybe American children would have learned more about the mythology if they’d just kept the title “Philosopher’s Stone.”
Just a little bitter about it.
In chapter thirteen of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, after a lot of looking (they really needed the internet), the Trio discovers who Nicolas Flamel is—the creator of the Sorcerer’s Stone. Through this knowledge, they decide this stone must be the object Fluffy is guarding below the trapdoor. They also understand why someone (they suspect Snape) would want to steal it.
But this part of the story is based on a real legend! Today, we’re going to dive into the story of Nicolas Flamel and how his name has found its way into stories we know and love (like this one).
First, who was the real Nicolas Flamel?
He was a French bookseller and notary who lived in Paris during the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. His fame with the supposed “Philosopher’s Stone” was actually posthumous, when someone attributed a book to him after his death which claimed he’d discovered the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that can turn common metals into gold and produces the Elixir of Life. This “elixir” could heal sickness and make the drinker immortal. As the story goes, he came across an old original copy of an ancient, magical book he was able to decipher, which is where he learned the secret.
Now, is this true? Probably not. But there are some interesting details that fuel the mystery. Flamel came into some wealth around the time this book was written, and apparently, there have been “sightings” of Flamel and his wife Perenelle since their supposed deaths. Additionally, some treasure hunters accidentally dug up his grave, and guess what? EMPTY.
In all seriousness, it’s just a funny story, but I was surprised about how widespread it was! Because of this story about Flamel and the stone, people actually began searching for it, such as Roger Boyle (the father of modern chemistry) and Sir Isaac Newton. Interestingly enough, as alchemists experimented on different elements trying to discover which one was the mysterious “Philosopher’s Stone,” many scientific discoveries were made—but not the Philosopher’s Stone. The stone was said to be a common substance, found everywhere but unrecognized and unappreciated.
Nicolas Flamel’s fame extended into literature, too, such as in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Harry Potter… as we’ve seen.
The stone itself has appeared in writing, too. Besides Harry Potter, I read The Alchemist, which was an allegorical novel about a boy seeking his Personal Legend. If I remember correctly, the stone was mentioned in this book, too.
All in all, a very interesting background for our tale! We all know J.K. Rowling did a lot of research and worked to include real legends in the books, and this is one of them! In an article on Wizarding World, she discusses a very vivid dream she had about Nicolas Flamel as she wrote this book. She dreamed she was watching him make the Philosopher’s Stone.
In the first Harry Potter book, this very stone is residing in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry under Dumbledore’s supervision—fitting. And Nicolas Flamel has made his way into the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies! He lives in Paris, which fits his historical background. In real life, there are streets in Paris named after him and his wife, and one of his houses still stands, too, with a restaurant on the bottom floor!
The more you know! Harry, Ron, and Hermione are afraid this famous stone will be stolen soon, believing Snape has figured out how to get past every defense in place except for Quirrell’s.
Little do they know…
There you have it, folks! A little bit of information about Nicolas Flamel and the Philosopher’s Stone. I hope you enjoyed the article today, and don’t forget to watch the YouTube video! Also, follow me on social media to keep up with all the latest Muggles and Mocha news.
Next week, we’ll be breaking down chapter fifteen and traveling into the Forbidden Forest. We’re also analyzing the idea of “fate” and a funny response from the centaurs: “Mars is bright tonight.” But there may be more to this thought than meets the eye…
See you next time, Muggles. Have a great week!
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter series.