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.

Photo by Jason D on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Sadiq Nafee on Unsplash

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.

1 Comment

  1. Mistakes were made 😂😂😂

    That’s a great renaming of ch 14 for sure – rereading that was STRESSFUL.

    Before I dive into that chapter, I did want to touch on a few things in ch 13. First of which is, why on earth is Snape refereeing quidditch??? If memory serves me correctly, Snape never played and I don’t think he ever does this again – what’s up with this? Is Madam Hooch otherwise disposed at the time? Besides creating more tension, I can’t figure out what this does for the story. Any suggestions as to why JK made that choice?? Also, Dumbledore is attending this match, which everyone seems to be making a big deal over. Is there something significant about this match that I’m missing? Secondly, I just wanted to say that I am once again impressed with the emotional intelligence of Harry (at age 11) when he assures Neville of his self-worth after being bullied by Malfoy. I don’t think that Neville would have become the man he did without his interactions with the trio – they were always there to help build him up after being knocked down (I have a feeling that this will come up more than once when we discuss fate).

    The scene with Snape and Quirrell in the forest is definitely an interesting one – Snape even mentions that the reason for the location was to keep away from the students, so I wonder why this conversation takes place in the castle in the movies. Also, let’s not gloss over the fact that Harry landed his broom ON A TREE BRANCH. Is it just me or does that seem incredibly difficult? Probably another example of how much natural talent Harry has with a broom. But I digress. I’ve been thinking over this particular meeting, and I think that while Snape and Dumbledore have very strong suspicions (especially after the release of the troll in the castle) that Quirrell is after the Stone, they don’t know yet for sure. I think this is why Snape is pressing so hard for information – he’s pretty much playing “bad cop” to get confirmation of how much he really knows. While it doesn’t necessarily say for sure, I wonder if Snape is using his double agent status/former relationship with the Death Eaters to leverage the info out of Quirrell in the hopes that he would fall for the false ally bit? I don’t know. I’m definitely with you though – I really would love to know how much they already know about Quirrell.

    As for the exams, it seems like the boys would be on your side – it’s definitely only Hermione who is concerned about studying for something ten weeks out. The boys are plenty busy with worrying about getting through their homework day-to-day, much less the exams. I have to wonder, like you did, if the sheer stress from nearing the end of the term is partly to blame for the MANY mistakes that were made in this chapter. Although I’m not sure what Hagrid’s excuse is…

    Oh Hagrid. As we know after reading the whole series, Hagrid has a dangerous blind spot when it comes to creatures! You would think that being expelled for having Aragog (even if he was set up) would have been enough to at least cause him to stop and think about the ramifications of his decisions, but bless his heart he goes on and does this… I absolutely love Hagrid but he actually turns out to be a huge chink in the armor for the forces of good here. He allows himself to be distracted by a dragon egg, and spills highly confidential information to literally the most dangerous person. Yikes. And obviously it’s that blind spot that keeps him from thinking anything through when it comes to the long-term logistics of having an illegal dragon as a pet lol. The discovery of Norbert/Norberta was inevitable, and of course it would be the sleazy little Malfoy who finds it out. Luckily he never gets the satisfaction of being the one to rat them out (three cheers for McGonagall).

    -side note- I’m honestly surprised that Hagrid wasn’t able to correctly gender the dragon! I have to believe that he would know how to do that, given his high level of expertise.

    And to top off the end of the chapter, they forget the cloak…. I actually did not remember this part. I really like having the kids be responsible for rescuing Hagrid by coordinating the handoff to Charlie’s friends a lot better than what they did in the film. Of course they don’t realize the importance or danger of leaving that cloak behind, but yikes. That could have ended up in the wrong hands soooo easily. I don’t remember right now how they get the cloak back – do they go back for it? Guess I’ll have to keep reading, but I feel like that either way it was a huge crisis averted.

    I’m super excited to talk about fate next week, and how interesting Centaurs are (and their importance throughout the whole series)!

    Like

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