13 June 2008

Not All Who Appear in a Harry Potter Book Are Fictional

This last May, my younger son Baylin's class put on the "Night of the Notables." Each student chose a person from history, then they were to research that person, write a brief biography, draw a picture, put together a presentation board, write a bioriddle and put together a costume they can wear that depicts that historical figure. Then, with only a couple weeks of school left, they had a night when friends and parents would come to hear their bioriddles and guess who they were. In other words, "The Night of the Notables."

Baylin chose one of the most obscure figures he could: Nicolas Flamel.

If you just said to yourself that Nicolas Flamel is fictional, or that Harry Potter has warped his brain, you can join the many parents who tried to tell my son that his choice of notables was fictional. Most of the parents who didn't believe that Flamel existed all referred to JK Rowling's seminal work.

Now, I'm not going to pretend as though Harry Potter didn't influence his knowledge of Nicolas Flamel. But, "The Sorcerer's Stone" wasn't the book that inspired his decision to report on this near-legendary figure. Nope. It was "The Alchemyst" by Michael Scott (no, not Steve Carrell's character from "The Office").

You see, many may have heard of alchemy. Many may have known that this ancient practice was indeed the predecessor to science as we know it today. What most people don't know is that, when it comes to alchemy, Nicolas Flamel is the most oft cited practitioner and scholar on the subject.

For all the doubters, all who may still be shaking their heads, go pay a visit to his grave in Paris. If that doesn't convince you, go visit his home.

To get back to the point of this post, I recommend that you read David Colbert's exploration of all the historical and mythological subjects that Rowling used to create the world of Harry Potter: "The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter: A Treasury of Myths, Legends, and Fascinating Facts." You never know. After reading the book, you might experience an even deeper level of enjoyment the next time you read a Harry Potter novel.

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