A Parisian Wizard

This is the first in a series of 3 blog posts by Annie Caley-Renn about the Harry Potter series, which we’re running to coincide with the launch of our newest hunt, THATMuse Harry Potter (read the second post here). The THATMuse Harry Potter Launch will take place on Saturday 17th February at 2.30pm. See the quiz question at the bottom of this post for the chance to participate!
Did you get the answer to last week’s Giveaway quiz question? If so, well done you!
The real-life 14th Century Parisian-turned-Harry Potter legend who created the Philosopher’s Stone was of course Nicolas Flamel (and yes, you have just earned a leg-up on the other teams who will be playing at the THATMuse Harry Potter launch on Saturday 17th February at 2.30pm!).
I hadn’t been in Paris long (and was consequently completely lost) when I stumbled upon rue Nicolas Flamel, in the 4th arrondissement. Clearly I’d been spending too much time with my head in a Harry Potter book and not enough studying French history, because before this I had no idea that Flamel was a real person (seriously, I might as well have found myself on Homer Simpson Street or Darth Vader Boulevard). Anyway, being the curious curator of facts (read: nerd) that I am, I couldn’t help but do a little digging.
It turns out that Flamel was unfortunately not – to our knowledge anyway -  a wizard or alchemist (which is bizarre as even in real life he’s most famous for being the latter), and neither could I find any mention of his being chums with Dumbledore.  In fact, the reputation he had as an alchemist (someone who turns metals to gold) only really attached itself to him after his death- and about two hundred years afterwards at that! The evidence of his so-called alchemical practices is pretty flimsy really – plenty of his contemporaries were charlatan fake-alchemists, but Flamel wasn’t one: in fact, the idea seems to be largely based on the fact that Flamel & his wife Perenelle were quite rich, and gave a fair bit of dosh away (couldn’t be anything to do with the fact that Perenelle was already loaded from two previous marriages when they met? Or that he was a successful businessman and landlord? No? Sigh, ok sure, he must have been secretly cooking up gold in his basement).
Supposedly, Flamel was given a manuscript containing the secrets of alchemy by a mysterious stranger. Unfortunately, it was written in Greek, Hebrew and other languages he couldn’t read (because isn’t that always the case with mysterious manuscripts?). It being the fourteenth century, Google translate wasn’t an option, so (after a brief 21 years of trying to figure it out himself), Nick packed his bags and went off to Spain in search of help. Here’s where it gets weird(er) – while en route he happened to bump into a Jewish sage named Canches, who helped him out with the translation, then promptly died before Flamel could get him back to Paris. With his new-found knowledge, Flamel was supposedly able to create the Philosopher’s stone, allowing him unlimited wealth, and – perhaps most importantly – immortality. The fact that Flamel supposedly died around 1418 at around 80 years old (which to be fair is pretty impressive in the 14th Century) did nothing to quash the rumours, because of course Flamel and Perenelle had faked their deaths, using them as a cover to move to India. Well, who knows? Maybe they’re living it up there now, at the ripe old age of 600! What we do know is that Flamel had been prepared for his death and had even had his own tombstone made ready - it can still be seen in the Musée Cluny.
As for our THATMuse Harry Potter, could rue Nicolas Flamel and its intersecting rue Pernelle be included in the hunt? It seems likely!
Our THATMuse Harry Potter launch event will be on Saturday 17th February, beginning at 2.30pm. If you would like to win a place on this hunt for you and a friend, you can do so by answering this second Giveaway Quiz Question (see rules below):
Please name the magical creature which is related to the griffin, but is half-eagle, half-horse. These magnificent beasts were not invented by J.K. Rowling, but one such creature was featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where it helps Sirius Black to escape the law…
RULES of the competition:
1)      Follow or like our page on either Instagram, Twitter (@THAT_Muse_) or Facebook (Treasure Hunt at the Museum)
2)      Retweet or share one of our competition posts, using the hashtags #THATMuse AND #THATMuseHarryPotter
3)      Tag a HP fan friend
4)      Email annie@thatmuse.com with your answer to the question, with the subject line “THATMuse Harry Potter Giveaway Quiz”
Check back next week, where we’ll reveal the answer to this Giveaway Quiz Question in another Harry Potter-related blog post!