8

In the Philosopher's Stone, we read a passage from a library book giving Flamel's age as 665:

Mr Flamel, who celebrated his six hundred and sixty-fifth birthday last year, enjoys a quiet life in Devon with his wife, Perenelle (six hundred and fifty-eight).

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - p.161 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 13, Nicolas Flamel

Which I always took to be his age during the events of the Philosopher's Stone.

But it occurred to me today that this information came from a very old library book and is surely out of date:

Harry and Ron barely had time to exchange mystified looks before she was dashing back, an enormous old book in her arms.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - p.160 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 13, Nicolas Flamel

So how old was he really? Has Rowling ever said? Because it occurs to me that an author would not have written that passage except to give the audience an indication of his age.

  • 3
    27. He'd just led a hard life. – Valorum Nov 5 '16 at 18:57
  • 9
    It's an old book, yes, but it's magical. I expect it to auto-update, just like websites often do (“asked two years ago”). – chirlu Nov 5 '16 at 19:08
  • 3
    @chirlu Now that is an interesting theory. I think reality is less pretty, though, and that JKR simply wanted to give us his current age, and did not think that a markedly old book wasn't the most consistent way to do so. – Pwassonne Nov 5 '16 at 21:48
  • 2
    Books autoupdating is within spell scope for harry potter. If the author of books cast the spell hermione did on those coins the Dumbledores army members had. They could simply update the master book, and all other books out in the world would update. – Himarm Nov 6 '16 at 15:36
  • @Himarm A protean charm :) – Au101 Nov 6 '16 at 15:53
5

According to wikipedia, the real Nicholas Flamel was born in ca. 1330, which would make him 661 or thereabouts when Harry and Hermione read this book. If this number is correct, than the book is approximately -5 years old. I know JKR is bad at maths, but hopefully not this much. Of course, Flamel could have been born any time around then. Still though, the book was old (which we know from the quote cited in the question.) So, the most likely scenario is that, as @chirlu says in the above comment:

It's an old book, yes, but it's magical. I expect it to auto-update, just like websites often do (“asked two years ago”).

Let's look at this way: assuming the book is about 100 years old (I don't care how right this is), Flamel would have been born in 1225. If the book is more, which is probable, he could have been born earlier.

It makes the most sense if the book does "auto-update," and Flamel is, as in real life, around 665. Of course, the out-of-universe explanation is that JKR is bad at maths and neglected to include years for the old book.

1

First, i would like to say that, yes, wizards and witches are a lazy bunch. However, i don't think they would have spent time creating an auto-updating spell for books, since that would first be a lot of work, and secondly make many books useless and/or highly repetetive. It is, after all, much easier to just write the year the book was published on the first page under your name. This might also explain why an author would write something like: "Who celebrated his six hundred and sixty-fifth birthday last year", as that enpowers the theme of laziness that surrounds witches and wizards.

For another, although Hermione is quite clever, i doubt a 12 year old would know much about checking sources. As shown in the earlier books, she believes very much in figures of authority, as well as taking anything written in books as holy writ, shown perfectly in Chamber of Secrets when discussing the authenticity of Lockhart's accomplishments.

“Rubbish,” said Hermione. “You’ve read his books — look at all those amazing things he’s done —” Page 103, chapter 6, Chamber of Secrets.

From this, i think it's clear that we will never know the true age of Nicholas Flamel until Rowling decides to clearify the age of the 'old' book.

  • 1
    Well, I do think Hermione is sufficiently clever to realize that information in books can be out of date. – Adamant Nov 6 '16 at 10:27
  • That is actually a fair point, the difference between out of date and false information. Although, since this was her first year in the magical world, i would think she would err on the side of anything being of date if it could be found in the Hogwarts library(Which is as close to a Mecca for Hermione as you will ever get). – asassin1 Nov 6 '16 at 15:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.