How Could Merlin Possibly study in Slytherin House Centuries Before it Was Founded?

This is not a duplicate of questions about Merlin's biography in Harry Potter like In Harry Potter, Who is Merlin?: it is asking how Merlin could have possibly studied magic in Slytherin House.

To all of us Muggles, the most famous wizard of all was Merlin, the wizard at the court of King Arthur, a wizard who was active centuries before Hogwarts and Slytherin House were founded.

The character of Merlin in all medieval romances is based on the character of Merlin in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, circa 1135. Geoffrey in turn based Merlin on at least two legendary and possibly historical men, Aurelius Ambrosius and Mryddin.

According to the Historia Brittonum, circa 832, Aurelius Ambrosius was a king of the Britons in the 5th Century AD. Geoffrey includes Aurelius Ambrosius as a King of the Britons, but takes the story about Aurelius Ambrosius as a magical boy confronting King Vortigern and adds it to the biography of his wise man Merlin.

According to Welsh legend (and possibly history) Mryddin was a British warrior and seer in north Britain who went insane and live as a wild man in the woods after his lord was killed at the Battle of Arthuret about 574 AD. Geoffrey took a few details from the legend of Mryddin and used them for his Merlin.

So Merlin is more or less based on two different men, who lived in different parts of the period from 400 to 600 AD.

Furthermore, Merlin is famous as being a wise man and/or wizard at the court of King Arthur. The Annales Cambriae, circa 975, say that Arthur won the Battle of Baden in a year corresponding to 516, 517, or 518, and was killed at the Battle of Camlann in a year corresponding to 537, 538, or 539. Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, circa 1135, dates the Battle of Camlann to 542 AD.

Arthur is also famous for leading the Britons against the invading Angles, and Saxons, and Jutes (oh my!) and so has to be dated before about 600 AD when they already ruled all of southern England.

So anyone who knows anything about British history, legend, and chronology associates Merlin the Wizard with the 6th century AD, when he did all his famous deeds. Merlin could have used magic to live for centuries or millennia after that date, but he isn't famous for doing anything great after the 6th century so would have lived quietly and out of sight in later centuries.

But it is claimed that Merlin was a graduate of Hogwarts and Slytherin House, though Hogwarts wasn't founded until centuries after Merlin gained his fame.

  • When was Hogwarts founded?

    In his answer here LCIII quotes Pottermore:

    "Here’s a little-known fact that the other three houses don’t bring up much: Merlin was a Slytherin. Yes, Merlin himself, the most famous wizard in history! He learned all he knew in this very house! Do you want to follow in the footsteps of Merlin?"

  • Are there any good Slytherins besides Snape and Slughorn?

    Merlin's famous wizards cards say:

    Medieval, dates unknown Most famous wizard of all time. Sometimes known as the Prince of Enchanters. Part of the Court of King Arthur.4


    Merlin is the most famous wizard of all time. He is sometimes known as the Prince of Enchanters and was part of the Court of King Arthur.[58]


But I don't know if this is canon, or what details about Merlin's biography in HP sources are canonical.

Is Merlin in Harry Potter supposed to have lived backwards in time like he did in The Once and Future King?

  • 3
    Probably just another case of JKR / whoever writes Pottermore not doing their research? Just add it to the list. – Rand al'Thor Feb 20 '18 at 20:21
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    Keep in mind that first quote, at least, is in-character; it might simply be a lie, or a fable. – Harry Johnston Feb 20 '18 at 21:29
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    HP Merlin =/= "real" Merlin. He's a fictional character loosely inspired by a historical/mythological character, but that's as far as it goes. In the HP books, Merlin (and Arthur) lived sometime after the founding of Hogwarts. – ibid Feb 20 '18 at 21:37
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    @Ibid - And something which is well detailed in the dupe answers – Valorum Feb 21 '18 at 11:02
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    @ibid How is this a duplicate? The previous question is about who Merlin was (and the top answer says "dates unknown" and that he was in King Arthur's court); this is asking specifically about an apparent discrepancy in the info available about Merlin. (Also, if you thought it was a duplicate, why did you answer it?) – Rand al'Thor Feb 21 '18 at 22:53

He didn't study in Slytherin House "centuries before it was founded"

The character Merlin in the Harry Potter books lived after Hogwarts was founded, unlike the person of that name from British Legend that he was based on.

Rowling usually doesn't provide any dating for Merlin other than informing us that he was part of the Court of King Arthur, a friend of Sir Cadogan, and an enemy of Morgan le Fay.

The clearest bounds that we can get for Merlin's life is that he lived between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.

Lower Bound - 12th century

Historians disagree about the origins of this Charm. Some claim that it was invented by Merlin himself, others that it was in widespread use in Madagascar as early as the eleventh century.
Book of Spells - Chapter 5 - Disarming Charm

In order for existence "as early as the eleventh century" to prove that Merlin didn't invent it, Merlin must have not been around in the eleventh century.

Upper Bound - 15th century

The Order of Merlin, commemorating the most famous wizard of his time, has been given since the fifteenth century. Legend says that the green ribbon, on which the First Class Order hangs, is to reflect Merlins Hogwarts house.
Pottermore: Order of Merlin

For the Order of Merlin to have been established in commemoration of Merlin, he most have been alive before it was created. It could have been created while he was still alive, (Or even created by him, as the non-canonical Hasbro chocolate frog card suggests), but it could also have been made long after he died.

Seeing as HP Merlin lived somewhere between the 12th and 15th centuries, it makes sense that he would have studied at Hogwarts, and been sorted into a house.

Your main mistake seems to be assuming that characters appearing in the Harry Potter universe are identical to the "real world" characters they are based off of. Rowling has said under oath that is not the case.

Q. Let's put on the screen Exhibit 34. Can you please tell the Court what Exhibit 34 is.
A. This is a list of the famous wizards, well, fictional famous wizards, and their achievements and dates of life and death -- of birth and death, that I provided to Electronic Arts.
Q. Did you make these wizards up?
A. I did. Occasionally there is someone who existed in reality. I've taken some liberties with their biography.
(JK Rowling's testimony at Warner Bros vs RDR Books)

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    +1 for Word of God evidence provided under oath. – Blackwood Feb 21 '18 at 0:49

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