03 February 2011 @ 02:00 am
The Death of Nicholas Flamel  
Nicholas Flamel was born around 1325. He died soon after June of 1992. Flamel was able to live for so long because, as clearly one of the most brilliant wizards of all time, he had made the only known philosopher's stone.

Despite his brilliancy and longevity, we are asked to believe that, although he had managed to keep the stone safe from who knows how many dark lords for approximately 600 years, he was unable to protect it from Voldemort and prevent its destruction in 1992.

I'm not sure I believe it, so I've been exploring other possibilities for what may have happened. Here's what I've considered:

1. Dumbledore took the stone without Flamel's permission
Given what we learned of Dumbledore in DH's, this doesn't seem totally unreasonable. However, I really doubt that Dumbledore would have been able to access the stone without Flamel's consent. Moreover, even if he was, he wouldn't have been able to get away with it for very long since its removal from Gringotts was announced in the Daily Prophet.

2. The stone at Hogwarts was actually a fake, so they didn't really die when it was destroyed.
This feels like the easiest explanation, especially since Hagrid was the one assigned to retrieve it from Gringott's, but I don't think it quite works. The brilliant swythyv proposed a few years ago that Nicholas Flamel had ruled as the "invisible king" of the wizarding world for nearly seven centuries. He left the Wizengamot in charge of managing most of its affairs. Dumbledore had so much political power in the WW mostly because he had Flamel's backing. Therefore, Flamel's death would explain why Dumbledore's political star fell so quickly after Harry's first year. So, if we go with her theory, it would seem that Flamel was definitely out of the picture by 1992.

3. The Flamels had already simply decided that they were ready to die, so they didn't mind if the stone was destroyed.
Maybe. But, if they were, in fact, the sovereigns of the WW, this seems like really bad timing on their part, since Voldemort was still on the loose.

4. The stone at Hogwarts may or may not have been a fake, but, either way, the real stone was still destroyed because that was the only way to keep it out of Voldemort's hands.
In part 7 of his 2004 Expecto Patronus series, pharnabazus presented a good theory about this.
Voldemort's principal aim, once the civil war had begun, would have been to clear his way to the Stone. Whatever charms protected the Flamels he would have circumvented or broken; whoever knew about these protections would have been taken, one by one, and made to reveal all that they knew.

The key figure may perhaps have been Adalbert Waffling, the magical theoretician, whose theoretical breakthroughs apparently affected the lives of "every modern witch and wizard." Waffling died before his time at the age of eighty in the suspicious year of 1981. (From what the chocolate frog cards say, the average age of natural death for wizards of his generation seems to be about a hundred). In other words, he was almost certainly a wartime casualty, and must have been killed shortly before the Potters were. The Flamels (in the Philosopher's Stone) had their own personal goldmine, and could have afforded the best theoretical magic to protect themselves and their stone. Waffling's death may have opened the way for Voldemort to reach the Flamels (or possibly to break into the Gringotts vaults) but before he could capitalise on it, he made a fatal mistake at Godric's Hollow. Voldemort no doubt calculated (as soon as he had heard of the prophecy) that removing a wizard who could defeat him was an even more urgent priority than getting the Philosopher's Stone

The Flamels were safe for now, and as long as Voldemort was in exile the Philosopher's Stone could be safe in Gringotts, but now they could see that if he ever returned its protection would depend entirely on their old friend Dumbledore....
It's a really good theory, but, again, I'm not sure it quite works. Waffling wasn't around until the 20th century. There surely must have been other super-evil, super-smart dark lords in the previous centuries from whom the Flamels were able to protect the stone. Was Voldemort really that special? Moreover, we now know that Voldemort already had alternative arrangements for immortality in place, so it's hard to tell if he was, in fact, that desperate for the stone until after he lost his body.

5. The Flamels were actually already dead before the beginning of PS
And this is where I've landed. How can we be sure that Flamel was still alive in 1992? The kids found it nearly impossible to find any information on him. We don't know if there had even been any news about him since he published his work with Dumbledore on the uses of dragon's blood, and that could have been more than 50 years earlier. If Flamel was ruling the WW, he was doing it very much behind the scenes. He may have only been in contact with a few individuals, such as Dumbledore. Only they would have known if Flamel had died. And, just maybe, they wanted to keep his death a secret for as long as possible in order to preserve the political status quo (in other words, retain their power).

So when might the Flamels have died? There are probably a few good possibilities, but I think it could have been as early as the early 20th century. It might explain why both Grindelwald and Voldemort were allowed to run amok for so long... and why Dumbledore was able to get away with so many of his hair-brained schemes.

So what changed in 1992 that we finally learned of Flamel's death and Dumbledore's political clout seemed to suddenly take a nosedive? Maybe somebody else important had recently died. Along with Dumbledore, they had been keeping Flamel's death a secret, and now they were gone.

We have a few candidates for whom the individual(s) might be:

Pollux Black died in 1990
Perpetua Fancourt, noted on her wizarding card for inventing the Lunascope, died in 1991
Tilly Toke, who gained Order of Merlin, First Class for saving muggles from a dragon in 1932, died in 1991
Acturus Black died in 1991
Cassiopeia Black died in 1992

My money is on one or more of the Blacks. Others have noted that the Blacks appear to have been Wizarding Britain's royal family. They are the "The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black," and their tapestry goes back seven centuries (similar to Flamel's supposed 667 years of life). Note, also, that the Black family vault in Gringotts, vault 711, was quite close to the vault containing the stone, vault 713.
 
 
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Shivshiv5468 on February 4th, 2011 09:41 am (UTC)
Mmm interesting theory.

I've always tended to the Sneaky Dumbledore theory, because that's my answer to everything
pathology_doc: controversypathology_doc on February 4th, 2011 11:38 am (UTC)
Sorry, but I think it's all a load of tripe.

although he had managed to keep the stone safe from who knows how many dark lords for approximately 600 years, he was unable to protect it from Voldemort and prevent its destruction in 1992

...because there'd never been a Dark Lord as powerful as Voldemort before.

What part of this do you NOT understand?
danajsparksdanajsparks on February 4th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
...because there'd never been a Dark Lord as powerful as Voldemort before.

What evidence do we have for this? How was Voldemort so much more powerful than previous Dark Lords?

pathology_docpathology_doc on February 4th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
Dumbledore's say-so. It's canon.
danajsparksdanajsparks on February 4th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC)
Personally, I'm not someone who takes Dumbledore at his word.
some kind of snark faeryshyfoxling on February 5th, 2011 06:29 am (UTC)
It's interesting to speculate how things might have gone had Albus been born in a different era... perhaps opposed to one of these other hypothetical Dark Lords? (and perhaps the Elder Wand could still figure in?)
danajsparksdanajsparks on February 5th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, are you speculating that Albus himself could have been a Dark Lord if he had been born at a different time? That isn't something I've considered.

I just don't automatically take Dumbledore at his word because it's canon that he sometimes lies, he doesn't know everything, and he sometimes makes mistakes.
Arethinnarethinn on February 6th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
No, I meant opposed to some Dark Lord type in the fashion he is to Grindelwald or Voldemort, just coming into possession of the Elder Wand in an earlier era.
some kind of snark faeryshyfoxling on February 6th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
Oops, sorry, that other comment was me.
pathology_doc: etherealfirepathology_doc on February 5th, 2011 10:09 am (UTC)
Then you may as well rewrite the books to suit yourself.
RPowellrpowell on February 4th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
Despite his brilliancy and longevity, we are asked to believe that, although he had managed to keep the stone safe from who knows how many dark lords for approximately 600 years, he was unable to protect it from Voldemort and prevent its destruction in 1992.

Why is that hard to believe? Just because Flamel was able to keep possession of the stone for such a long time was no guarantee that he would be able to do so forever. Nothing is guaranteed.
danajsparksdanajsparks on February 4th, 2011 07:58 pm (UTC)
What's hard to believe is that such a brilliant man would agree with Dumbledore's plan to protect the actual stone and couldn't come up with anything better himself... because it was a stupid plan for keeping the stone safe. We know there are better protections out there.
(Deleted comment)
danajsparksdanajsparks on February 6th, 2011 08:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, this is quite possible, and I believe probably true. But, then, why did Flamel agree to use the real stone as bait?
lonewolf_eburglonewolf_eburg on February 19th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
Well, Albus does mention that Flamel wasn't afraid of death and that he regarded it as "the next great adventure". A softer variation on the common "an immortal is tired of life and desperately wants to die" motif.
oryx_leucoryx on February 24th, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
After DH I can't find support for swythyv's Invisible King theory, however delightful this theory was. I think Flamel was a Ravenclaw, and like others of his House was too concerned with his favorite intellectual pursuits to bother about politics. I'm including Ollivander, Bathilda Bagshot and Xeno Lovegood as similar examples.

I have no idea if he was alive at the time Hagrid retrieved the Stone on July 31st 1991, but I tend to think that if he was alive then he already was putting his affairs in order. I don't think he expected to have access to the Stone once it was placed in Dumbly's obstacle course.

I like your idea that Dumbles' politics started going nowhere fast as a result of some other important death.

(It has been suggested that the dragon-pox epidemic that killed Abraxas Malfoy is responsible for all those 1991-2 deaths.)
danajsparksdanajsparks on February 24th, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there really isn't much support for the Invisible King theory in DH. It's really is such a delightful theory, though, and there's nothing in canon to contradict it, I don't think.

But you're right, if Flamel didn't have a political role he may have just been ready to die.

I like the dragon-pox epidemic theory. Something else I've also considered is if there's any connection between all those deaths and Voldemort's return to Britain, or if the timing is just coincidence.
eri1980beri1980b on April 19th, 2011 05:22 pm (UTC)
Firstly: I like your ideas!

I agree that there is an air of dubiousness (if that's even a word) about the whole thing. For example, your comment regarding sending Hagrid for such an important task does raise questions which I personally had never thought of before.

Getting back to the Flamel subject; I believe he had had enough. Either because all the people he held dear (apart from the wife) were long dead, or because he was tired of Dark Lord after Dark Lord trying to get their grubby mitts on his stone, or because he had been a significant political player and wanted to exit the stage, I don't know. The possibilities are endless. I also think it more likely he did die in 1992. Whilst the idea of someone else pulling the political strings behind Dumbledore's political ascent is most tantalising; I can't see it coming from Black or Malfoy quarters. Whilst I would agree that the Blacks seem to spread out across both sides of the arguement; ultimately those that erred towards the side of the light are more likely to side with the ministry in my opinion. Lucius Malfoy never hasanything pleasant to say about Dumbledore; which surely he would have been a bit fairer if Abraxis had been a supporter.
danajsparksdanajsparks on April 19th, 2011 06:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :D

Since writing this essay, I've come to the conclusion that it was probably Arcturus Black's death that led to the nosedive in Dumbledore's political career, and it may have had nothing to do with Nicholas Flamel or the stone. I realized it's fairly likely that Dumbledore gained control of the Black estate when Arcturus died, and there were probably quite a few people who were none too pleased about that. I have an essay about this here
jodel_from_aoljodel_from_aol on August 2nd, 2011 06:12 am (UTC)
>> I think Flamel was a Ravenclaw, and like others of his House was too concerned with his favorite intellectual pursuits to bother about politics.<<

Flamel was a Frenchman, and if he attended a wizarding school it would probably have been Beaubatons. I don't know whether they have a house system there.

He might also have been educated at home, since there's a good deal of possibility that many more wizarding children of his time were than today. I don't know whether any of the schools on the continent were nationalized in the 14th c. And there was no policy of wizarding secrecy to complicate matters.
jodel_from_aoljodel_from_aol on January 26th, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
I gather that (acto one of the Easter eggs on Rowling's site) the Flamels had died something like a century earlier when someopne managed to steal the stone. And the Potters had stolen it from the thieves. Might have been a fun story arc, but Rowling had abandoned it well before writing the version we've got. Maybe because she wanted to make that connection between Albus (who was still 150 rather than 115) and Flamel, which would have been difficult if Flamel was dead by the time Albus was born.

Edited at 2012-01-26 10:06 pm (UTC)
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )