Rowling Didn't Make Them Up: 5 Harry Potter Characters That Have Prototypes

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J. K. Rowling is famous for her great imagination, but some of the ideas in her books were simply "copied" from various sources.

The Real Nicolas Flamel

Dumbledore's friend and the maker of the Philosopher's Stone, Nicolas Flamel was in fact a real person. He is known as a French scribe and alchemist who lived in Paris in the 14th century. During his lifetime, Nicolas did scientific experiments but never made any discoveries. After Flamel's death, the rumor spread that the alchemist had found the secret of eternal life and discovered a stone that could transform any metal into gold. The legend has it that Nicolas hid the stone, and now only the chosen one can find it. However, there is no documentary evidence to prove the artifact ever existed.

According to Rowling's version, Nicolas Flamel created the Philosopher's Stone and was able to use its powers. In the first book, Dumbledore tells Harry about his great alchemist friend, whose invention prolonged his life for over six centuries.

Mythical Creatures

Some of the magical creatures in the saga have in fact been adopted from other literary sources. For example, in one of Professor Lupin's classes, Harry Potter learns about a water demon called Grindylow. Later, he meets the demon again in The Goblet of Fire. The writer did not invent the sinister creature with dangling tentacles — she simply borrowed it from Celtic mythology. According to ancient legends, grindylows live in shallow waters and grab naughty children by the legs to drown them.

The magical phoenix named Fawkes, who brings Potter the Sorting Hat in The Chamber of Secrets, was not Rowling's invention: the creature was first described by the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C. Herodotus' historical accounts are based on the stories he heard from different people.

Once, a pilgrim traveling from Egypt told him about a brightly colored bird with a distinctive loud cry that can live for at least 500 years. Herodotus doubted the latter fact, but he still included the description in his work, which later became the source of inspiration for Rowling. By the way, the ancient historian never claimed that the phoenix could rise from the ashes. According to his work, young phoenixes carry their dead parents over an impressive distance and then reunite with their flock.

In The Philosopher's Stone, Hermione gets attacked by another magical creature that has its roots in Nordic folklore — a troll. Ancient Scandinavians believed that trolls were mountain spirits who were most often hostile to humans because they pose a threat to nature.

The first part of the Harry Potter series also features another creature borrowed from Greek mythology: the three-headed dog Fluffy looks a lot like Cerberus, the guard of the gates of the Underworld. Although Rowling has slightly modified this fantastic creature, readers can easily guess its origin.

Centaurs are probably the most recognizable of all mythical beings described in the book. Harry Potter encounters these proud creatures on several occasions: first, a centaur saves the protagonist in the Forbidden forest, and later, Dolores Umbridge is captured by a whole herd of centaurs. These creatures have been described in Labors of Hercules.