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The Harry Potter Character You Likely Didn't Know Was Based On A Real Historical Figure

The magical characters of "Harry Potter" may be part of a fictitious wizarding world, but many were actually inspired by key players in author J.K. Rowling's upbringing.

For example, Rowling based "the Boy Who Lived" on childhood friend Ian Potter, who, like Harry, always had a love for adventure (via The Guardian). Rowling said, "A gang of children, including myself and my sister, used to play together up and down our street. Two of the gang members were a brother and sister whose surname was Potter. I always liked that name."

Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) – the sickeningly sweet Ministry of Magic official who teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" – was based on one of Rowling's own educators. On Pottermore, Rowling revealed that she and this individual shared a mutual dislike for each other, not unlike Harry and Umbridge. "The woman in question returned my antipathy with interest," she said. "Why we took against each other so instantly, heartily and (on my side, at least) irrationally, I honestly cannot say."

While Harry and Umbridge were drawn from Rowling's own acquaintances, she based one character on a real-life historical figure, one who many may not have realized existed in our Muggle world.

Nicolas Flamel was a 14th-century bookseller

In Rowling's first installment, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the plot centers around the tiny, red stone, which produces an elixir of life to make the drinker immortal. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) discover that 600-plus-year-old alchemist Nicolas Flamel created the stone. It's given to Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris) to protect at the school from Lord Voldemort (Richard Bremmer), who wants to restore himself to power.

It might seem impossible for such a person to exist, but as Rowling published on Pottermore in 2015, Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky) — and the fascinating legend of immortality surrounding him — was real. Though the bookseller allegedly died in 1418, many believe the grave to be empty and that Flamel and his wife, Perenelle, snuck off to the Indies to live for many more years (via Discover Walks).

Regarding the sorcerer's stone (known as the philosopher's stone throughout history), it's been said that Flamel bought a book called "The Book of Abraham the Jew" that included instructions on alchemy. Eventually, Flamel became extremely rich, though this was due to his marriage with Perenelle, who came from a wealthy family. Moreover, there is no historical evidence that he was ever involved in alchemy.