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How do the Elixir of Life work? (SPOILER-esque?)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Ninclow, Apr 8, 2018.

  1. Sauce Bauss

    Sauce Bauss Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    On the contrary, 150 itself seems to be middle aged for a wizard or witch. Armando Dippet, the former Headmaster, lived to be 355. He was older than the Ministry and died during canon, and that's without any elixir of life shenanigans. Aging and populations are just really inconsistently handled. There should be legions of magic users older than Dumbledore.
     
  2. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    That's strictly from the movies, though, isn't it? Trying to square that with the books produces odd results, yeah. Not just here.
     
  3. arkkitehti

    arkkitehti Groundskeeper

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    My personal preference on the issue is that abnormally long lifespan is simply yet another (if a bit more common) innate magical ability like being a metamorphmagus or parselmouth. Most of the wizards would die of old age around the same age as normal muggles would, but because of the magical nature of their health-care they have some decades of healthy life more.

    With this system you can at the same time explain why there are relatively many very old wizards, while at the same time almost no one seems to have living great-grandparents. And why the only "statistical" "canon" source, the Black family tree, has no individuals aged more than 90.

    Of course this conflicts with the other statistical "canon" source, the prop newspaper article that claims wizards have a life expectancy of around 138 years. Yet another prop newspaper claims that the oldest living wizard was 755 years old, though that same article sets a lower bound of world wizard population at 30 million. And although it has news about the Gringotts robbery in PS, it's dated at 2001...

    In summary, there's nothing about normal age of wizards in the books (not even confirmed age for any of the main adult characters), and loads of wildly conflicting extended-universe information. Basically you can set your mind on whatever you like, and no one can claim you're wrong.
     
  4. Alistair

    Alistair First Year

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    It does seem strange that wizards end up as decrepit as Dumbledore by what is effectively middle age. Dippet would have had nearly 200 years of wrinkles, old man smell and frequent urination by that metric. I thought it was only muggle medicine that let the elderly linger on without meaningfully improving their quality of life?
     
  5. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I wouldn't exactly call Dumbledore decrepit. Sure he's got wrinkles and white hair, but he moves pretty quickly when he wants to.
     
  6. Zombie

    Zombie John Waynes Teeth Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I mean, Dumbledore was lively in comparison to Marchbanks(Marsh?) Cause she said she proctored his exam. I can't find the quote from the books atm. But I remember that being a thing.
     
  7. Ninclow

    Ninclow Fourth Year

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    Uh - there are extremely few examples of witches and wizards reaching that age, that's one thing, and we don't know if Professor Dippet used magic to extend his own life. Don't mean he necessarily had to use an Elixir of Life, though. During the brewing of the Polyjuice Potion, one will obtain the elixir of Primum ens Melissae, which can rejuvenate, to some degree, the well-being and vitality of one's body by attracting and concentrating the source of spirit and soul found in some herbs. Take that, and add a regular intake of Magi-Me-More, and I see no reason a wizard could live to a ripe old age.
    --- Post automerged ---
    OMG! Rowling predicted Harry Potter RPGs on the internet! Captain Conspiracy, away! :p
     
  8. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    ... now you're throwing out the baby with the bathwater, though. The fact that non-Canon sources such as the movies create wildly conflicting claims doesn't mean there aren't best guesses. Not all claims are equal. We do have a timeline regarding Dumbledore and Grindelwald, and we know that you need to extend their lifespans a bit because of people like Madam Marchbanks, who examined Dumbledore in 1899 (and had been examining students for a while) and is still reasonably hale in OotP, or Bathilda Bagshot, who was an adult (and, presumably, an established scholar) when the Dumbledores moved to Godric's Hollow in 1890, and was killed in DH.

    Both lead you to lifespans of 150, 160 years for some wizards, and that works well enough. Claiming wildly different lifespans doesn't mean you're just as correct, it means you're moving away from what is the most reasonable interpretation of Canon.
     
  9. arkkitehti

    arkkitehti Groundskeeper

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    Sure, I'm not disputing the fact that there are wizards who are more than 150 years old. But I don't see any evidence in any of the canon that living that long would be the expected norm: the society we see through Harry's eyes is very much of the same general age as in the real world.

    What we see in canon is that it's entirely normal for wizards to have kids in their twenties, and with a 150 year life expectancy you would expect each and every family to have at least five generations alive at the same time. But yet there's no Potter great grandparents alive, no mention of any other great grandparents, and pretty much all top positions in the ministry we know of are held by people one or two generations older than Harry (Arthur Weasley, Amelia Bones, Marietta Edgecombe's mother, Crouch sr, ....), and someone as young as Percy can rise to somewhat high positions right after finishing school.

    True, there might be some kind of retirement colony full of old wizards, but they sure don't show themselves in canon.
     
  10. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    @arkkitehti: Well, there are a few points I would raise to that. First is that I think proportional scaling of ages is flawed. It just doesn't work. You can't take 75, say that's like 150 for wizards, and scale everything by 2. Wizards aren't still children at 20 and off age at 35, they come of age at 17, more or less like Muggles. But if that is the case, there is no reason to expect that other milestones in life -- getting children, working, retiring -- scale in any particular way, either. Instead, it appears very non-linear: Childhood and early adulthood work as they do for Muggles, then it slows down and you tack on a couple of decades in mid-life, and then you massively extend old age. Not for everyone, no. But all Muggles don't become 90 or 100 either.

    Which means, second, that all mid-life wizards and witches we see could be actually 40 like Lucius Malfoy, or just look the part, and actually are 60. We have no way to tell, but "the same general age" is based on looks, and we know looks don't map to actual ages for adults in Canon. How old is Scrimgeour, for instance? He could be 50, or he could be 80. The issue of defined relatives of Canon children is a fair point, but you might run into selection bias, here. Naturally, the parents of Hogwarts students will work somewhere, and since we see an outsized share of Hogwarts students, we know more about their parents, too -- and especially as regards the Ministry, because that is relevant (OotP). Case in point: Can you think of any parent of a Hogwarts student that is described not to work at the Ministry?

    Obviously, not all, not even most, will work at the Ministry. And yet, we know about Ron, and Marietta, and Cedric, and then -- blank. So this is not a representative sample, its use is limited. And factual statements, such as Arthur's coworker Perkins, who is called an "old warlock", are rare.

    Finally, regarding the Potters, that's a special case. Rowling constructed it that way. In her own words, they had James late in life, and "were old in wizarding terms". Hence, when they died, James was the only Potter of that branch of the family left. A better example for your point would be the Weasley family, actually. There, we know of a great-aunt, and we know of a grandparent (Septimus Weasley, born around 1910), but that's pretty much it. You'd think that all the family comes together for a wedding, but if they do, great-grandparents and older certainly aren't mentioned (even Septimus isn't).

    So yeah, there are inconsistencies, which is why I called it a "best guess". But it still is the best guess, as far as I can see.
     
  11. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Plus there are explicit statements by JKR. E.g.

    http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1000-scholastic-chat.htm

    Of course JKR later revised Dumbledore's age downwards to 120, but there's no reason to think she went back on the general idea of higher wizarding life expectancy, or the idea that 70 is "sprightly" for a wizard. Especially as she continued to introduce old wizards like Marchbanks and Bagshot, and considering the fact that 120 is still well in excess of normal Muggle life expectancy, and at that age Dumbledore still appears to be decades away from death by natural causes: physically, there's no frailty to him, and his reaction times are still lightning fast. Dumbledore at 120 seems to be equivalent to a very healthy 65 year old.

    The reason why we never encounter many very old wizards is fairly simple: the story is set in a school. The vast majority of the cast is made up of teachers, kids, and immediate family of close friends. I don't think I've met the grandparents of any of my friends. It doesn't mean they don't exist.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018 at 8:58 AM
  12. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    If you wanted to make a case for shorter lifespans at all, your best bet is the Black Family Tree, actually. That, too, was written by Rowling, and I don't think to this date anyone knows what she did there. She clearly intended wizards to have longer lifespans on one hand, but on the other, no one in one of the most prominent wizarding families even topped 90 years (Arcturus 1901 -- 1991). Then again, the entire thing is riddled with other clearly nonsensical dates (various members being fathers at 13 or 14, most notably Cygnus with Bellatrix), so maybe we can disregard it -- or, at least disregard what we know about it. To my knowledge, there are (bad) partial photographies and a reliable transcription from the Lexicon, but maybe the real thing is different. Edit: Actually, this image is pretty clear. It's also notable that the version on Pottermore has the names, but lacks the dates.

    Either way, if you were to weigh the respective evidence, it's pretty clear that the Black Family Tree, as we know it, loses out -- but nevertheless it's still there, and still directly from Rowling.
     
  13. James018

    James018 Second Year

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    It's worth noting that the shorter lifespans of the Black family could well be due to other causes, like bad genetics (potentially caused by inbreeding?), illnesses and violence. Tellingly, almost all of the Blacks that we do know died well before their time.

    It is also worth remembering that J.K.R. is notoriously horrible at maths and it shouldn't surprise us that she has made some inconsistent statements. It is probably best for us to assume somewhere in the middle of the two extremes we see: that wizards do have significantly longer natural lifespans than Muggles, but that extremes like 200-300 years or more are, at best, very rare; perhaps the equivalent of a Muggle living to the age of 110+.
     
  14. Ninclow

    Ninclow Fourth Year

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    You are also failing to factor in how the "parent generation" of Harry's formative years, as Molly said in the seventh book, eloped and ran off to marry as quickly as possible because they feared they might be "dead tomorrow" because of Voldemort's activities during the mid-1960's and outright warfare on the Ministry in the 1970's, so just because the parents of Harry and many of his classmates became parents in their early twenties, that don't necessarily hold true for most.

    Also - I think many elderly witches and wizards might be prone to die from Dragon Pox. Like the parents of James Potter, the parents of Tina and Queenie, Abraxas Malfoy, former Minister for Magic Eldritch Diggory (who I don't think was even that old?), etc...
     
  15. Nevermind

    Nevermind Fourth Year

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    That is a possible explanation. However, I seem to recall a statement from JKR saying that magic apparently "cancels out" the effects of inbreeding to some degree? The Harry Potter Wiki has no sources on the topic, though, so maybe that was part of @Taure’s headcanon.
     
  16. James018

    James018 Second Year

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    That's possible, within reason. Mind you, the Gaunts pose a counterexample to that theory.
     
  17. Sataniel

    Sataniel Seventh Year

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    Bullshit theories time.

    It's all about the soul. The soul is connected to the body (as we can see with the effects of creating horcruxes) so why not assume that it's also important in those cases.

    Philosopher's Stone works by strengthening the soul which in result strengthen's the body. Without it bumping the limit of longevity, the no-longer-user dies. No need to think about cell damage and other mundane things.

    Similarly, if the body and soul are connected, then extensive magical changes to your look may:
    Theory A: create dissonance between your body and soul, leading to various negative effects.
    Theory B: affect your soul.
    As those wouldn't be desirable and is hard to say what is extensive wizards would avoid changing their look.