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|Behind the scenes|
Nathaniel (born in 1988, chosen name John Mandrake) is one of three main protagonists in the Bartimaeus Trilogy. He changes drastically throughout the books, going from an innocent child, to an arrogant magician, and finally to a selfless young man, sacrificing himself for the rest of London. In Ptolemy's Gate, Nathaniel is said to be, with perhaps the exception of Jessica Whitwell, the most powerful magician in all of London.
Nathaniel was born to unknown parents, and then, at age five, sent to live with the middle class magician Arthur Underwood as part of a government program.
At the age of 12, Nathaniel summoned the spirit, Bartimaeus, to do his bidding for him. Initially, he was very afraid, due to knowing the djinni's background, but also due to his appearance. After confirming Bartimaeus' identity, Nathaniel charged him with obtaining the Amulet of Samarkand from the house of Simon Lovelace. Although the djinni was skeptical at first, he eventually left, before Nathaniel could inflict the Systemic Vise on him. Later, they saved the Prime Minister and other members of the parlament when Simon Lovelace summoned Ramuthra to kill them.
Later, when Nathaniel was seventeen, he was landed in the middle of Quentin Makepeace's scheme, and summoned his djinn, Bartimaeus, into his body (unwillingly, it was Kitty who convinced him to do so) and acquired Gladstone's staff. He slew Nouda and the other demon-human hybrids, but died in the process. The Glass Palace collapsed on him. Even at the very end, he gave Bartimaeus his freedom.
Nathaniel is descibed as pale, thin, and dark haired, wearing a suit in all but the first book. In The Golem's Eye, he wears, in Bartimaeus' words, a "flouncy red hankerchief", extremely tight trousers, and his hair long. At this point in his life, Nathaniel is described as very aesthetically concerned, which is consistent with the materialistic society of magicians around him.
In contrast, in Ptolemy's Gate he has his hair cut short (as a nod to the soldiers fighting in the current war) and no tie.
From a very young age, Nathaniel was fully immersed within the philosophy and worldview of the average British magician. Consequently, he began his life with the disposition of a traditional apprentice: selfish, arrogant, and naïve. However, several factors affected Nathaniel in ways that most apprentices were not. Martha Underwood, his first master's wife, took the role of a surrogate mother in his life. She showered the young boy with attention and kindness and called him by his birth name, allowing the boy's morality and sense of loyalty remain intact (to some extent).
Nathaniel also displayed an ambitious and brilliant intellect from the beginning, enabling him to quickly equal and even surpass his first master, at least in terms of summoning prowess. It was this ambition and intelligence that motivated much of his personal development, as his encounters with the djinni Bartimaeus, the Resistance, and the destruction of Underwood's house were all initiated by a plot that Nathaniel hatched to avenge himself on the magician Simon Lovelace.
At the end of this conflict, Nathaniel was propelled to a position of favor and admiration, his talent and career under the personal watch of both Rupert Devereaux and Jessica Whitwell. This rapid advance affected his personality negatively even as his own skills were increased, and he became a vain and arrogant young magician.
However, a shred of the old Nathaniel remained, particularly in his sense of morality and honor, and eventually would transform him into the selfless and heroic magician in the final battle against Nouda. Nathaniel would die in the battle, but not before saving several innocent commoners (among them Kitty Jones) and even the life of Bartimaeus.
By the end of the Trilogy, Nathaniel displays not only a conscientious regard for the lives and wellbeing of commoners, magicians, and demons, but also a willingness to lay his own life down to save them.