The Alchemist

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Narcissus appears in the brief prologue to the novel, in the context of a story read by the alchemist. As in his original Ancient Greek legend, Narcissus is so in love with his own beautiful reflection that he gazes at it in a lake until he falls into the water and drowns.

Narcissus Quotes in The Alchemist

The The Alchemist quotes below are all either spoken by Narcissus or refer to Narcissus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper One edition of The Alchemist published in 2014.
Prologue Quotes

“I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.” “What a lovely story,” the alchemist thought.

Related Characters: The Alchemist (speaker), The Lake (speaker), Narcissus
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

The prologue of this novel features an updated version of the Narcissus myth from Ancient Greece. In the original myth, Narcissus drowns in the lake where he is addicted to gazing at his own reflection. In this version, the lake mourns his death because it lost the opportunity to admire its own reflection in Narcissus’s eyes. The alchemist’s approval of this story and its placement at the beginning of the novel seem to function as a cautionary tale for the reader. The legend of Narcissus has been a cautionary tale since antiquity, warning against overly indulgent self-love. This new version seems to also point out that self-love can be more pervasive than we might expect. Our reactions and emotions might be guided by selfishness and self-focus. Paul Coelho cautions his reader against looking for his or her own reflection in this story, as the lake looks for her own reflection in Narcissus.

The protagonist of the novel, Santiago, is an everyman figure. Many readers might see themselves and their need to fulfill their personal legends reflected in his story. However, the reworked Narcissus myth warns that a reader might be too quick to look for his or her reflection and thus lose sight of larger lessons the story might teach.


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Narcissus Character Timeline in The Alchemist

The timeline below shows where the character Narcissus appears in The Alchemist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
...a book while traveling with a caravan. The story begins with the familiar legend of Narcissus, in which a young man is so in love with his own beauty that he... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The goddess of the forest assumes that the lake weeps for Narcissus’s death because the lake could best contemplate his beauty, as he knelt by the water’s... (full context)