The Alchemist

Pdf fan
Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
The title character of the story, the alchemist meets Santiago in the oasis where Santiago’s desert caravan stops to avoid the tribal wars. The alchemist is a mentor for Santiago, and he travels with him from the oasis nearly to the pyramids. The alchemist practices the traditional methods of alchemy, studying metals and the process of turning non-precious metal into gold, but he also shows Santiago how these lessons are applicable to all of life. He teaches the young man that all of creation is interconnected and that he can learn all he needs to know from studying any one thing, and from listening to his heart.

The Alchemist Quotes in The Alchemist

The The Alchemist quotes below are all either spoken by The Alchemist or refer to The Alchemist. 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.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Alchemist quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Part Two Quotes

“You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny. If he abandons that pursuit, it’s because it wasn’t true love… the love that speaks the Language of the World.”

Related Characters: The Alchemist (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 12412
Explanation and Analysis:

The alchemist speaks these words to Santiago when Santiago again feels torn between staying in one place and continuing his quest toward his Personal Legend. This choice between staying in the oasis with Fatima or continuing across the war-torn desert echoes his choice earlier in the novel between his flock of sheep and his treasure: one is familiar and comforting, the other unknown and risky. The alchemist helps Santiago with this choice by offering this advice, which says that true love doesn’t get in the way of pursuing one’s Personal Legend. This is credited to the fact that “true love” “speaks the Language of the World.” This Language of the World is the universal language that unites all beings and things in this novel. If one can access the universal language, one can transcend boundaries. Therefore, true love is defined as a connection that transcends boundaries and connects lovers across time and space through the universal language.

Even though Santiago has to leave to pursue his Personal Legend, he and Fatima are connected through the Soul of the World. If Santiago didn’t leave, it would be because he was afraid of losing Fatima and their love. But only a temporary love can be guided by fear. According to the alchemist, fear of loss and separation is irrelevant to true love, because true lovers are connected through the universal language wherever they go.

“If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return.” The man was speaking the language of alchemy. But the boy knew that he was referring to Fatima.

Related Characters: The Alchemist (speaker), Santiago, Fatima
Related Symbols: Alchemy
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

As Santiago and the Alchemist set off across the desert on the final leg of Santiago’s quest, the Alchemist can tell that Santiago is sad to be leaving Fatima behind. He offers these words of reassurance, which encourage Santiago to trust in the power of his connection with Fatima, which will outlast time and distance if it is a “pure” and lasting love, not just "a moment of light.” This is one of the most explicit examples in the novel of alchemy as a metaphor for life's events. The Alchemist is speaking about a principle of alchemy—that pure matter cannot be contaminated—but Santiago understands this concept to be a metaphor for an idea about love—that pure love cannot be contaminated by time and separation. Throughout the novel, the study and practice of alchemy is used as a model for living an examined life of self-improvement and learning.

The language of the Alchemist’s metaphor uses not only the elements of alchemy, but observations about the world. He describes a more fleeting love as “a moment of light, like the explosion of a star.” The explosion of a star is very bright, but its brightness and energy means that it also expires quickly. By applying this observation to love, the Alchemist is arguing that a bright love is temporary, but the pure love between Santiago and Fatima will be long-lasting.

“People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren’t, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands. Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly.”

“My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist one

night as they looked up at the moonless sky.

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.”

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), The Alchemist (speaker), Santiago’s Heart (speaker)
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

As Santiago travels, he begins to learn in a new way: by listening to his own heart. Santiago has already learned from observing his sheep and the desert. He has seen that observation of one thing can yield universal truths, because it allows the observer to access the Soul of the World, in which all things are connected. Therefore, it has already been established that Santiago will be able to learn large life lessons through the simple practice of observing his own heart. The heart is personified and given a voice, and in this passage it speaks to Santiago and explains its motivations and feelings.

Santiago learns by listening to his heart that it is afraid. This fear, like other examples of fear in the novel, gets in the way of achieving one’s Personal Legend. Ironically, the heart's fear is of precisely that: of not achieving its Personal Legend, of failure. Thus the heart prevents its owner from taking risks that might lead to suffering. When Santiago shares this information with the Alchemist, the Alchemist interprets it into a broader life lesson: that fear of suffering is worse than suffering itself. This is an idea that is familiar beyond the pages of The Alchemist. Often anxiety about the future is worse than actually experiencing that future. This life lesson teaches that humans need to control their fear, so that it doesn’t control them.

Get the entire The Alchemist LitChart as a printable PDF.
The alchemist.pdf.medium

The Alchemist Character Timeline in The Alchemist

The timeline below shows where the character The Alchemist appears in The Alchemist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
An alchemist reads a short story in a book while traveling with a caravan. The story begins... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
...could see its own beauty reflected in Narcissus's eyes. “What a lovely story,” says the alchemist. (full context)
Part Two
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
...of his family's fortune seeking the Philosopher’s Stone, which is the Master Work of all alchemists. Through his research, he learned of a famous alchemist who is said to have discovered... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
...everybody. He says he is in search of that language, and hopes to find an alchemist in the desert who can teach him more. (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
At the oasis, the alchemist is watching the caravan arrive. All types of new activity stir up dust, and the... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
This time, however, the alchemist knows that in the caravan there is a man to whom he can teach some... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...that he's been looking for him. He wants Santiago to help him find where the alchemist lives. The two search for the alchemist, and discover that the oasis is larger than... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
...and the Englishman says that Santiago, who speaks better Arabic, should ask people about the alchemist. Santiago approaches a woman who has come to the well for water, but the woman... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
...not dressed in black like the married woman. Santiago approaches her to ask about the alchemist, and suddenly he feels the life of the Soul of the World. Immediately he realizes... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...She is not there, but the Englishman is. He tells Santiago that he encountered the alchemist, and told him of his goal. The alchemist then asked him if he had ever... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...the man turns his horse away, he points to the south. Santiago has met the alchemist. (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
...that it is a place inhabited by genies. He sits down to wait for the alchemist. The alchemist arrives when the moon is high, with two dead hawks in his hand.... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
Santiago asks the alchemist why he wanted to see him. Because of omens, the alchemist replies. The omens showed... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
...he has already found his treasure, which includes the gold he received that day. The alchemist points out that none of that gold is from the pyramids. Santiago says that he... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
After they eat, the two sit outside the tent under the brilliant moon. The alchemist tells Santiago to rest well and enjoy himself. He says that Santiago has to find... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
The next night, Santiago arrives at the alchemist’s tent with a horse. The alchemist challenges Santiago to show him where there is life... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
The alchemist searches among the stones and then reaches into a hole. He withdraws with a snake... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The alchemist tells the boy that his ability to find life in the desert was an omen... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
The alchemist tells Santiago that love never prevents a man from actualizing his Personal Legend. If he... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
...dream, met a king, worked for a crystal merchant, crossed the desert, and sought an alchemist at a well—and all these things led him to meet Fatima. The two embrace for... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The alchemist encourages Santiago to not think about what he has left behind, because The Soul of... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The alchemist rides in front and his falcon sits on his shoulder. The bird hunts for game... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
Santiago asks why the alchemist is called "the alchemist,” And the alchemist answers simply that “an alchemist” is what he... (full context)
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
As he prepares their dinner that night, the alchemist explains that he learned the procedures of alchemy from his grandfather, who learned from his... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The alchemist contradicts Santiago, however, saying that it is not code, but actually information that cannot be... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
The alchemist and Santiago travel for another two days in silence. The alchemist is cautious, because they're... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...heart is agitated and emotional, and keeps him awake at night thinking about Fatima. The alchemist explains these are signs that his heart is alive. Over the next three days, Santiago... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...fearful because they know they will suffer if they do not succeed. Santiago tells the alchemist that his heart is afraid of suffering, and the alchemist responds, “tell your heart that... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
Santiago tells all of this to the alchemist. The alchemist says Santiago must just continue in the direction of the pyramids, and pay... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
The next day, three armed tribesmen approach Santiago and the alchemist, and ask what they are doing. The alchemist explains that he's hunting. The tribesmen say... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
Santiago is amazed and shocked at the alchemist’s brazen honesty, but the alchemist explains that when you possess great treasures, others rarely believe... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...when, if he had continued, he would've passed thieves on the road. Santiago asks the alchemist if one’s heart always helps him. The alchemist says that hearts help when somebody is... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
One afternoon Santiago and the alchemist pass an encampment with armed men. Santiago feels that there's no danger, but the alchemist... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
One day the alchemist announces that they're only two days from the pyramids. Santiago again asks about the alchemist... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
When alchemists were interested only in the gold for the sake of the wealth, they never found... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
The tribesmen take Santiago and the alchemist to their nearby camp. There they meet the enemy chieftain, who believes that they are... (full context)
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
The enemy chieftain wonders what an alchemist is. The alchemist says that an alchemist understands the forces of nature, and that he... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
Santiago is afraid, but the alchemist tells him to not let the tribesmen see his fear. Santiago exclaims angrily that the... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...after peace had been reached. At the end of the day, Santiago seeks out the alchemist and explains that he still has no idea how to turn himself into the wind.... (full context)
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
...help the wind blow, but it can't transform Santiago. The wind begins to blow, and the alchemist smiles. (full context)
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
...have the same soul. The wind says that it listened to Santiago's conversation with the alchemist, but it knows that people cannot turn themselves into wind. (full context)
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...the camp. The tribesmen are afraid of his power, but two people are happy: the alchemist, because Santiago is his ideal student, and the enemy chieftain, because he has witnessed the... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
...the end of the next day, the small group arrives at a Coptic monastery. The alchemist tells the escorts that they can head back to their camp, and that from this... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
As the alchemist works, he and the monk talk about the wars in the desert. The monk feels... (full context)
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
The alchemist gives a quarter of the gold to Santiago, to repay him for the amount that... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
Before Santiago and the alchemist bid each other farewell, the alchemist tells Santiago a story about dreams. In the story,... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
...under my roof, but only speak a word and my servant will be healed.” The alchemist ends his story by saying that everyone on earth plays an important role, even if... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
Santiago rides alone through the desert, listening to his heart. The alchemist had told him “where your treasure is there also will be your heart,” but as... (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...that he has dug. They search through Santiago's bags, and find the gold that the alchemist gave him. They make Santiago dig, thinking that he has hidden gold in the ground,... (full context)
Epilogue
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
...has a shovel. He thinks of the night in the desert when he and the alchemist sat outside the alchemist’s tent and looked at the stars. He realizes that God has... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
...He sees that God even prepared for his return journey with the gold that the alchemist left with the monk. Santiago asks God if he couldn't have spared him from the... (full context)