The Alchemist

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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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Part One Quotes

“You came so that you could learn about your dreams,” said the old woman.

“And dreams are the language of God. When he speaks in our language, I

can interpret what he has said. But if he speaks in the language of the soul,

it is only you who can understand.”

Related Characters: The Fortune-teller (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago has a recurring dream of a child guiding him to a treasure near the Egyptian Pyramids, and he decides to seek the help of a fortune-teller in interpreting the dream. The fortune-teller offers these cautionary words when Santiago requests her interpretative skills. This quote introduces several ideas that will be important throughout the novel. First, there is the active role that God and spirituality play in this book. Santiago does not operate without divine guidance. He is continually presented with omens that appear either through the physical world or in the words of other people. The fortune-teller believes Santiago’s dreams, which a reader might suppose to be naturally occurring, to be direct information from God. This places the reader into a context in which information from God is real and important to the plot of the novel. Furthermore, this information from God can come in one of two forms: human language or the language of the soul. The fortune-teller does not explain the language of the soul, but it reappears in the novel.

Later in the novel, Santiago learns, through his study of the philosophy of alchemy, how to connect with the world and other beings. He describes this connection at first in terms of a "universal language of the soul." This language of the soul transcends regular language boundaries, as well as the boundaries of species and elements. Through this universal language, Santiago is able to understand the wind and the desert, hawks and the horse he rides. Because this universal language is linked to God in this early passage, the connection between all things is seen as a spiritual connection throughout the novel.

“It's a book that says the same thing almost all the other books in the world say,” continued the old man. “It describes people’s inability to choose their own destinies. And it ends up saying that everyone believes the world's greatest lie.” “What's the world's greatest lie?” the boy asked, completely surprised. “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), Melchizedek (the Old Man) (speaker)
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago meets an old man in the village square who questions him about the book he is reading. The old man complains about the book because he feels that it propagates the “world’s greatest lie.” This is not a unique problem, as this passage explains. According to this old man, many books rely on and express this same lie: that humans do not choose what happens to them in their lives. This analysis of books inside a book helps show the reader the main goal of Coelho’s novel. Unlike many other books, Coelho is claiming that his book The Alchemist will not continue to spread the world’s greatest lie. The main idea of this novel is the opposite: that we can choose what happens to us in our lives.

Throughout the book, multiple characters discuss the separate ideas of free will and fate. Although this is a fictional novel, these ideas as discussed by characters are intended to be relevant to the reader’s life. This is clear because of the universal language used in this passage and other passages like this. The old man uses “us” and “our” to refer to all humans collectively. He says that “everyone” believes the world’s greatest lie, partially because of books they’ve read. This moment helps all readers stop and reflect on the fact that they are reading a book and that they have probably been influenced by other books they’ve read. Coelho hopes to encourage his readers, just as the old man hopes to encourage Santiago, to examine whether they believe this great lie. (And, of course, whether or not they believe it is a lie at all, or just an oversimplification.)

“Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”

Related Characters: Melchizedek (the Old Man) (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

During the old man’s conversation with Santiago in the village square, the old man introduces the idea of a Personal Legend into the novel. In the world of the book, a Personal Legend is a dream or wish that a person chooses to fulfill. This often fails, as the old man explains in this quote, because people lose faith in their ability to fulfill their Personal Legends as they grow up. The old man speaks in universal terms in this passage, explaining a transformation that is relevant to “everyone.” Everyone understands his or her Personal Legend at a young age, which is a key idea because following one’s Personal Legend requires the ability to dream and believe in one’s dreams, an ability common in children. However, this passage explains that most adults lose this ability with time because they no longer believe their dreams can become reality. This is a familiar concept, in literature and life beyond Coelho’s novel. Children are often understood to be idealistic and adults realistic. Children think anything is possible and adults focus on smaller, more achievable goals. Many would say this is part of growing up.

The old man in this passage criticizes this aspect of growing up because he sees that a child becoming a “realistic” adult also means giving up on his or her dreams, and, therefore, the chance to fulfill his or her Personal Legend. Growing up and becoming worldly is the “mysterious force” that changes a person and stops them from dreaming.

“To realize one’s destiny is a person's only real obligation.”

Related Characters: Melchizedek (the Old Man) (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

The old man, Melchizedek, speaks these words to Santiago during their discussion about fulfilling one’s Personal Legends. This quote adds a new level of importance to fulfilling one’s Personal Legend. Initially, Melchizedek describes the value of fulfilling one’s Personal Legend in personal terms. Everyone has a dream as a child that is lost as the person ages. But fulfilling this dream is the thing that will make that person happiest and most satisfied. That is a personal reason for pursuing one’s dreams. To describe the pursuit of a Personal Legend as an “obligation” adds another important point to the discussion, which is the idea developed throughout this novel that fulfilling a Personal Legend benefits all the world, not just the individual.

This novel focuses on the idea of the Soul of World, which describes the unity that exists among all things: humans, animals, and nature. This is a spiritual understanding of the world known as pantheism, the belief that God and the universe are synonymous. Because of this interconnectedness, any one action or being impacts all others. The Soul of the World aids Santiago on his quest, and as he learns about the interconnectedness of all things he becomes closer to fulfilling his Personal Legend. Therefore, when someone fulfills his Personal Legend, he is in tune with the Soul of the World, which is described as being nourished by happiness. When Santiago fulfills his Personal Legend, he in turn nourishes the Soul of the World.

Here I am, between my flock and my treasure, the boy thought. He had to choose between something he had become accustomed to and something he wanted to have.

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: Santiago’s sheep
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago learns about Personal Legends from Melchizedek, who encourages him to seek his by going on a quest to find the treasure from his dreams. In order to do so, Santiago must abandon his flock of sheep and the country in which he has lived his whole life. In this passage, Santiago sees the choice that is before him. He is split between staying with his flock, which represents familiarity and safety, and pursuing his treasure, which represents the unknown, but also the possibility of even greater happiness and fulfillment. This choice shows that the road toward one’s Personal Legend is not always easy. Risks must be taken and difficult choices must be made.

In order to make this choice and pursue his Personal Legend, Santiago cannot be afraid of the unknown. This fear could prevent him from taking a risk that would result in his happiness. Santiago later sees other characters, such as the Crystal Merchant, who are prevented from pursuing their Personal Legends because they are afraid of taking this very same risk. The distillation of Santiago’s specific choice (between his sheep and his treasure) into one between the familiar and the unknown shows that this is a universal choice that humans face. At some point in our lives, we will each need to choose to take a risk in order to open up new possibilities for happiness.

“In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you.”

Related Characters: Melchizedek (the Old Man) (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Melchizedek gives Santiago several pieces of advice that will serve him well throughout the novel. The character of Melchizedek fills an archetypal role in literature: that of the elder giving helpful information to the protagonist who is setting out on a quest or facing a set of challenges. One of these pieces of advice is described in this passage: Santiago should pay attention to omens that he will receive from God. This idea again speaks to the role that God and spirituality play in this novel. God, who in the novel seems to be one and the same as the Soul of the World (and not associated with any particular world religion), actively guides Santiago. This shows that God is benevolent and engaged in human lives. One example of God guiding humans is through dreams, which the fortune-teller tells Santiago are from God. Another example is the omens. The pursuit of one’s Personal Legend may be easy to forget about and ignore, but once the quest begins one will receive help along the way.

This idea of God helping humans is not specific to Santiago's quest. Melchizedek could have said “God has prepared a path for you to follow,” but instead he says “God has prepared a path for everyone to follow.” This may seem like a subtle distinction, but it continues a larger idea of the novel that the themes and ideas presented here are relevant to the reader’s life, as well as all human lives. The topics of fulfilling one’s dreams and relying on God’s guidance are broadly applicable.

He didn’t consider mending the hole—the stones could fall through any time they wanted. He had learned that there were certain things one shouldn't ask about, so as not to flee from one's own destiny. “I promised that I would make my own decisions,” he said to himself.

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: Urim and Thummim
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago is alone in Tangier after a man, whom he thought was going to help him, robs him. Some of Santiago’s remaining possessions include Urim and Thummin, the fortune-telling stones. He decides to ask the stones for advice about what to do next. As he begins using the stones, however, one of them falls through a hole in his pocket. This seemingly chance event cause Santiago to pause and reflect on his actions. He remembers promising Melchizedek that he would make his own decisions. Because of this promise, he decides in this passage that he is okay with losing the stones, and that he won't use them to tell him what to do. In addition to keeping his promise, Santiago is here motivated by a new realization: that sometimes too much information isn’t a good thing.

The idea that knowing too much can be a bad thing is further developed with the character of the camel driver, who tells Santiago about seeking information about the future from many fortune-tellers. From these experiences and from his hardships, the camel driver learned to live in the present without fear about the future. Some things are meant to be, and fear won’t change the future. Santiago's choice to not use Urim and Thummin shows a similar type of thinking. Santiago doesn't want to shy away from his future if he learns that it will be difficult. He sees the value of ignorance here. If Santiago doesn’t ask too much about the future, it is because he trusts God to guide him and values making his own decisions.

Once again he saw that, in that strange land, he was applying the same lessons he had learned with his sheep. “All things are one,” the old man had said.

Related Characters: Melchizedek (the Old Man) (speaker), Santiago
Related Symbols: Santiago’s sheep
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Despite his own hardships, Santiago takes time to help a candy seller in the Tangier marketplace assemble his market stall. Santiago and the candy seller don’t speak the same language, and yet Santiago is struck by how well the two are able to understand each other despite this language barrier. He realizes this feeling of communication without words is familiar to him because he was able to communicate with his sheep in the same way. Throughout the novel, Santiago’s sheep are a grounding point for him. He learned valuable information from his sheep simply by caring for and observing them. This shows the value of simplicity--an important lesson of the novel. Santiago didn’t need to do anything dramatic or fancy to learn some of the most important life lessons. He simply needed to care for his sheep and observe the world.

Santiago’s connection with the candy seller and with his sheep presents the idea of a universal language. This novel develops the connections among all things in the universe, and one example of this connection is the idea of a universal language that transcends all barriers. Melchizedek also spoke of this interconnectedness of all things, which Santiago remembers in this passage as the phrase "all things are one"--essentially an encapsulation of the idea of a pantheistic universe.

Part Two Quotes

“Well, why don’t you go to Mecca now?” asked the boy. “Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. That’s what helps me face these days that are all the same, these mute crystals on the shelves, and lunch and dinner at that same horrible café. I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), The Crystal Merchant (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

The Crystal Merchant takes Santiago under his wing when the boy is penniless in Tangier. By working for the Crystal Merchant, Santiago is able to replenish his money and eventually continue his quest. At the same time, Santiago learns about the difficulties that arise when one is trying to realize his Personal Legend. The Crystal Merchant exemplifies one common problem: he knows what he wants, but he is too afraid to go after it. In his case, he has grown so dependent on having a dream that it has become part of his character. He cannot imagine a life in which he has made his dream a reality. The Crystal Merchant’s tragic situation is articulated in this quote through the language he uses to describe his life. From “mute crystals” to the “horrible café,” it is clear that the Crystal Merchant is unhappy with his situation in life. The dream of fulfilling his Personal Legend sustains him, so he cannot imagine fulfilling it.

Throughout this novel, fear is repeatedly discussed. Fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of taking a risk—all of these fears are presented as obstacles to be overcome. It seems that fear is the primary obstacle to fulfilling one’s Personal Legend, and in a novel that is part fictional story and part non-fictional analysis of the topic of dream fulfillment, discussion of the obstacle of fear that Santiago faces and that all humans face when trying to fulfill their dreams is key.

“You have been a real blessing to me. Today, I understand something I didn’t see before: every blessing ignored becomes a curse. I don’t want anything else in life. But you are forcing me to look at wealth and at horizons I have never known. Now that I have seen them, and now that I see how immense my possibilities are, I’m going to feel worse than I did before you arrived. Because I know the things I should be able to accomplish, and I don’t want to do so.”

Related Characters: The Crystal Merchant (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago has several ideas for how the Crystal Merchant can improve his business, including installing an outdoor display case for his products and serving tea at his shop. The Crystal Merchant is resistant to these ideas because his character is guided by fear of the unknown and of change. The Crystal Merchant explains his emotional reaction to Santiago in this passage. Before Santiago appeared in his life, the merchant was satisfied with the way things were. This satisfaction was because he could not see the possibilities for change in his life. The merchant does not explain this, but it seems connected to the novel’s earlier idea of the world’s greatest lie. Many people end up believing that they cannot change their lives or control their fate.

Santiago appears, however, and shows the Crystal Merchant that he can change his life. Santiago is guided by God, and he has chosen to follow his Personal Legend. Perhaps because of his faith in people’s abilities to change their lives and follow their Personal Legends, he automatically shows this possibility to others. The Crystal Merchant is still afraid of making changes, but he no longer believes the world’s greatest lie. Therefore, he is stuck between his fear of change and the change he now believes possible. As a result, he is more unhappy than he was before. Awareness of one’s Personal Legend isn’t easy. It is easier to just live in ignorant bliss.

“Hunches,” his mother used to call them. The boy was beginning to understand that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it's all written there. “Maktub,” the boy said, remembering the crystal merchant.

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), The Crystal Merchant
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago meets a camel driver as he is traveling with a group of tribespeople across the desert. This man is another figure in Santiago’s life that provides him with guidance and life lessons. The camel driver tells Santiago to observe the desert and learn from it. Santiago feels a strong connection with the desert, despite not having grown up in it like many of the travelers. He feels this sense of connection is because he is able to tap into the unity among all things, which is the Soul of the World and the source of a universal language. These different terms are used throughout the novel to get at the same idea.

This passage explains the Soul of the World as a “current of life” that contains everything in the universe, past, present, and future. Accessing this “current of life” clearly enables one to access everything and know everything. This overwhelming power normally appears in human lives as intuition, or “hunches.” It is not quantifiable or explainable, but it is a key truth in the world of this novel.

The Soul of the World is also connected in this passage to another key idea of the book—the idea that some things are “written.” Here, Santiago reflects that this connection is possible because everything about the world is “written,” meaning that everything in the world is generated from one source, God. This involves an idea of predestination and free will--that God knows what will happen, but that humans still have to choose whether to follow what is "written" or not.

“We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”

Related Characters: The Camel Driver (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

The camel driver teaches Santiago several important ideas as they travel together. Although he is different from Melchizedek and the Alchemist, his ideas are connected to the teachings of these other two men. The main focus on the camel driver’s character is the role of fear in human lives. His hardships from his past taught him to overcome fear over losing life, possessions, and property. In this quote, the camel driver explains why no person should fear loss. Fear stems from a misunderstanding of the world as a place in which humans can lose or gain things through our own failures or successes. Instead, the camel driver advocates for a worldview in which everything that happens is written by God. This idea reappears in the novel with the Crystal Merchant, who liked to say “maktub,” meaning “it is written,” and later with Fatima, who has faith that Santiago will return to her if their relationship is “meant to be.”

The idea of "maktub" is not placed at odds with free will or the need to actively pursue one’s Personal Legend. Instead, it is used as a way of thinking that provides comfort, reassurance, and peace. If one holds the worldview that all things are “written,” as the camel driver explains here, one can accept the future rather than feeling fear and anxiety about it. Good and bad possibilities are put into perspective by this worldview because they are both the work of the same creator.

“The alchemists spent years in their laboratories, observing the fire that purified the metals. They spent so much time close to the fire that gradually they gave up the vanities of the world. They discovered that the purification of the metals had led to a purification of themselves.”

Related Characters: The Englishman (speaker), Santiago
Related Symbols: Alchemy
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago first learns about alchemy from the Englishman who has devoted his life to the study of its practices, and then he continues to learn about it from the Alchemist throughout the novel. The Englishman focuses on studying alchemy carefully and systematically, whereas the lessons of the Alchemist focus on simplicity and studying the world. From the Alchemist, Santiago learns ideas about alchemy in a broad context. In other words, the principles of his study are applicable to many different contexts. Alchemy teaches a person how to purify metals and how to understand chemical elements, but these processes can also be applied to life, and Santiago learns how to purify himself and how to understand the basic principles of the world.

Alchemy is used as a powerful metaphor in the novel and in Santiago’s life. He does not work directly with chemical elements or seek the philosopher’s stone, but he uses the same practices of alchemy in new contexts. He learns how to value simplicity and learn by observation, as the alchemists in this passage do when “observing” and “discovering.” In this quote, one of the first about alchemy in the novel, the reader is asked to see alchemy as a symbol for life, or a spiritual path. Those who practice purifying elements, purify themselves.

“I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But, above all, I learned that these things are all so simple that they could be written on the surface of an emerald.”

Related Characters: The Englishman (speaker), Santiago
Related Symbols: Alchemy, The Emerald Tablet
Page Number: 85-86
Explanation and Analysis:

The Englishman asks Santiago to describe what he has learned from the alchemy books he loans the younger man during their journey. In this passage, Santiago explains what he has learned with an answer that surprises the Englishman. While the two have read the same texts, they have learned very different things. The Englishman values the complexity of alchemy and the hard work it requires. Santiago, on the other hand, values its simplicity and universality. The examples he provides in this quote all focus on universal ideas that make connections across places, cultures, and activities. Santiago speaks of the “Soul of the World” which is accessible to anyone, the success of alchemists in achieving their Personal Legends, and the simplicity of these ideas, which could be contained on the Emerald Tablet. The Englishman values the exclusivity of alchemy, believing it only yields its secrets to those who put in hard work. Santiago sees alchemy as broadly applicable and inclusive. His interpretation of alchemy ties into the idea used throughout the novel that the practices of alchemy can be applied in many areas of life. 

The Emerald Tablet contains universal ideas that require little explanation, as evidenced by the small amount of writing needed to communicate them. This shows that the more universal and applicable an idea, the simpler it often is.

At that moment, it seemed to him that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him. When he looked into her dark eyes, and saw that her lips were poised between a laugh and silence, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke—the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert. Something that exerted the same force whenever two pairs of eyes met, as had theirs here at the well. She smiled, and that was certainly an omen—the omen he had been awaiting, without even knowing he was, for all his life. The omen he had sought to find with his sheep and in his books, in the crystals and in the silence of the desert.

Related Characters: Santiago, Fatima
Page Number: 95-96
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago meets a young woman at the well in the oasis while he and the Englishman are searching for the Alchemist. Santiago’s reaction to meeting this young woman, whose name is Fatima, is immediate and overwhelming. Without even speaking to her, he understands that he loves her, and he sees their lives as intertwined. He's suddenly sure that she is what he was “awaiting, without even knowing he was, for all his life.” This passage uses some of the familiar clichés of “love at first sight,” including that for Santiago “time stands still,” and that he understands love for the first time in his life when he looks on Fatima. Furthermore, Coelho doesn't ever show us this moment from Fatima's point of view--it's just assumed that she too falls in love with Santiago, because it is "destiny."

There are also elements of this “love at first sight” passage that play off the unique themes of this novel. Santiago seems to access the Soul of the World and the universal language in this moment, and sees connections among all things because the source of these connections is love. Humanity and the world are united and connected by love, which Santiago is able to understand in the moment he falls in love. Fatima’s smile is described as an “omen,” and Santiago has been on the lookout for omens from God to guide him on his journey. Because Fatima’s smile is an omen, this connects the fateful meeting between these characters to the idea that God is preparing a path for Santiago. Their meeting is “written,” just as all of Santiago's other experiences and lessons have been.

“And I am a part of your dream, a part of your destiny, as you call it. That’s why I want you to continue toward your goal. If you have to wait until the war is over, then wait. But if you have to go before then, go on in pursuit of your dream. The dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes. That’s the way it will be with our love for each other…Maktub,” she said. “If I am really a part of your dream, you'll come back one day.”

Related Characters: Fatima (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Fatima’s reaction to Santiago’s declaration of love relies on her understanding of the world as a place in which events, meetings, and actions are “written” by the hand of God. Her faith allows her to tell Santiago to go on his quest. Like the camel driver, she is not afraid of the future because she trusts in the idea of “maktub,” or “it is written.” She uses this exact same language, despite not having interacted with the other characters in the novel, such as the Crystal Merchant, who hold this worldview of God writing all that happens. Because Fatima repeats this same lesson, it is made abundantly clear that this is one of the central themes of the novel.

Fatima’s expression of her faith that Santiago will return if “it is written” uses descriptive language of nature. She says that “the dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes.” This metaphor shows that while the surface of something might change, the identity of a thing cannot be changed. By comparing her and Santiago’s love to the desert, she shows that their love is deeper than the surface level, which can change in appearance. This nature metaphor also reinforces the idea that important life lessons can be learned from observing the natural world. Fatima models her behavior on a truth she learned while observing the desert.

Of course, it's also worth noting that Santiago and Fatima's love is supposed to be "deep and unchanging" because of destiny, not because they have actually gotten to know each other. Furthermore, Fatima only really exists as a part of Santiago's destiny--she has no real agency or "dream" of her own in the novel.

The camel driver understood what the boy was saying. He knew that any given thing on the face of the earth could reveal the history of all things. One could open a book to any page, or look at a person’s hand; one could turn a card, or watch the flight of the birds… whatever the thing observed, one could find a connection with his experience of the moment. Actually, it wasn’t that those things, in themselves, revealed anything at all; it was just that people, looking at what was occurring around them, could find a means of penetration to the Soul of the World.

Related Characters: Santiago, The Camel Driver
Page Number: 104-105
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago has a vision of an army invading the oasis and decides to explain this to his friend the camel driver. He also explains that seeing hawks flying and fighting above the desert made him feel as if he were in touch with the Soul of the World. His vision seemed to be the result of this connection with the Soul of the World, as if by accessing the Soul of the World, Santiago was able to access knowledge of the future. The camel driver understands this idea because he believes that everything in the world is connected. This quote explains the consequences of that connection: if everything is connected, any one thing contains, or allows access to, all things. Therefore, it is enough to study a small corner of the world if one wants to learn about the whole world. The camel driver gives several examples of a small corner of the world that could provide information about the whole world—a page of a book, a hand, a card, the flight of birds. These things are all very simple. This shows that the more universal a concept, the simpler it is. (This concept also applies to alchemy, as the book makes clear elsewhere.)

“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.

But that the hand had a reason for all of this, and that only the hand could perform miracles, or transform the sea into a desert…or a man into the wind. Because only the hand understood that it was a larger design that had moved the universe to the point at which six days of creation had evolved into a Master Work. The boy reached through to the Soul of the World, and saw that it was a part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles.

Related Characters: Santiago
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago and the Alchemist are taken hostage by warring tribesmen, but the Alchemist offers Santiago’s powers in exchange for their freedom. The leader, impressed, wants to see the power of Allah change a man into the wind. The only problem is that Santiago doesn’t know how to change himself into the wind. Santiago addresses the elements around him before finally directly addressing God, or the Hand that Wrote All. In this moment, Santiago is able to understand the "Hand" in a new way, as explained in this passage. Santiago sees that the hand of God has reasons behind all its actions, which might be impossible to understand without seeing the “larger design” of the world and the future that the hand can see.

In this moment, Santiago understands that the Soul of the World and the Soul of God are one and the same, and because he is part of the Soul of the World, he is also part of the Soul of God. Santiago has access to the future through the Soul of the World, and anything that God can do, Santiago can do through the Soul of the World. This passage empowers every single being because every single being is part of the Soul of the World, according to the pantheistic kind of spirituality explained in the novel. And, as explained here, being joined to the Soul of the World gives one access to everything that God has. All it takes is for Santiago to be able to perform miracles is to know that he can. It was a lack of belief and knowledge that stopped him using this power before. This power is accessible to anyone.

“You’re not going to die. You’ll live, and you’ll learn that a man shouldn’t be so stupid. Two years ago, right here on this spot, I had a recurrent dream, too. I dreamed that I should travel to the fields of Spain and look for a ruined church where shepherds and their sheep slept. In my dream, there was a sycamore growing out of the ruins of the sacristy, and I was told that, if I dug at the roots of the sycamore, I would find a hidden treasure. But I’m not so stupid as to cross an entire desert just because of a recurrent dream.”

Related Characters: The Leader of the Refugees (speaker), Santiago
Related Symbols: The Abandoned Church
Page Number: 167-168
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago does not find his treasure buried at the pyramids, but as he is digging he is attacked by refugees of the tribal wars who think he is looking for something. When the leader of the refugees finally understands why Santiago was digging in the sand, he openly mocks Santiago and explains in this quote that he had a parallel dream to Santiago's recurring dream of treasure. The leader of the refugee's dream uses specific details from Santiago's past, information he could not otherwise know--such as the tree growing through the abandoned church. Unlike Santiago, he dismisses the importance of this dream and calls Santiago "stupid" for following a dream. The difference between this man and Santiago is that one can see and understand omens and the other cannot acknowledge the possibility that an omen might be presented to him--or, in broader terms, that one man was willing to throw everything away to pursue his Personal Legend, and one was not.

Santiago's faith in God and in the idea of "maktub" is what keeps him following his recurring dream even in the face of great trials. The leader of the refugees is a clear foil character for Santiago--an example of what he would have become had he not pursued his treasure. In the face of this man's derision and doubt, Santiago's persistence and faith are all the more clear. Santiago recognizes the scene from the man's story and understands that his treasure is not at the pyramids--it was back at home all along.

Epilogue Quotes

He thought of the many roads he had traveled, and of the strange way God had chosen to show him his treasure. If he hadn’t believed in the significance of recurrent dreams, he would not have met the Gypsy woman, the king, the thief, or…“Well, it’s a long list. But the path was written in the omens, and there was no way I could go wrong,” he said to himself.

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), Melchizedek (the Old Man), The Fortune-teller, The Thief (the Young Man)
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago finds his treasure at the abandoned church where his story began. Therefore, his treasure was physically near him when he first set off in search of his Personal Legend, and yet, as this quote shows, his treasure was emotionally and experientially distant from him. Although he need not have traveled great distances to find his treasure, it's clear that he needed to travel through experiences and grow as a person to receive his treasure. Santiago thinks of the places he has visited, the people he has met, and the experiences he has had along the way. These would not be part of his life without the roundabout pathway by which he arrived at his treasure. 

Santiago points out that he took the path he did because of the omens from God, who clearly intended him to travel and have the experiences that he had. As Coelho makes clear, it's not only the end result of achieving one's Personal Legend that matters, but the process of following omens and learning along the way. This is a key passage because it shows that Santiago's Personal Legend is not simply to find treasure, which is something that can be measured by material standards--his Personal Legend was to go on a quest toward his treasure through which he grew, learned, and changed. 

The wind began to blow again. It was the levanter, the wind that came from Africa. It didn’t bring with it the smell of the desert, nor the threat of Moorish invasion. Instead, it brought the scent of a perfume he knew well, and the touch of a kiss—a kiss that came from far away, slowly, slowly, until it rested on his lips. The boy smiled. It was the first time she had done that. “I’m coming, Fatima,” he said.

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), Fatima
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel ends with Santiago's quest complete, his treasure claimed, and his promise to return to Fatima in the oasis. This quote highlights the connection between Santiago and Fatima across continents. Their connection is embodied in the wind that blows from Africa to Spain. This language reinforces the idea that Santiago and Fatima are connected through the Soul of the World, which connects all things. The wind is a medium that passes Fatima's scent and kiss to Santiago, because the wind is likewise part of the Soul of the World. 

Santiago ends the novel with a smile and a whispered promise because the Soul of the World has maintained his connection to Fatima. The Soul of the World, one and the same as the Soul of God, is a force of goodness and love in the universe. Just as this good force helped Santiago to achieve his Personal Legend, so too does it wish for the lovers to be reunited. The message of this novel overall, then, is one of positive empowerment. Despite the trials he faced, Santiago was never alone. He succeeded, even though the location of his treasure was different than he expected. He didn't have access to the full picture as God could see it, but he persisted in following the omens, which led to his success. This ending of this novel promises this possibility of fulfillment for everyone, by reminding the reader of the force of good at work in the world. 

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