Santiago is introduced in the novel as a shepherd, and although he sells his sheep to travel to the Pyramids of Egypt, he continues to reflect on his life as a shepherd throughout the novel. Many of the lessons he learns on his journey also reinforce things he discovered by being a shepherd. There is a humbleness and simplicity to Santiago’s sheep, and the novel reveals these qualities to contain great value. For example, the symbol of the Emerald Tablet reveals the value of humility and simplicity, and the humble characters who support and guide Santiago on his quest include poor merchants, the camel driver, and a generous monk. Even Melchizedek, a powerful individual and a king, appears to Santiago in the guise of a poor old man. Therefore the sheep, in their quiet yet fulfilled lives, symbolize the values of humility, simplicity, and self-actualization. They are living out their Personal Legends as they graze and roam contentedly.
Santiago also learns life lessons by watching his sheep, and later these lessons are reinforced as he observes the desert and listens to his heart. Coelho suggests that because of the interconnectedness of all things, anything can be learned from observing one small part of creation. Santiago’s sheep thus also symbolize the potential of learning through observation, as well as the importance of observing even the seemingly unimportant aspects of life.