Urim and Thummim are fortune-telling stones that Melchizedek gives to Santiago. The stones are black and white, with their colors representing “yes” and “no” answers to questions—so Melchizedek tells Santiago that he must only ask objective questions of the stones. Because of this, Urim and Thummim symbolize certainty and objective knowledge. This type of certainty, however, is ultimately presented as less valuable than the opportunity to learn from the world and to make one’s own choices. Santiago carries the stones with him throughout the novel, but never uses them, having promised to “make his own decisions.” The constant presence of Urim and Thummim thus also represents the human desire to give up control and decision-making ability. The greatest lie in the world, as stated by Melchizedek, is that humans don’t control their fates. Although Melchizedek is the one who offers the stones to Santiago, they also symbolize the very thing that he says Santiago should avoid: trusting in anything other than himself to make a decision.
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Urim and Thummim appears in The Alchemist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...and a black stone from the breastplate. He tells him that the stones are called Urim and Thummim . The black stone signifies “yes,” and the white stone “no.” These fortune-telling stones will... (full context)
...find his old shepherd’s pouch. As he removes his jacket from the pouch, the stones Urim and Thummim fall to the ground, The stones make Santiago remember Melchizedek, and he is startled by... (full context)
...to Mecca, or to go through life trying to realize one’s dream, but failing. But Umin and Thummim have now reminded him of the old king, and Santiago convinces himself that he should... (full context)
...luck omen. He feels it was no coincidence that he met Santiago, who also had Urim and Thummim with him. Santiago tells the Englishman that he is looking for a treasure. The Englishman... (full context)