The most prominent theme in The Alchemist is the idea that each person has a “Personal Legend”—a type of ideal fate or destiny—and that each person can chose whether or not to pursue that legend. At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist Santiago is launched on a quest for his treasure—his Personal Legend—through his encounter with Melchizedek, a wise old man. Melchizedek is a Biblical figure, but in the context of the novel, he says that he appears at critical moments when a person might be giving up on pursuing his or her Personal Legend. Melchizedek explains to Santiago that all people know their Personal Legend in their youth, but they forget this Legend as they age because they are blinded and blocked by fear, anxiety, and other worldly concerns. Sometimes even good things, such as love, get in the way of a person pursuing a Personal Legend, as almost happens to Santiago when he considers staying permanently with Fatima in the desert oasis.
The novel strongly suggests that although the choice to pursue the Legend is entirely up to the individual, the outcome is always better when the Legend is achieved. Yet as Santiago realizes near the end of the novel, this life improvement comes not so much from the simple achievement of the Legend, but instead from the purpose and engagement that pursuit of the Legend gives to one’s everyday life. As it turns out, Santiago was physically close to his treasure from the start, but his journey to reach the treasure was lengthy in both time and distance. Without the journey, however, Santiago would not have learned all that he did, met the people he met, or fallen in love. Santiago also realizes that to die while in pursuit of one’s Personal Legend alleviates the horror of death. There is “rightness” to being on the course to one’s Legend, even though the journey is not easy. The book argues that choosing to pursue one’s Personal Legend is the most important choice each human gets to make.
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend ThemeTracker
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Quotes in The Alchemist
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“To realize one’s destiny is a person's only real obligation.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.