The Alchemist Summary

Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

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The Alchemist Summary

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Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece The Alchemist tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who longs to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as anyone has ever found. He leaves his homeland in Spain to go to the Egyptian desert in search of this treasure, which is supposed to be buried near the Pyramids. Along the way, he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself a king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows exactly what the treasure is or if Santiago will be able to overcome the obstacles on his path.

As the story begins, Santiago has a recurring dream where he is in the fields with his sheep, and a little girl appears and begins playing with the animals. Suddenly, the child takes Santiago’s hands and transports him to the Egyptian Pyramids. When they arrive, the little girl tells Santiago that if he were to go to there, he would find a hidden treasure. However, just as the little girl is about to tell Santiago the exact location of the treasure, he wakes up.

Santiago yearns to know what the dream means and consults a Gypsy woman who tells him there is treasure waiting for him near the Egyptian Pyramids. She says that if he goes there and finds it, he will be a very rich man. She believes her interpretation so wholeheartedly she does not charge Santiago but tells him that he owes her 10% of this material wealth if he finds it.

Santiago goes on his way and soon after meets a man who calls himself a king. Santiago reads a book, keeping to himself while the old king persistently attempts to converse with him. The king says his name is Melchizedek, or the King of Salem. The more the king persists, the less interested Santiago seems in talking, until the king starts to write details on the sand about Santiago’s mother, father, and his life that the king cannot know. The king asks Santiago to give him 10% of his sheep in exchange for telling Santiago about his dream, a dream that Santiago has not yet mentioned to the king. This sparks Santiago’s interest, and the two begin talking, at which point, the king introduces the idea of a Personal Legend to Santiago.

The king explains that an individual’s Personal Legend is what that person has always wanted to accomplish. He says that when we are young, our Personal Legend is apparent to us, and we have no fear of dreaming and dreaming big. As we get older, a “mysterious force” overtakes us, and we become afraid to dream, and convinced that we cannot realize our Personal Legend. The king adds that a person’s only real obligation in life is to realize his or her personal destiny.

With adventurous courage, Santiago sells his sheep and travels to Tangiers. After a thief steals his money, Santiago takes a job with a crystal merchant who teaches Santiago important lessons for his long journey ahead. After working at the crystal shop for a year, Santiago earns enough money to cover his losses and return home; however, something unexpected happens. On a desert caravan, Santiago meets an intriguing Englishman. The Englishman’s passion for knowledge and his relentless quest to uncover the secrets of alchemy inspire Santiago to pursue his own dream of finding his treasure. As the Englishman continues his search for a 200-year-old alchemist in the desert oasis, Santiago falls in love with a young woman, Fatima. Exposed to love, the greatest feeling of all, Santiago thinks he has found the treasure. With the help of the alchemist, Santiago completes the last leg of his journey, full of self-searching and profound discoveries. He finds the treasure he is looking for the place where he least expected. This is when he begins to understand Personal Legend and the importance of searching for one’s own personal destiny. He understands what the old king meant long ago—when you truly want something, the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

This story is profound, yet simple in how it expresses the journey we all take to find the most meaningful treasures in our lives. Not only is the treasure important—the journey toward it is equally valuable. The Alchemist is about the faith, power, and courage we all have within us to realize and pursue our own life’s purpose no matter how discouraged we may at times feel. Santiago shows how along the way we learn to trust our hearts, read the seemingly inconspicuous signs, and understand that as we look to fulfill a dream, it looks to find us, if we allow it.