The Alchemist Book summary

Paulo Coelho

Overview

About

The Alchemist was originally published in Portuguese in 1988, and it did not gain commercial success until the English translation became available. In the 1990s, the french version of the book had become extremely popular. The book was then soon printed in several languages, and it quickly became a favorite worldwide. It has now been translated into more than 80 languages. It has been said that the simple language and the sincere story have helped the book win over such popularity. The Alchemist has been able to connect with young as well as old readers, due to its innate simplicity. Other critics have been less kind, some have argued that the book ought to be categorized as a self-help book rather than a work of fiction. Others believe that the alchemist is a retelling of the fable 'The Ruined Man Who Became Rich Again through a Dream,' from the One thousand and One Nights, which is a collection of folktales from the Middle East and India.

Plot Summary

Santiago is a shepherd who roams the Andalusian region of Spain with his sheep. His parents had wanted him to become a priest, but Santiago had informed his parents that his only true desire was to travel and see different parts of the world. His father attempted to dissuade him, but he eventually gave in to his son's wish and gave him gold to purchase sheep. Santiago has now been roaming the countryside as a Shepherd for two years, and last year he met a merchant's daughter. The girl had made him experience the desire to stay in one place, one that he had never before felt. He stops with his sheep at an abandoned church with a sycamore tree growing from the place where the sacristy had once been. He begins to see a recurring dream, and as he travels towards the girl's town, he stops at Tarifa to consult a dream interpreter.

The dream interpreter seems like an old gypsy woman, one he had been taught to fear. Santiago recounts the dream for her. In his dream, Santiago is led by a child to the pyramids of Egypt, and the child tells Santiago that he would find a hidden treasure if he were to journey there. The gypsy woman makes Santiago promise to give her a tenth of his treasure before interpreting the dream. Once he agrees, she tells him to journey to the Pyramids to find a hidden treasure. The boy doesn't believe in the women, and so heads to the city's plaza where he meets an old man. The man reveals himself to be the King of Salem, Melchizedek and asks the boy to pay him a tenth of his sheep in return for telling him how to find the treasure. The boy takes a day to prepare and resolves to sell his sheep and journey to Africa. The next day, he pays the King, and he merely tells him to go to the Pyramids of Egypt. He explains that his role had been to help Santiago decide to travel. He had appeared to him, just as he had appeared to several others who were close to abandoning the pursuit of their Personal Legend.

Santiago journey's to Tangiers, but he is robbed of all his money on the very first day of his arrival. Santiago is crestfallen and begins to feel as if God is unfair. However, he wakes more hopeful the next day and resolves to see himself as an adventurer rather than a victim. Santiago secures a job with a crystal merchant whose business has seen a near three-decade decline. The boy assists the merchant to revive his business magnificently and has soon made enough money to return home and purchase a much larger flock of sheep. The merchant helps Santiago decide to continue his journey towards Egypt by telling him of his desire to visit Mecca per his religious obligation. Santiago joins a caravan crossing the Sahara desert where he meets an Englishman. He has been studying the Universal Language at the university for nearly ten years, and Santiago is aware of the language due to his conversation with the King of Salem. The Englishman is pursuing his own Personal Legend as he strives to become an Alchemist. He has learned of an alchemist that lives on an oasis in Egypt and wishes to apprentice under him. The boy and the Englishman help each other in developing their understanding of the universal language. Santiago progresses further than the Englishman as he can observe and contemplate the omens of the desert. The caravan begins to hear of a tribal war brewing in the desert, and the leader speeds their journey across the desert. They soon reach the oasis, which is seen as neutral ground. The tribesmen conduct war in the desert but no one brings arms into the oasis. The Alchemist has been waiting for the caravan for the omens have told him that he needs to share his knowledge with one of the travelers.

The Englishman sets out to search for the alchemist immediately, but the Alchemist doesn't accept him as a disciple and instead tells him to attempt converting Lead to Gold. Santiago meets Fatima and falls in love with her at first sight. He confesses his love and asks her to marry him, as soon as he meets her the next day. They get to know each other over a month, and Santiago teaches her about the universal language. She encourages him to continue towards his Personal Legend and assures him that she would wait for him to find his treasure. Santiago is tempted by her love and is willing to abandon his Personal Legend. He is kept from traveling onwards by the ongoing tribal war. Santiago goes into the desert, and as he immerses himself in the universal language, he sees an image of an attack on the oasis. He informs the elders of the omens he had seen, and on his word, they decide to arm the men of the oasis. That night, Santiago comes face to face with the Alchemist, as he rushes into the oasis bearing a sword and demanding to know who had read the omens in the flight of the hawks. Santiago accepts the possibility of death in pursuit of his Personal Legend but discovers that the Alchemist had been testing his courage to take him as a disciple. Santiago's warning saves the people of Oasis from the attack, and he is later tested by the Alchemist in his understanding of the Universal Language. The Alchemist then offers him his guidance in crossing the Desert and fulfilling his Personal Legend. Santiago is reluctant to leave Fatima, but the Alchemist tells him how the omens would abandon him if he chose not to heed their call to fulfill his Personal legend.

Santiago bids Fatima goodbye, and the Alchemist explains that the crucial text of Alchemy was the Emeral tablet which couldn't be read like a book but was rather a means of penetrating the Soul of the World. They journey through the perilous desert, and overcome several obstacles but are finally discovered by a tribal chief encamped with his army. The tribesmen seem to believe that they are spies, but the Alchemist promises them that Santiago is an accomplished Alchemist and would turn himself into the wind to prove his powers. He requests three days for the preparation, and his request is granted. Santiago is clueless on the first day, but the Alchemist reminds him of the essence of Alchemy. The next day, Santiago sits on a cliff and observes the desert, he can learn that his heart and the Desert spoke the same language. The next day, Santiago has a conversation with the desert, the wind, the sun, and finally the soul of god to turn himself into the wind.

They are escorted to a region close to the pyramids by the men of the chief, and then the alchemist leads him to a Coptic monastery. There, he shows Santiago the possibility of turning lead into Gold. He then leaves Santiago and asks him to complete the last leg on his own. Santiago's heart tells him to be aware of the spot where he is moved to tears. Santiago reaches the crest of a dune and is moved to tears as soon as he first sees the pyramids in all their glory. He begins to dig there but is found by refugees of the war. They rob him and beat him. He reveals that he had come here to find a treasure that he had been told about in his dreams. They leave him there, but one of them returns to warn him to not be a fool, for he had seen a dream that told him a treasure lay in an abandoned Spanish tree under a sycamore tree and only a fool would believe such a dream. The boy laughs once the refugee has departed, and returns to the church in spain to find a chest of treasure buried under the sycamore tree.

  • Author(s)

    Paulo Coelho
  • Publication date

    1988

  • Language

    Portuguese

  • Classification

    Adventure, Fantasy/p>

  • Pages

    163

Keywords

Adventure, Fantasy

Publisher

HarperTorch