The Alchemist is one of those books that is considered to be a must-read book by many. And for good reason too. There is a reason it has sold over 150 million copies worldwide, won 115 international prizes and awards, has been translated into 80 languages, and is still on the New York Times bestseller list today. It’s just simply that good!
I was first skeptical that this book would have the power that many said it would. After reading it though, I will say that I wish I would have read it a lot earlier on in life. It was absolutely life-changing. Very few books, if any, have ever given me goosebumps during certain parts and left my eyes watering out of excitement at other parts. The Alchemist is just one of those books that hits home with everybody who reads it.
What is The Alchemist about?
The Alchemist is about an Andalusian shepherd named Santiago and his quest for his own Personal Legend. His Personal Legend takes him from his village in Spain to the pyramids of Egypt. Not before, of course, facing various obstacles and challenges that try to throw him off course.
In his travels, he meets a series of characters who either directly help him to find his own Personal Legend, or who will teach him many valuable lessons along the way. One of the most important lessons that he learns is to follow the Omens. Omens are signs from the earth that are directing Santiago in which direction to go in to reach his Personal Legend.
Before setting out, Santiago meets The Old King (Melchizedek) who is thought of to be the King of Salem. Melchizedek tells Santiago, ‘whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.’
Throughout the challenges that Santiago faces, he always reflects back on what The Old King had told him. The Old King, who explains the concept of one’s Personal Legend, says that it is the desire that is ingrained deep down in every soul. He also adds that “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”.
All Santiago has left to do is find his Personal Legend and keep it close to him in his pursuit of treasure because only his Personal Legend will lead him there.
Part One of The Alchemist
After much consideration is he wants to leave his flock of sheep and follow his dream of seeing the world, Santiago decides to go to Egypt. After selling his sheep and arriving in Tangier, a country in North Africa, Santiago is immediately robbed of all of his money. All of his hard work to pursue his Personal Legend had vanished in the blink of an eye. Now his focus is just to get back to Spain as quickly as possible.
With no money and in low spirits Santiago finds a job in a shop that sells crystals. Santiago would work for the man for nearly a year helping him to turn his outdated crystal shop back into the charm that it used to be. In doing so, Santiago finds himself to once again be a wealthy man.
But Instead of using his new wealth to return home, Santiago listens to the crystal shop owner who was once like Santiago. He too had a dream of traveling the world in search of his own Personal Legend. After making money in selling crystals, he became complacent and never sought his Personal Legend. Eventually, time ran out and it was simply too late and too difficult to do so.
After taking to heart what the crystal shop owner had said, the former shepherd decided to continue on his journey.
Part Two of The Alchemist
Having saved more than enough money to get to Egypt, Santiago joins a caravan that includes an Englishman, who is searching for the secret of alchemy himself, and for a 200-year-old alchemist who lives at an oasis that is on the way to The Pyramids of Egypt. He has a desire of turning metal into gold.
Once they reach the oasis, Santiago meets and falls in love with a girl named Fatima. No longer does he have the desire to continue on his Personal Legend as he sees that it led him to Fatima, and she was all he cared about.
The caravan is halted at the oasis due to tribal warfare. Another omen took place in Santiago’s life, because while he was at the oasis, he found who the Englishman was looking for – The alchemist. The alchemist is in search of Santiago as well, and together, the two will cross the Sahara desert in search of Santiago’s Personal Legend. The Alchemist doesn’t tell Santiago anything new, but rather reminds him to listen to his heart and to find the power that he already possesses.
Following his Personal Legend to Egypt
After heading out towards the Pyramids of Egypt, Santiago and The alchemist are soon captured by another group of warriors in the desert. The alchemist tells the group that they are in search of a treasure and tells Santiago that, in order to continue on the trip, he should become the wind. The alchemist makes a deal with the warriors and tells them that if Santiago can’t turn himself into the wind in three days times, they can take the alchemist’s and Santiago’s life.
After having doubted himself every step of the way, on the third day, Santiago speaks to the earth and concentrates on the desert. His ability to speak to the desert eventually helps him to speak to the wind. Together, the wind and the desert create a sandstorm greater than anything the warriors have ever seen. This causes the warriors to fear Santiago and the alchemist, who immediately free the two of them and allow them to continue on their journey.
After a few more days of travel, Santiago and the alchemist make it to a monastery, where the alchemist turns some lead into gold and divides it. His journey stops here, as he has to return to the oasis, but Santiago proceeds, and eventually reaches the pyramids.
Once at the pyramids, he sheds a tear from not knowing what to do next. His tear lands on a scarab beetle, which Santiago remembers is a sign of God. Right then and there, he starts digging for his treasure.
After hours of digging, Santiago is approached by raiders who make him dig and plan on stealing the treasure while severely beating him and intend on leaving him for dead. After conspiring about his dream to the raiders, they laugh at him and don’t waste any more of their time on somebody who is crazy enough to believe in a treasure just because their heart told them it was there.
Before leaving, one of the raiders reminisces on his dream, mentioning that he had a dream about a treasure buried by an abandoned church in Spain. At that moment, Santiago knew where his treasure was. It was at the church that he used to sleep in when he was once a shepherd.
After going back to the monastery to reclaim the last piece of gold the alchemist had left him, he returns to the church in Spain where he used to sleep and starts digging at the place where he once used to lay his head.
After 30 minutes of digging, Santiago strikes gold. His Personal Legend is fulfilled, and it all started at the place where he first set out.
What makes The Alchemist so great?
What makes The Alchemist such an amazing book to read is the fact that it inspires us to look within at the power that we already hold. We often look for others for advice or conform to a way of life that isn’t our own. But in the book, Coelho reminds us that life is a treasure in and of itself. We shouldn’t be following the ideas and desires of others. Only once we start to follow our own dreams and Personal Legend will we then find the treasure that we are all in search of.
If you are somebody who has lost sight of your calling in life, your why, your dreams, or your Personal Legend, you need to read this book. It is so incredibly powerful and will help you to once again find your dreams and will start guiding you towards them.
Remember, as The Old King said, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. Want your dreams and you will receive nothing less.