“The Alchemist”

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

I recently read “The Alchemist” and thought you might enjoy it when a teacher asks you to read a fable, fantasy or fairy tale. This book, published in Brazil in 1988, is not a traditional fable or fairytale, but it has all the elements your teacher may be looking for.

Although Santiago is a shepherd in Andalusia (in Spain), he is well educated and loves to read. His father had intended that Santiago becomes a priest, but the boy loves to travel; his father helps him purchase a flock so that he can live out this dream. It seems that traveling within Spain would have been enough for the happy young man, but he has a dream of treasure near the pyramids in Egypt. Once the dream takes hold in his life, many fantastic things take place.

Santiago meets ‘the king of Salem,’ who instructs him to follow his dream, sell his flock of sheep and head to Africa. He says, “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.” This, then, is the theme that propels the characters.

So Santiago decides to follow his “Personal Legend.” Not everything is easy for him. In Tangier, Africa, he is immediately swindled out of the money he earned by selling his flock. He must earn it over by working and through imaginative ways of creating business. Yet there are always omens for Santiago to follow, and the whole universe is conspiring to help him realize his dream. He meets gypsies, a king, an Englishman, a camel driver, desert men and women and finally the alchemist who helps him succeed. Santiago falls in love with a desert girl, Fatima. Because it is a fable, the only thing that really bothered me about the story—I accepted the universe helping Santiago, even to the point of his having to perform a miracle and coming through—was that Fatima’s “Personal Legend” seems to be to wait around for her man. As a girl, I related more to the adventure.

I know this book has been compared to A. Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince,” and I think you might like that as well. However, it’s been years since I read it, and when I did, I read it in Spanish (although it was originally published in French), a language I was less than proficient with. Ask your French teacher about “The Little Prince.” The author is much loved.


About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
This entry was posted in Adventure Stories, Fable/Fairy Tale/Fantasy, Fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to “The Alchemist”

  1. Santiago B. says:

    I am curious about some things though. Like were any of the nature stuff in the story true? For exampla can yuou send a kiss through thew wind, or can u talk (in a way) to the wind? haha but dont make fun of me if its not.

    • Mayra J. A. says:

      UUMMM Santiago i dont understand why you are curious. Because if you belive that you can send a kiss through the wind than its possible if you belive that you can talk in a way to the wind or transform yourself into wind then its possible, did you not get the meaning of the story ..??? you have to belive in yourself…!!!! It is possible if you could only pay attention of the things that god gives you like nature, wind, water, the sun, the moon, the sea, and the land,etc. Santiago is able to be wind,and talk to it, and send a kiss through it because he belives in god..! he doesnt talk to the wind he is talking to god.

  2. Santiago B. says:

    I enjoyued that i was able to learn a little from the book about life, and about alchemy, and other facts, such as how far a person will go for what he or she beleive in and for the ones they love.

  3. Santiago B. says:

    Even though the story had some parts that were a little confusing, i have to admit that in the end, i came to like the book and also the part the main character happened to have the same name as me.
    I also admire that Santiago was willing to give up all he owned to pursue his “personal legend”, which he found out from an old man that declared himself a king, because in his heart he beleived it and he knew it was real.

  4. Michael E. says:

    When Santiago takes his sheep to the city to learn what his recurring dream means, Why did the lady offer her services for one-tenth of the treasure that Santiago was destined to find? Did she know that He was going to end up Following fate?

    • Kimberly L. says:

      Yeah. Because she knew what he was looking for, she felt that she deserved some amount of the treasure because she thought she was going to help Santiago find it. I honestly thought she was just being a cheap person and only wanting his money. But I don’t know if she knew he was gonna follow fate. I couldn’t really tell from when I read that part. Sorry for the bad help. I tried. hahaha.

      • Sydney K.T. says:

        @ Kimberly L.

        Haha. I agree with you. She was a very cheap person, but I honestly thought she knew nothing of his treasure and was only cheating him of whatever he found.

      • Santiago B. says:

        I have to agree with Kimberly as well, i think thast the gypsy beleived that she earned at least one-tenth of his treasure, but not because she was being cheap but because she helped him a little to give him a reason to pursue it. Also u have to remember that the gypsy was being a little trustworhty because she wasnt entirely sure that Santiagho was even going to find his “treasure” and wat if he found it and didnt even fullfill his part of the bargain

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