“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.