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The boy's name was Santiago. Dusk was falling as the boy arrived with his herd at an abandoned church. The roof had fallen in long ago, and an enormous sycamore had grown on the spot where the sacristy had once stood.
He decided to spend the night there. He saw to it that all the sheep entered through the ruined gate, and then laid some planks across it to prevent the flock from wandering away during the night. There were no wolves in the region, but once an animal had strayed during the night, and the boy had had to spend the entire next day searching for it.
He swept the floor with his jacket and lay down, using the book he had just finished reading as a pillow. He told himself that he would have to start reading thicker books: they lasted longer, and made more comfortable pillows.
It was still dark when he awoke, and, looking up, he could see the stars through the half-destroyed roof.
I wanted to sleep a little longer, he thought. He had the same dream that night as a week ago, and once again he had awakened before it ended.
He arose and, taking up his crook, began to awaken the sheep that still slept. He had noticed that, as soon as he awoke, most of his animals also began to stir. It was as if some mysterious energy bound his life to that of the sheep, with whom he had spent the past two years, leading them through the countryside in search of food and water. "They are so used to me that they know my schedule," he muttered. Thinking about that for a moment, he realized that it could be the other way around: that it was he who had become accustomed to their schedule.
But there were certain of them who took a bit longer to awaken. The boy prodded them, one by one, with his crook, calling each by name. He had always believed that the sheep were able to understand what he said. So there were times when he read them parts of his books that had made an impression on him, or when he would tell them of the loneliness or the happiness of a shepherd in the fields. Sometimes he would comment to them on the things he had seen in the villages they passed.
But for the past few days he had spoken to them about only one thing: the girl, the daughter of a merchant who lived in the village they would reach in about four days. He had been to the village only once, the year before.The merchant was the proprietor of a dry goods shop, and he always demanded that the sheep be sheared in his presence, so that he would not be cheated. A friend had told the boy about the shop, and he had taken his sheep there.
"I need to sell some wool," the boy told the merchant. The shop was busy, and the man asked the shepherd to wait until the afternoon. So the boy sat on the steps of the shop and took a book from his bag.
"I didn't know shepherds knew how to read," said a girl's voice behind him.
The girl was typical of the region of Andalusia, with flowing black hair,and eyes that vaguely recalled the Moorish conquerors.
"Well, usually I learn more from my sheep than from books," he answered. During the two hours that they talked, she told him she was the merchant's daughter, and spoke of life in the village, where each day was like all the others. The shepherd told her of the Andalusian countryside,and related the news from the other towns where he had stopped. It was a pleasant change from talking to his sheep.
"How did you learn to read?" the girl asked at one point.
"Like everybody learns," he said. "In school."
"Well, if you know how to read, why are you just a shepherd?"
The boy mumbled an answer that allowed him to avoid responding to her question.He was sure the girl would never understand. He went on telling stories about his travels, and her bright, Moorish eyes went wide with fear and surprise. As the time passed, the boy found himself wishing that the day would never end, that her father would stay busy and keep him waiting for three days. He recognized that he was feeling something he had never experienced before: the desire to live in one place forever. With the girl with the raven hair, his days would never be the same again.
But finally the merchant appeared, and asked the boy to shear four sheep. He paid for the wool and asked the shepherd to come back the following year.
And now it was only four days before he would be back in that same village. He was excited, and at the same time uneasy: maybe the girl had already forgotten him. Lots of shepherds passed through, selling their wool.
"It doesn't matter," he said to his sheep. "I know other girls in other places."
But in his heart he knew that it did matter. And he knew that shepherds,like seamen and like traveling salesmen, always found a town where there was someone who could make them forget the joys of carefree wandering.
The day was dawning, and the shepherd urged his sheep in the direction of the sun. They never have to make any decisions, he thought. Maybe that's why they always stay close to me.
With the courage of an adventurer, Santiago sells his sheep and travels to Tangiers in Africa. After a thief steals his money, Santiago takes a job with a crystal merchant who unwittingly 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. But then 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 the treasure. As the Englishman searches for the two hundred year old alchemist who resides in the desert oasis, Santiago falls in love with a young woman, Fatima. Exposed to the greatest and eternal alchemy of all - love - Santiago thinks he has found the treasure. But the greatest test of all is yet to come. With the help of the alchemist, Santiago completes the last leg of his journey - dangerous and infused with discoveries of the most profound kind - to find that the treasure he was looking for was waiting for him in the place where he least expected.
This story, timeless and entertaining, exotic yet simple, breaks down the journey we all take to find the most meaningfultreasures in our lives into steps that are at once natural and magical. It is about the faith, power, and courage we all have within us to pursue the intricate path of a Personal Legend, a path charted by the mysterious magnet of destiny but obscured by distractions. 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 just the same, if we let it.
Topics for Discussion
1. At the start of his journey, when Santiago asks a gypsy woman to interpret his dream about a treasure in the Egyptian pyramids, she asks for one tenth of the treasure in return. When Santiago asks the old man to show him the path to the treasure, the old man requests one tenth of his flock as "payment." Both payments represent a different price we have to pay to fulfill a dream; however, only one will yield a true result. Which payment represents false hope? Can you think of examples from your own life when you had to give up something to meet a goal and found the price too high?
2. Paulo Coelho once said that alchemy is all about pursuing our spiritual quest in the physical world as it was given to us. It is the art of transmuting the reality into something sacred, of mixing the sacred and the profane. With this in mind, can you define your Personal Legend? At what time in your life were you first able to act on it? What was your "beginner's luck"? Did anything prevent you from following it to conclusion? Having read The Alchemist, do you know what inner resources you need to continue the journey?
3. One of the first major diversions from Santiago's journey was the theft of his money in Tangiers, which forced him into taking a menial job with the crystal merchant. There, Santiago learned many lessons on everything from the art of business to the art of patience. Of all these, which lessons were the most crucial to the pursuit of his Personal Legend?
4. When he talked about the pilgrimage to Mecca, the crystal merchant argued that having a dream is more important than fulfilling it, which is what Santiago was trying to do. Do you agree with Santiago's rationale or crystal merchant's?
5. The Englishman, whom Santiago meets when he joins the caravan to the Egyptian pyramids, is searching for "a universal language, understood by everybody." What is that language? According to the Englishman, what are the parallels between reading and alchemy? How does the Englishman's search for the alchemist compares to Santiago's search for a treasure? How did the Englishman and Santiago feel about each other?
6. The alchemist tells Santiago "you don't have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation." With this in mind, why do you think the alchemist chose to befriend Santiago, though he knew that the Englishman was the one looking for him? What is the meaning of two dead hawks and the falcon in the oasis? At one point the alchemist explains to Santiago the secret of successfully turning metal into gold. How does this process compare to finding a Personal Legend?
7. Why did Santiago have to go through the dangers of tribal wars on the outskirts of the oasis in order to reach the pyramids? At the very end of the journey, why did the alchemist leave Santiago alone to complete it?
8.Earlier in the story, the alchemist told Santiago "when you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed." At the end of the story, how did this simple lesson save Santiago's life? How did it lead him back to the treasure he was looking for?
About the Author: Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the city where he now lives. His own life has in many ways been as varied and unusual as the protagonists of his internationally acclaimed novels. Like them, Paulo Coelho has followed a dream in a quest for fulfillment. His own dream, to be a writer, met with frustration throughout much of his early adult life, a time in which he worked at various professions, some of them materially rewarding but spiritually unfulfilling. "I always knew," he says, "that my Personal Legend, to use a term from alchemy, was to write." He was 38 when he published his first book.
In 1970, after deciding that law school was not for him, he traveled through much of South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe. Returning to Brazil after two years, he began a successful career as popular songwriter. In 1974, he was imprisoned for a short time by the military dictatorship then ruling in Brazil. In 1980, he experienced one of the defining moments of his life: he walked the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. On this ancient highway, used for centuries by pilgrims from France to get to the cathedral said to house the remains of St. James, he achieved a self-awareness and a spiritual awakening that he later described in The Pilgrimage.
Paulo Coelho once said that following your dream is like learning a foreign language; you will make mistakes but you will get there in the end. In 1988, he published The Alchemist, a novel that explores this theme, and it launched him as an international bestselling author. Specifically, Paulo Coelho is recognized for his powerful storytelling technique and the profound spiritual insights he blends seamlessly into his parables. Since then, The Alchemist has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been translated into some 41 languages. In addition to The Pilgrimage and The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho has written luminous novels about the different streams of our lives, including By The River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept, The Valkyries, The Fifth Mountain, and Veronika Decides to Die. A winner of numerous literary prizes, Paulo Coelho is also a prominent speaker for humanitarian causes. In 1999, he received a Crystal Award for Artistic Achievement at the Davos Economic Forum Conference.
Posted May 16, 2012
Although I feel that previous reviews will make mine look incompetent and childish, i still feel like putting my two cents in. This novel portrays Coelho's view on the meaning of life, that everyone has a preset dream and destination, but it is their choice to take the journey or not. Paul tells his story by using a shepherd boy that decides to follow his path to get to his destiny. the shepherd, Santiago, meets several people that open his eyes and show him why he has decided to do this.
What I liked about this book was the great imagery Coelho uses throughout the novel. Also, I love that this book is different than any others I have read. It takes you on a journey, not an adventure to slowly get the author's point across. You will feel yourself getting smarter and more adventurous as you read this book.
What i disliked about this book was that it is slow at points and gets a little monotonous, but if you keep pushing, it will all be well it.
I am only 14 and I have read this book 2 times. It makes you want to make sure you don't hold back in your life, that you achieve something amazing. Forget about the normal way of life. I would recommend this book to anyone who is willing to read a book that will question the way you are living and will make you want to drop everything and go find your alchemist.
150 out of 163 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
As I get older, it seems I discover more about life. I'm 70 now. This is a book I wish I read years ago. You will learn things that I did and did not in this book, all of which will help you find your way through life. It is a great read too. Fun, hard to put down. Wonderful.
61 out of 68 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 30, 2009
Although Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist conveys an uplifting message about the individual's potential for greatness, the novel's over-simplicity and dependence on a message of reassurance detract from the strength of this central theme and its pertinence to the human experience. Through the narrative of a young shepherd boy named Santiago, Coelho constructs the age-old story of an individual pursing a dream. However, what distinguishes Coelho's story from all the others is the bold universalization of this theme that he makes when he claims that, "To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation." Now although this is certainly an empowering message, and one that contributes to the novel's widespread appeal, the underlying message of Coelho's feel-good story of Santiago's journey across continents in search of his "Personal Legend" should not be taken at face value. In spite of its apparent self-empowerment, Coelho's simplistic reduction of achievements to desires actually diminishes the individual's role in the pursuit of his or her Personal Legend. One concept that the young Santiago is taught before his quest even begins is that when in pursuit of a Personal Legend the entire universe aids one in achieving it. This message, central to the worldview that Coelho advances in the novel, would seem to be encouraging, but in fact it is highly misleading. To say that just because a person desires something it is within the realm of his or her possibilities to achieve it is in stark opposition to the facts of reality. A person does not realize his or her goals by the mere fact of experiencing hardships as Santiago is counseled to do under the banner of the adage that the world works in mysterious ways. Instead, one triumphs over trials and tribulations by means of one's efforts and abilities, not by a naïve reliance on fate and destiny. And it is for this reason that The Alchemist is not really a novel in praise of the individual's capacity for greatness, but one that denigrates this potential by devaluing the individual's role in influencing his or her own destiny. In all, if you are looking for a book that truly lifts your spirits and speaks to the true nature of your infinite possibilities, look elsewhere, you will not find it here. In The Alchemist all you will find is a striking fatalism hidden beneath the guise of one boy's quest for his Personal Legend.
47 out of 86 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 6, 2011
Seems like it would be a quick read, but it's a book that you should take some time with. Very thought-provoking and helps you reflect on your own life. Next time you have 2 days off, clear your schedule and read this book with blanket and cup of cocoa on the couch. :)
31 out of 35 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 24, 2010
I know i'm in the minority when it comes to disliking this book. I loved the first 50 pages (which approximately 1/4 of the book since it only has 163 pages). After that author Paulo Coelho got a bad case of the repeats. I know this book is spiritual and i feel a little guilty about this review but I can honestly say this is one of the worst books I have ever read. On a good note I think I might have found my personal legend....not to read another Paulo Coelho books again,
26 out of 56 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 8, 2010
I originally read this book about 18 years ago after finding it in a small bookstore. At first I thought it was a children's book because the wording and tale was very simplistic. I'm so glad I read the entire thing. The story is uplifting and puts a smile on your face. Though it is a an allegory, the book is well-written and timeless. The character's journey through the desert is really a journey of self-discovery and growth - one that all of us need to take from time to time.
24 out of 26 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This is a masterpiece, well written in a simple form.
One that inspires me to listen to my truth.
One that encourages me to go for my dream, despite how insignificant it seems at first.
A great book like this reminds me of life's magnificence in the everyday mundane. If you enjoy the Alchemist, check out another
incredible book by Ariel and Shya Kane. "How to Have A Match Made in Heaven: A Transformational Approach to Dating, Relating and Marriage".
I had never read a book that's done in a more creative format: you get to watch stories coming alive through the video links in the book.
These are videos of real people in their real lives; how their lives transformed as they discovered that new possibilities open up in their
relationships. It is down to earth yet nothing ordinary.
The Alchemist, even though structured in a different way, is such a gem that inspires me over and over again. I gain new perspectives for life and
feel renewed and refreshed whenever I read them. I highly recommend both books!
20 out of 22 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 16, 2010
This book was okay. I think the message of theis book is follow your dreams. I liked it; but I am not sure that I would recommend it. I enjoyed the imagery of The Alchemist. The story moved a bit slowly. It wasn't a page turner, but it wasn't a tough read either. The Alchemist is a nice fable;but, that's it.
18 out of 22 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 25, 2010
I can't understand what all the excitement is about surrounding this book. Yes, it is a story of self-discovery and remaining true to one's dreams, but there's nothing here that's new. The message is simplistic and superficial, and delivered in a heavy-handed style. As literature it is weak. There is no character development to speak of. The writing is repetitive and tedious, as though intended for children who often need to be reminded of key points. The fairy tale style is engaging at first, but is not enough to sustain interest. The best thing about this book is that it is very short.
15 out of 28 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 29, 2010
I Also Recommend:
Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, has reoccuring dreams about a hidden treasure in the Pryamids of Egypt. Along his journey, he gets his life savings stolen twice, meets a Gypsy, a 'king', an Englishman and an Alchemist. Through Santiago's search for treasure, he learns the true meaning of life, and how humans and nature should help with one another to sustain the life of Earth. This book is very touching and is equipped with many of life's lessons. Although The Alchemsit is an easy read, the book is very ambigupus and can be veiwed upon in many different ways depending on the reader. I would recommend this book to anyone.
10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 19, 2007
The idea of the story: a young man setting out on an adventure, in search of a treasure that seems to be a real mystery was intriguing. In the 1st 2 chapter you get the main idea of the story quickly, it¿s about searching within and find your destiny, listen to all that is around you for your life ahead is already written in your personal legend. Great concept, but to keep going on and on about it in every chapter was very repetitive!! It seem like the author didn¿t think we were smart enough to remember what a personal legend was in the 1st couple chapters, so he had to repeat it in Every chapter. The whole adventure part of the store dies with to much talk about personal legends and languages of the world sico philosophy .
9 out of 17 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 11, 2010
Posted September 5, 2010
Open this book and you will be on your way to a new adventure. An adventure beyond your wildest dreams. Talk about motivating...this is the ultimate motivator. This journey will remind you of the importance of endurance, strenth and above all loyalty. Its brilliant, my own little treasure!
8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 31, 2011
Don't listen to the reviews saying The Alcemist is boring. It is a huge lie. This novel cuts in deep and leaves you hungry for more. I read this book for my Advanced Placement English class years ago and I can still feel its powerful words today. I have a hard copy of the novel at home and with me on my Nook COLOR. No regrets whatsoever.
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 6, 2011
This book was well written and made the reader think for themselves as to the true meaning of the answer given by the Alchemist.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 13, 2012
The book The Alchemist is an exception read. You follow the journey of a boy named Santiago on his journey to achieve his Personal Legend. While reading, you are forced to reflect on your own personal journey through life. At a plethora of moment you feel as if you are besides Santiago, making his decisions. This book is not only a good story but also teaches the reader valuable lessons. You won’t be let down by The Alchemist.
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 29, 2010
The book is one of the most touching and inspiring books one have ever read. I am recommeding it to my friends!
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2010
This is a short read with a simple yet thought provocative message. Following the story of a sheepherder we learn that life is about following dreams and living your authentic truth. When we decide to follow a dream or take a risk the universe tries to help us along.
If you like Ekhart Tolle, Siddhartha, Carlos Castaneda you will love the message in this book. I just wish it had been a little longer.
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 20, 2010
I expected this book to be a great read because of all the tremendous hype. I wanted to loved it, but I found it boring, empty, and repetitious; so I found myself skimming through page after page just to finish it.
The book has some notable pages out a of nearly 200 pages. On numerous occasions the book tries to make the point that any person with what the book calls a "Personal Legend" can derive for themselves, from just living.
The metaphors are empty, and repetitious. I found myself rolling my eyes every time I read a corny metaphor.
4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.