Summary of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

  • Post category:Summaries
  • Post last modified:November 16, 2022

Summary: 6 minutes

Book reading time: 2h55

Score: 10/10

Book published in: 1988

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  • You will find peace in life after you’ve succeeded in your quest.

What The Alchemist Talks About

The Alchemist was written by Paulo Coelho. It tells the story of a Spanish boy going on a quest to find a treasure he saw in a dream. The story follows the hero’s journey structure with the call to adventure, the abyss, the transformation, and the return back home. The novel is set in Europe, North Africa, and Egypt.

The Alchemist is one of the most famous pieces of fiction of all time.

While my summary is great, it only tells the events of the story. It doesn’t capture the wisdom and the lessons at all.

As a result, I highly encourage you to read the book.

It’s not so long anyway.

Get the book here.

Summary of The Alchemist Written by Paulo Coelho

Part 1

The story starts in Andalusia, Spain, with a boy named Santiago.

His parents wanted him to become a priest, but he was much more interested in traveling.

His dad told him that it was useless, as all people were the same everywhere.

But Santiago still wanted to travel.

Since the only people from his social class that traveled were the shepherd, he became a shepherd.

One day, as he was resting in an abandoned church with his flock, he had a dream.

He dreamt that a child took him to the pyramids of Egypt where there was a treasure to be found.

He woke up. The following nights, the dream came back, but he always woke up before finding the treasure.

An old woman interpreted the dream for him and told him that he should go to Egypt, where he will find the treasure.

It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.

The boy thought it was ridiculous and left.

Later on, he met an old man. The man claimed to be the king of Salem.

He explained that one’s purpose is to realize one’s destiny. Destiny is what you want most to do in your life. But most people become convinced as they age that it is impossible to get it, so they never realize it.

Santiago knew that his destiny was to travel and find his treasure. The old man knew it too, and he knew Santiago was about to abandon his destiny.

So the old man offered Santiago to tell him where the treasure was if Santiago gave him 1/10th of his sheep.

Andalusia, Spain. Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash

The boy accepted. He sold his sheep to a friend and gave 1/10th to the old man. The old man told him the treasure was in Egypt, by the pyramids. Santiago would have to follow the omens left by God to find it.

The man also gave Santiago two stones, one meant to answer “yes”, and the other one “no”, so that he could make his decisions (Urim and Thummim).

“Don’t forget that everything you deal with is only one thing and nothing else. And don’t forget the language of omens. And, above all, don’t forget to follow your destiny through to its conclusion”, the king said.

And Santiago crossed the sea to go to Africa.

People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them.

Once in Tangiers, Santiago realized he didn’t speak the local language Arabic.

Fortunately, he met another boy who spoke Spanish. That boy offered to take him to the pyramids.

Santiago gave him all his money and the boy…never came back.

Ashamed, Santiago knew he had to solve this problem. The next day, he helped a merchant set up shop and received a sweet as a thank.

Then he walked through the streets of the city.

He saw an old crystal shop no one was buying from. So he offered the merchant to clean the crystals in the window in exchange for food.

He did such a good job that the merchant hired him. When he told the boy that he’d have to work for years before going to Egypt, Santiago lost a bit of enthusiasm.

He decided he’d buy some sheep with the money he’d receive from the crystal shop.

The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.

Part 2

The boy worked in the crystal shop and business boomed. Santiago calculated that he’d soon have enough money to buy twice as many sheep as he had in Andalusia. Maybe he never was meant to go to Egypt?

Meanwhile, the influx of money and customers annoyed the merchant.

For thirty years, things had not changed. That had forced the merchant not to consider any wild dreams that he thought were unachievable anyway.

But now that he was much richer, he could in fact look at what to do with life, which scared him. Change and new opportunities scared him. But he still let Santiago grow his company.

11 months after he had come to Tangiers, Santiago had decided not to go to Egypt. He had enough money to buy many sheep and start an importing business in Andalusia.

As he thought about his decision, he hesitated. Andalusia would always be there. Egypt, not.

So he decided to go with a caravan.

On his way, he met an English scientist desperate to talk to an Arab alchemist he was told lived in an Egyptian oasis.

The Englishman wanted to find the Philosopher’s Stone, but had failed so far. He hoped the alchemist would help him.

Tangiers, Morocco. Photo by Eleanor Ye on Unsplash

They started the trip on their way to an Egyptian oasis and became friends. The Englishman taught the boy he had to read more books, and Santiago taught the Englishman he had to pay more attention to the caravan.

They reached the oasis and stayed because war had begun between desert tribes.

The Englishman met the alchemist who told him to begin practicing transforming lead into gold. So he did. As for Santiago, he met a girl named Fatima and they fell in love.

But he still didn’t have retrieved his treasure at the pyramids.

One day, Santiago, when looking at the desert, had a vision of a big army invading the oasis. It was uncommon as oases are set to be heavens of peace.

He still warned the chiefs. They decided that Santiago would be paid if the army really invaded. But that he would be killed if it did not.

Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.

Shortly after, the alchemist came and tested Santiago. After Santiago passed the test, he invited him to his tent the next day.

The next day, an army of 500 men invaded the oasis. They were all killed.

Santiago was paid and he became a counselor.

The next day, he went to see the alchemist. The alchemist told him he wanted to help him.

But Santiago felt rich. He had a camel, a lot of money, and his soon-to-be-wife Fatima. Why go to Egypt?

The alchemist objected that none of these had been found at the pyramids.

The alchemist said he’d help Santiago. The next night, they rode horses in the desert. The alchemist asked Santiago to find life in the desert. They found a snake together, which the alchemist interpreted as positive.

But Santiago didn’t want to leave the oasis. He didn’t want to leave Fatima.

The alchemist convinced him otherwise. They left together the next day.

They rode their horses together towards the pyramid. The alchemist taught the boy many things.

At some point, they got captured by soldiers. The alchemist offered them all of Santiago’s gold and money, and promised that Santiago could also transform into the wind and destroy the camp.

The chief wanted to see that. The alchemist asked for three days of preparation. The chief accepted.

If a person is living out his destiny, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

After three days, Santiago had learned to turn himself into the wind, and the chief let them go.

They rode to a monastery where the alchemist showed the boy he could turn lead into gold. He left a bit of it as he felt Santiago would once again lose all of his money.

Then he told the boy he had to finish the trip by himself. He was only three hours away from the pyramids.

Santiago eventually reached them. When he saw them, he cried.

Pyramids in Egypt. Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

He knew that his treasure was where his tears would fall. So he dug.

At some point, men came and stole everything he had. They told him to keep digging and beat him. Santiago eventually told them he was there because he had had a dream that he’d find a treasure there.

Since there was nothing, the men left. Before leaving, one of them told Santiago that he too had a dream. He dreamt that he would find a treasure buried under an abandoned church in Andalusia, but that he wasn’t that stupid to take the trip.

Santiago smiled. He knew where his treasure was.

He went back to Spain, dug the treasure, and went back to the oasis to marry Fatima.

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