Search for personal legend found in The Alchemist


Author Paulo Coelho emphasizes the importance of finding one’s destiny in his 1988 novel, The Alchemist. Quickly selling millions of copies all over the world and translated into more than 50 languages, The Alchemist has become one of Coelho’s most famous works.

                The Alchemist tells the story of a boy named Santiago, who has abandoned his studies in the seminary in favor of traveling the world, something that he has always wanted to accomplish. Wandering for two years as a shepherd, he has two recurring dreams of finding treasure at the Egyptian Pyramids. While stopping at a town, he meets an old king named Melchizedek, who proceeds to tell Santiago how to attain his Personal Legend: give up his life as a shepherd and travel to the Pyramids. He gives Santiago lessons regarding the world’s greatest lie and the attainment of his Personal Legend.

Santiago’s journey takes him many different places, including a crystal shop and a desert caravan. He encounters people who impact his journey somehow, including a gypsy, a grouchy crystal merchant, an impatient Englishman pursuing alchemy, a kind woman whom immediately infatuates Santiago, and the mysterious alchemist himself. With these people by his side, Santiago journeys to not only find his Personal Legend, but also discovers truths about himself and about the world.

Deep within The Alchemist lies a treasure all on its own: the personal pursuit of one’s purpose and destiny. The simple storyline allows Coelho to repeatedly share the important truths of life and the truths of self-discovery. Melchizedek’s advice, as well as advice from the other characters, repeats throughout the book. This advice not only forces Santiago to grow as a character, but also subliminally urge the reader to apply that advice to his or her own life. “Follow omens”, “all things are one”, and “keep listening to what {your heart} has to say” are among the many messages that appear in The Alchemist.

In addition to positive truths about life, The Alchemist also nicely develops Santiago’s character as he travels on his journey to obtain his Personal Legend. The reader witnesses Santiago’s trials and triumphs, personal opinions and interactions with the people around him and begins to notice the change in Santiago’s perception of the world. Each section keeps the reader engaged and eager for the next challenge Santiago has to face and how he overcomes it through the advice given to him.

Reviewers from sites such as “Barnes and Noble”, “Amazon”, and “Goodreads” often classify this book as self-help. Some aspects certainly contribute to this, namely the inspirational directions Coelho includes as advisements from the various characters. As a novel, The Alchemist warrants its own recognition as such; the theme offers inspiration and guidance to follow dreams, overcome obstacles, listen to the heart, and believe in self-discovery and aspiring accomplishments. It reinforces that everyone has a purpose to pursue and a destiny to fulfill.