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Free Study Guide for The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

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STUDY GUIDE THE ALCHEMIST BY PAUL COELHO

PART ONE

Summary (continued)

**

The old man repeats his title and when Santiago asks him why a king would be speaking to a shepherd, he tells the boy it’s because he has succeeded in discovering his own Personal Legend. The old man then goes on to explain how everyone has a dream, but at some point, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize it. This mysterious force, according to the old man, appears to be negative, but actually shows us how to prepare for realizing the Personal Legend. This desire originates in the soul of the universe and it’s our mission on earth. The king then points out that the baker who can be seen in his shop window also wanted to travel as the boy is doing. However, he kept coming up with excuses and never acted on his dream. So, the baker stayed in one place and created a home and became one of those that people would want their daughters to marry and that became more important than his Personal Legend.

Santiago then wants to know why the king is telling him all this and the old man’s answer is that the boy has realized his Personal Legend and now he is about to give it all up. He says that’s his job - to appear on the scene when he’s needed to make things happen. The boy then reminds the man that he had said something about his treasure, but the king won’t give him any help until he promises to give him one-tenth of his sheep. When Santiago offers one-tenth of his treasure instead, the old man advises him, “If you start out by promising what you don’t even have yet, you’ll lose your desire to work toward getting it.” He also tells Santiago that by promising to give the Gypsy woman one-tenth of his treasure, he has learned that everything in life has a price and that is what the Warriors of Light try to teach. So it is agreed that tomorrow at the same time, if Santiago gives him one-tenth of his sheep, he will tell him how to find his hidden treasure.

**


The boy wanders through the city of Tarifa and comes to the gates where he can buy a ticket to cross the strait and arrive in Africa. He realizes he must do this to get to Egypt and that he only has to sell one of his sheep to do so. The idea frightens him and he decides he should just go back to being a shepherd. On his way back to the center of the city, Santiago climbs to the uppermost wall of the city’s castle. There, he can see the shores of Africa. He curses the moment that he met the old man and he thinks about how his sheep depend on him. He worries that if he ever decides to leave them, they will suffer.

The wind picks up at this point and he remembers that it’s called the levanter, because the Moors had arrived by it from the Levant at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The wind increases in intensity as the boy agonizes over being between his flock and his treasure. He works though his reluctance to leave what he has become accustomed to, while the wind blows in the smells of the desert and veiled women. He is jealous of the freedom of the wind and understands that he can have that same freedom.

The next day, he meets the old man again and tells him that his friend, who had been caring for his sheep, had agreed to buy them all. It is a good omen for his friend who had always wanted to be a shepherd. The old man calls this the principle of favorability or beginner’s luck. The old man looks over the remainder of the sheep and tells Santiago that he will have to go to the pyramids in Egypt and that, in order to find the treasure, he will have to follow the omens.

The omens are what make up the path God has prepared everyone to follow. Just then a butterfly appears, and Santiago is reminded that his grandfather had once told him that butterflies are good omens. Then, the old man opens his cape and the boy realizes the bright light he had seen there the day before is a breastplate of heavy gold covered with precious stones. He takes from the center of the breastplate two stones - one white and one black - and gives them to Santiago. He tells the boy that they are called Urim and Thummim.

The black one signifies “yes” and the white one “no” and they will help him read the omens when he is unable to do so. He advises him that “everything you deal with is only one thing and nothing else” and that he mustn’t forget the language of the omens and to follow his Personal Legend through to the end. The king ends his commentary with a story about a young man who goes to the wisest man in the world to learn about the secret of happiness. The wise man sends him on a tour of his castle, but tells him not to spill a drop of oil in a spoon he must carry with him. The young man climbs all the staircases and enters all the rooms of the castle with his eyes always on the spoon lest he spill a drop.

When he returns to the wise man, he cannot describe anything in the castle, because he had only watched the spoon. So the wise man sends him back again, telling the young man that he can’t trust anyone whose house he doesn’t know. This time the young man observes everything in the castle, but when he returns, the oil has all spilled from the spoon. The wise man then says that the secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, but never to forget the oil. The shepherd boy understands from the king’s story that although he may like to travel, he can never forget about his sheep. The king then walks away after blessing the boy.

 

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