Skip over navigation

The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho

Section 11

Section 10

Section 12

Summary

Santiago and the alchemist travel cautiously over the next two days while they pass through the area where the tribal fighting is worst. Santiago tells the alchemist his heart doesn’t want him to continue because it fears it will lose everything. The alchemist replies that no heart suffers while it pursues its dreams, because to pursue a dream is to encounter God. The next morning, Santiago’s heart tells him that everyone who has God within him feels happy, and that everyone on earth has a treasure waiting for him. Santiago tells the alchemist he has come to peace with his heart.

The next day, three tribesmen approach Santiago and the alchemist. They insist on searching the pair, and discover that the alchemist carries the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life. The tribesmen laugh when the alchemist tells them about the magical properties of his possessions, and they allow to the two to continue on. Santiago asks the alchemist why he told the men about his possessions, and the alchemist replies that people seldom believe a person carrying treasures.

As the pair travel, Santiago’s heart says it protected him throughout his life in ways he never noticed. They pass a tribal encampment and Santiago says he feels no danger. The alchemist gets angry, saying that Santiago should remember he travels through the desert. Two men suddenly appear behind Santiago and the alchemist and tell them they can travel no further. The alchemist stares into the eyes of the men and tells them they are not going far, and the men leave. The alchemist explains to Santiago that the eyes demonstrate the strength of one’s soul.

After the alchemist and Santiago cross a mountain range, the alchemist says that they have two days’ journey to the pyramids. Santiago asks the alchemist to tell him the secret of alchemy before the two part ways, and the alchemist says Santiago already knows alchemy because he can penetrate to the Soul of the World. Santiago asks how to specifically turn lead into gold. The alchemist says that gold represents the most evolved metal, and that successful alchemists understand evolution.

That evening, hundreds of Arab tribesmen dressed in blue approach Santiago and the alchemist and accuse them of acting as spies. They take them to a military camp and begin questioning them. The alchemist says Santiago is an alchemist, and offers Santiago’s money to the tribe’s chief. After the chief accepts the money, the alchemist says that Santiago could destroy the camp with the force of the wind. The men laugh and challenge Santiago to prove the alchemist’s claim. The alchemist says that after three days Santiago will transform himself into the wind. Santiago feels confused, and the alchemist says he was only trying to avoid getting killed. Santiago replies that, since he can’t become the wind, they will die in three days anyway. The alchemist pours tea on Santiago’s wrists, saying only fear prevents someone from living out their Personal Legend.

Analysis

As Santiago continues his journey with the alchemist, he learns several new lessons about himself and his abilities. First, the Alchemist explains that each person’s heart emerges from the Soul of the World. Because Santiago’s heart connects him to the Soul of the World, Santiago must learn to listen to it properly. Santiago’s heart does not always influence him in positive ways, though. It expresses fear, yearns for Fatima, and otherwise distracts Santiago from following his Personal Legend. Santiago goes as far as to call his heart a traitor, and wonders why he should listen to such a discouraging thing. The alchemist explains that the heart never stays silent, so Santiago must come to terms with it. In other words, Santiago must learn to separate himself from the desires of his heart. Only by paying attention to his heart and understanding its “dodges and tricks” can Santiago tame it and turn it into an ally.

The alchemist teaches Santiago two additional lessons during the pair’s ensuing encounters with tribesmen. He admits to the first set of tribesman that he carries two legendary treasures, the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life, in order to show Santiago that most people do not believe someone who possesses great treasures. Though the alchemist refers to his material treasures, this lesson can also apply to intangible treasures, such as spiritual knowledge of dreams and omens. In another lesson, the alchemist snaps at Santiago for forgetting that they are in a dangerous place. Santiago, who has tamed his heart and feels no fear, prompts this reaction by the alchemist when he says he does not feel worried about the camp of tribesmen they pass. The alchemist reminds Santiago that the Soul of the World doesn’t regard him as any more special than anyone else, causing Santiago to think to himself that everything is one. As if to prove this point to Santiago, two men ride up on Santiago and the alchemist, and only leave when the alchemist persuades them to go.

The third encounter Santiago and the alchemist have with tribesmen does not end as easily as the first two, mainly because the alchemist seems to deliberately cause trouble. He gives away all of Santiago’s money, for instance, then claims that Santiago has the power to destroy their camp and will turn himself into the wind to prove it. The alchemist appears to do this to test Santiago, and while Santiago has faced tests previously on his journey to his Personal Legend, including surviving in Tangier and finding life in the desert with the alchemist, this test will be by far the greatest he has faced. Santiago has only three days to face down his fear of failing and learn to turn himself into the wind. At this point in the story, Santiago doesn’t have any idea how to do this. But as the alchemist has told him, no instruction manual can guide him. He must learn by doing.

Follow Us