5. “What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’
“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”
The alchemist says these last words to Santiago before the two part ways at the end of the novel. In short, the alchemist explains to Santiago why he had to endure so many trials if the universe, as the alchemist and others have said, does actually want him to fulfill his Personal Legend. Santiago, for instance, may have began his journey with “beginner’s luck,” although only to a limited degree as he was immediately robbed and left penniless in Tangier, but as his quest went on he faced progressively more difficult challenges. When he must turn himself into the wind, Santiago seems as if he has to trick the elements into helping him. But as the alchemist explains, these challenges served their own purpose: to help Santiago master the lessons he had already learned.
The alchemist’s statement implies that the important part of pursuing one’s Personal Legend consists not just in reaching the final goal, whether that be turning lead into gold or finding a treasure near the pyramids, but also in learning through action. Earlier in the book, the alchemist explains this notion to Santiago using alchemists as his example. He says the alchemists became too focused on the gold and lost the focus on living out their Personal Legends. As a result, they lost the ability to perform alchemy. Santiago, meanwhile, ultimately travels through Spain, into Africa, and across the Sahara to the pyramids, only to learn that the treasure he seeks lies under a tree in the area where he began his trip. His transformation, however, could not have occurred without this journey and the experience he gained from living out his Personal Legend. Along the way, he learned to read omens, to communicate with the elements, and even to turn himself into the wind.