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The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho

Part Two, Section 5

Summary Part Two, Section 5


After almost a month of work, Santiago feels annoyed with his new job. The crystal merchant is grouchy and the work is tedious. The job pays decently, but Santiago would still need a year’s savings to afford a new flock of sheep. Santiago offers to build a display case to place outside the shop and attract more customers, but the crystal merchant fears people will bump into it and break crystal. He argues that business has been good and asks why Santiago wants more. Santiago says he needs to follow his Personal Legend and go to the pyramids.

The crystal merchant doesn’t understand why Santiago feels so determined. He warns that the display case could be a mistake just as easily as it could help them make more money. The crystal merchant says he lives by the Koran, which makes few demands, but as he explains these demands he recalls that one of them is a pilgrimage to Mecca. Traveling to Mecca has long been his dream. Santiago asks why he never made the trip, and the merchant says that, if he did, he would no longer have anything to live for. He prefers to have his dream. In recognition of Santiago’s dream, he agrees to build the display case.

The display case increases customer traffic, and Santiago realizes that, within six months, he will have enough to return to Tarifa and buy twice as many sheep as he originally owned. After hearing a man complain about the lack of places to drink on the hill, Santiago suggests that the crystal merchant also sell tea in crystal glasses. The crystal merchant hesitates to enter a new business, but he invites Santiago to smoke a pipe with him to discuss the idea. He tells Santiago he has become aware of the danger of ignoring blessings, and agrees to sell tea. The tea becomes popular, and the crystal merchant hires more employees as his business increases.

The months pass and Santiago, nearly a year after his arrival in Africa, has become rich as a result of the crystal shop’s success. One morning, Santiago wakes early. He tells the crystal merchant he wants to return to Tarifa and buy a large flock of sheep, and he encourages the crystal merchant to travel to Mecca. The crystal merchant says he will not go to Mecca, and Santiago will not go home. Santiago asks how he knows, and the crystal merchant says “maktub,” which means “it is written.”

As Santiago packs, the two stones, Urim and Thummim, fall to the floor, reminding Santiago of Melchizedek. He considers how much he has achieved by travelling to Tangier and reconsiders returning home and becoming a shepherd again. The trip through the desert to the pyramids will offer him the chance to get to know a new place, and he could always return to his sheep. He decides to continue pursuing his Personal Legend, and visits a supplier for desert caravans.


Santiago and the crystal merchant represent the different paths a person may choose in life, with fear and complacency acting as the dividing factors between the courses they select. Whereas Santiago feels eager to pursue his Personal Legend and get to Egypt, the crystal merchant fears pursuing his own dream to make a pilgrimage to Mecca because he worries he will have nothing to live for afterward. He also feels comfortable with what he has and does not seek out more. Santiago has already faced several setbacks in his own quest, but they have all been due to outside forces, such as the thief who robbed him. The crystal merchant faces none of these difficulties. Rather, he has made a personal decision to avoid his dream because of his own fear and complacency. Although Santiago will continue to face many more material setbacks in pursuit of his Personal Legend, these factors remain the most difficult obstacles for him to overcome.