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The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho

Section 8

Summary Section 8


Santiago watches a pair of hawks attacking each other and has a vision of armies riding through the oasis. Santiago remembers Melchizedek’s advice to heed omens, so he tells the camel driver about his vision. The camel driver takes Santiago’s warning seriously because he believes that all people can penetrate to the Soul of the World.

The camel driver considers how seers make their living by understanding the Soul of the World, and recalls a time when a seer asked him why he wanted to know the future. The camel driver had trouble coming up with a good answer, so the seer refused to cast the twigs he used to make his predictions. Instead, he told the camel driver to forget about the future and pay attention to the present. The seer told him that God will occasionally reveal the future to someone, but only so it can be rewritten.

Because the camel driver believes that God showed Santiago the future through his vision, he tells Santiago to warn the local tribal chieftains of approaching armies. Santiago doubts the chieftains will take him seriously, but the camel driver explains that they deal often with omens.

The chieftains reside in a huge white tent in the middle of the oasis. Santiago visits and tells a guard that he saw an omen. The guard goes inside the tent and emerges with a young Arab dressed in white and gold. Santiago explains his vision to the Arab, and the Arab asks Santiago to wait as he goes back into the tent. Santiago waits outside until nightfall, when finally the guard invites Santiago inside. The chieftains sit at the back of the lushly decorated tent on silk pillows, eating, smoking hookahs, and drinking tea. One of the chieftains asks Santiago why the desert would speak to him, a newcomer to the desert. Santiago replies that, because he is new, he can see things those accustomed to the desert may not. The chieftains argue in an Arabic dialect Santiago can’t understand.

The old man at the center of the chieftains, dressed in white and gold, does not speak until the conversation ends. Then he recounts the story of a man who believed in dreams and was sold as a slave. The tribe’s merchants bought the man and delivered him to Egypt, because they thought that anyone who believed in dreams could also interpret them. The man was Joseph, and he saved Egypt from famine by interpreting the Pharaoh’s dreams. The old man says that the tribe believes in this tradition, which means they must take messages from the desert seriously.

After his speech, the old man says he will lift the ban on carrying weapons in the oasis for one day, and that everyone should be on the lookout for enemies. He says he will reward each man in the oasis for every ten enemies he kills, and if Santiago turns out to be wrong, they will kill him.