The Alchemist  Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist Paulo Coelho - A wonderfully uplifting little tale, full of double meanings and entendres. Enjoy a great discussion as you try to work out what it all means.

A simple story that is a good read in itself. But this story offers more - a fable really.

We had great fun as a book club group, trying to work out what it all meant and what lessons this superb book is trying to teach us.

A must read for any book club

Plot / Story

The Alchemist Paulo Coelho

Here is the story of the Alchemist Book:

The story is about a young shepherd called Santiago. He lives in an island just off the coast of Spain with his many sheep but seems to have a recurring dream each time he sleeps under a sycamore tree in the church.

The dream says that there is buried treasure for him at the foot of the Egyptian Pyramids. He asks the local gypsy what the dream means and is told he must travel to Egypt to fulfil his destiny or "Personal Legend."

Santiago sells his sheep in order to have enough money to travel to Egypt, but at his first stop in Tangier, he is robbed.

To survive and earn some money he goes to work for a local crystal maker, who is very risk averse and afraid of making decisions. The crystal maker teaches Santiago many lessons and Santiago encourages him to take some risks. Those risks pay off making them both very rich in a short space of time.

Santiago is able to carry on with his journey to fulfil his personal legend. He has to cross the desert and here he meets an Englishman who loves to read and wants to learn about becoming an Alchemist. Alchemy is the turning of one liquid into another substance - turning the philosopher's stone into gold and also a liquid that can cure all illnesses (elixir of life).

They are to make a stop in the oasis, so that the Englishman can hopefully meet the 200 year old Alchemist that lives there. Here Santiago finds love, he finds Fatima. He also has another dream that warns him of a tribal attack on the oasis. He is able to worn the villagers and avoid the attack. The alchemist hears of Santiago's premonition and invites Santiago to meet him.

Here, the alchemist reaffirms that he must continue on his journey to the pyramids to pursue his Personal Legend, and leave Fatima behind. The Alchemist agrees to accompany him on the next part of his journey through the desert. Here the alchemist, tells Santiago many things including the "Soul Of The World"

They are captured by soldiers and the Alchemist gives away all Santiago's money in the hope they can escape. But this is not enough, so the Alchemist says that Santiago is an amazing alchemist that can turn himself into the wind in just 3 days. Santiago is scared as he can't turn himself into the wind. But he remembers all the lessons that he has been taught by the Alchemist, and is able to create a huge sand storm and transpose himself from one side of the camp to the other. The soldiers are amazed and let them both go.

Onwards they travel and the Alchemist leaves Santiago before arriving at the Pyramids. He turns the philosopher's stone into gold and gives the gold to Santiago for his journey.

Santiago reaches the pyramids, but is beaten up again as he tries to find his treasure. He tells the men of his story and one man says that dreams are stupid - he has a dream about buried treasure underneath a tree near a church. It is at this point that Santiago realises that the treasure is buried underneath his tree back at home, where he first had his recurring dream.

He returns, to find a chest filled with jewels and gold buried under the tree, and sets off to the desert to be reunited with Fatima.


The Alchemist Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is a cracker when it comes to themes.

There are many lessons, themes and meanings in The Alchemist Paulo Coelho,  and we enjoyed trying to uncover them as a group, so perhaps don't read this bit if you don't want to spoil it for yourself. You may also have a different interpretation than that of the below:

Life is about the Journey

Santiago learns some life long lessons on his journey. It's ironic that the buried treasure is back at his home. It suggests that the grass is not always greener, that we should enjoy the journey rather than forever wanting the next thing. "I'll be happy when I own my own house, I'll be happy when we have two kids".... - Seize the day and be happy now, seems to be a key lesson!


The Alchemist Paulo Coelho, suggests that we all have a "Personal Legend" to fulfil. There are those who ignore it, (the guy at the pyramids who has the dream) or allow fear to stop them from achieving it (the crystal maker). Our future is already mapped out for us.


The book has many references to nature, none more so than in the desert scene where Santiago has to turn himself into wind. The Alchemist tells Santiago all about the Soul of the World. It seems that Santiago has to communicate with nature to be able to turn himself into wind. This purification process is something that unites every living thing on earth and as such, we are all part of the same being or spirit . We have to be in tune with nature to achieve our personal legend.


Given this is the name of the book, this is an important theme of the book. The idea of turning one substance into another more valuable one, seems to be very important. Santiago changes and develops as a person along his journey to be able to fulfil his personal legend. Also you have to rid yourself of imputrities to be able to fulfil your personal legend. Santiago achieves this by leaving Fatima for example to continue on his journey.


These feature heavily in The Alchemist Paulo Coelho. From telling Santiago of his fate, to warning him of the attack, they are all important steps in his journey. It begs the question as to whether we should all place more emphasis on our own dreams?

Book Club Questions?

The Alchemist Paulo Coelho

What lessons do you think we might learn from this book?

What do you think the desert represents?

What do you think the sheep represent?

How does fear stop the Crystal maker from achieving his own personal legend?

Do you believe in fate?

Can you live a happy life without achieving your personal legend?

Material wealth is shunned by the Alchemist. Does this get in the way of most people achieving their personal legend?

In what ways does Santiago's journey mirror alchemy (the turning of one substance into something of more value)?


The Alchemist Paulo Coelho

We loved this book - it was a great little story full of meaning, which lead to a marvellous discussion.

Our book club gave this book 8.5/10.

The lessons we thought we learned were:

  • Believe in fate

  • Follow your own Personal Legend or journey, even threw adversity or change (we don't want to be the crystal maker)

  • Books might be interesting and fill us with knowledge, but we shouldn't just rely on them for self discovery (The Englishman in the desert)

  • The sheep are blind to their legends/journey and to some extent care about material things and social acceptance only. Don't be a sheep

  • The desert symoblises all that is difficult in achieving a personal legend. But it also taught Santiago new skills, which helped him to fulfil his destiny in the end. Challenge and adversity can be good for us.

  • The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence

  • Enjoy the journey of life and seize the day.

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