The occult science which claims to be able to turn any common metal into gold.
Nomadic tribes that live in the African desert.
Large metal plate worn on the chest as part of a suit of armor. It is used for self defense, but can also be decorative.
A group which travels through the desert. Travelers band together for mutual protection.
Language of the Universe
Omens, coincidences and dreams are the means by which the universe seeks to communicate. By remaining open to these omens, Santiago is able to learn more about the world and about himself.
The name of the wind that blows off of Africa into Spain. So called because it comes from "the Levant." It is related to the conquest of Spain by the Moors. Santiago thinks that it brings the scent of exotic women and adventure.
An Arabic word meaning "written." The shopkeeper uses it to refer to those thing preordained, or written, by Allah.
Spanish and European name for the Arabs that ruled the Iberian peninsula for almost 500 years.
A Personal Legend is a true desire, which comes from the Soul of the Universe. This is different from other selfish desires in that the universe conspires to help you realize your personal legend. The story of The Alchemist is the story of Santiago realizing his Personal Legend.
Room where the vestments of the church are kept.
The desert that runs across the width of the African continent. Known for its size and its harshness.
A type of desert beetle which was sacred to the Ancient Egyptians. They believed that it symbolized the Sun and spiritual rebirth.
To cut, specifically the wool from a sheep.
A wind which blows through the desert and destroys everything in its path. A very strong sandstorm.
Soul of the World
A term which comes up repeatedly in the text, the Soul of the World is sometimes equated with God. It is a spiritual force that binds all of us together and governs all things and that speaks with us in the language of signs or omens.
The Elixir of Life
The Elixir of Life is the liquid portion of the Master Work, the goal of all alchemists. The Elixir of Life heals diseases and grants long life when ingested. The Alchemist carries some in a flask through the desert.
The Master Work
The Master Work is a term which refers, in alchemy, to the Elixir of Life and the Philosopher's Stone as a whole. The Master Work is the goal of all alchemists; the Alchemist has achieved it, but the Englishman is still seeking it.
The Philosophers Stone
The Philosophers Stone is the solid portion of the Master Work. The Philosopher's Stone has the ability to turn any metal into gold, an ability which the Alchemist uses to generate gold at the Coptic monastery in Egypt before taking his leave of Santiago.
Umim and Thummim
Two stones given to Santiago by Melchizedek. Melchizedek instructs Santiago to use them when he cannot read the omens of the world. These stones are drawn from a bag, with one signifying no and the other one signifying yes.
Extreme enthusiasm, can sometimes be used pejoratively in the case of calling one a "zealot."
The Alchemist (Coelho) Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Alchemist (Coelho) is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The story opens with the main character, the shepherd Santiago, arriving at an abandoned church with a sycamore growing in it in the Spanish region of Andalusia. He decides to stay the night at the church and corrals his herd into the church...
The desert is symbolic of all the obstacles and hardships that stand between people and their dreams. The desert demands an arduous journey that people must undertake to achieve what they want. Nothing that is worthwhile comes easily and the...
Santiago is a curious boy whose open mind makes him particularly suited to finding his Personal Legend. He also values his freedom very highly, which is why he became a shepherd and why he is reticent to get involved in things which threaten his...
The Alchemist is a modern fable by Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist study guide contains a biography of author Paulo Coelho, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.