The Alchemist (Coelho)


Santiago Santiago is the protagonist of The Alchemist. Born in a small town in Andalusia, he attends the seminary as a boy but longs to travel the world. He finally gets the courage to ask his father for permission to become a shepherd so that he can travel the fields of Andalusia. One night, in an abandoned church, he dreams of a child telling him that if he goes to the Egyptian Pyramids, he will find a treasure. Later, he meets a mysterious man in the town of Tarifa, who sends him on a journey to the other side of Africa.

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 becomes a shepherd and why he resists involvement in things that threaten his freedom. In the end, he realizes that playing it safe is often more threatening to his freedom than taking a risk.

Melchizedek Melchizedek is the king of Salem, a mysterious, far-off land. Melchizedek appears to Santiago in the town square of Tarifa, where he tells Santiago about the Soul of the World and his Personal Legend for the first time. Melchizedek always appears to people who are trying to live their Personal Legend, even if they don't know it. While he appears at first to be dressed in common Arab dress, at one point he pulls aside his cloak to reveal a gold breastplate encrusted with precious stones. He also gives Santiago the magical stones Urim and Thummim.

The Shopkeeper Gives Santiago a job in Tangiers after he has been robbed. Santiago takes the job at the crystal shop and learns much about the shopkeeper's attitude toward life and the importance of dreaming. The shopkeeper, while generally afraid to take risks, is a very kind man and understands Santiago's quest — sometimes better than Santiago himself. This is the case when the shopkeeper tells Santiago that he will not return to Spain, since it is not his fate.

The Englishman Santiago meets the Englishman on the caravan to al-Fayoum. The Englishman is trying to become a great alchemist and is traveling to al-Fayoum to study with a famous alchemist who is rumored to be over 200 years old and to have the ability to turn any metal into gold. Santiago learns much about alchemy from the Englishman, who lends Santiago his books while they travel across the Sahara.

Fatima A beautiful girl who lives at the al-Fayoum oasis. Santiago falls in love with her at the well, and they talk every day for several weeks. Santiago asks Fatima to marry him, but she insists that he seek out his Personal Legend before they marry. This perplexes Santiago, but the Alchemist teaches him that true love never gets in the way of fulfilling one's dreams. If it does, then it is not true love.

The Alchemist A very powerful alchemist who lives at the al-Fayoum oasis in Egypt. Santiago hears about him through the Englishman, who wishes to study with the Alchemist, but Santiago is revealed to be the Alchemist's true disciple. The Alchemist dresses in all black and uses a falcon to hunt for game. The Alchemist is also in possession of the Elixir of Life and the Philosopher's Stone.

The Coptic Monk A short yet very important piece in the writing. Santiago and the alchemist stop at the monastery, and the monk invites them in. This is a crucial plot point, as the Alchemist produces gold from a pan of lead the monk provides, and separates the disk into four parts, giving two to the monk, with instructions to give Santiago the other piece when he returns beaten and robbed of "his" gold, one to himself, and one to Santiago. The monk tries to refuse the offering, but the alchemist tells him that "life may be listening, and give [you] less the next time". Afterward, when Santiago crawls back beaten and elated from the Pyramids, the monk gives him the other part of the gold disk and helps him recover.

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