The Alchemist Summary By Paulo Coelho
Updated: Jul 6
⭐ Toby's Rating: 9/10 - Recommended For: Everyone
“A remarkable tale about the most magical of all journeys: the quest to fulfill one’s destiny. I recommend The Alchemist to anyone who is passionately committed to claiming the life of their dreams—today."
Anthony Robbins, author of Awaken the Giant Within
The Alchemist Summary
The Alchemist summary covers the following areas:
The Alchemist Main Message
The Alchemist novel is a story about pursuing your dreams to achieve your personal legend. You follow the story of a young boy, a shepherd who travels the world living his purpose. He encounters challenges along the way and builds relationships that will change his life forever. There are many themes explored in addition to purposes such as travel, love, gratitude and prioritisation.
The Alchemist Themes
The Alchemist Summary shares the key themes from within the book. Throughout The Alchemist Paul Coelho surfaces common themes of love, life and purpose. These themes are universal and everyone will find something they connect with.
Here are 12 Alchemist themes explored throughout The Alchemist summary:
The main character in The Alchemist is a young boy, a shepherd. He spends his life travelling the world seeking to live his personal legend. It is this travel that enables the boy to become the person he is.
The boy could see in his father’s gaze a desire to be able, himself, to travel the world—a desire that was still alive, despite his father’s having had to bury it, over dozens of years, under the burden of struggling for water to drink, food to eat, and the same place to sleep every night of his life.
The paradox is that through this travel he learns the real treasure is back where he started. Without this travel, he would never have realised it.
“When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I’ve known that every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.”
Living your dreams is the central theme throughout The Alchemist. Paul Coehelo highlights in the story to live your dreams every day. Don't wait for tomorrow.
He owned a jacket, a book that he could trade for another, and a flock of sheep. But, most important, he was able every day to live out his dream.
The Alchemist highlights the importance of social pressure. When people want to change they find it difficult if the people around them reject that change:
When someone sees the same people every day, as had happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.
Atomic Habits by James Clear explores the same theme. He shares that three groups influence our ability to change:
When seeking a change surround yourself with the people you want to become. Find people who share the same dreams and purpose.
“To show you one of life’s simple lessons,” the alchemist answered. “When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.”
Locus of Control
Are you in control of your life?
This theme is explored within The Alchemist. There is a strong emphasis on you being in control of your destiny. You can take action today to live your dreams and live a life aligned to purpose.
“What’s the world’s greatest lie?” the boy asked, completely surprised. “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”
Children have an innate ability to dream dreams without limits. As we grow older it's easy for our dreams to be lost. The Alchemist is a reminder to ignite those dreams you may have forgotten. They are still possible.
Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream and yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.
It is easy for life to distract you from your purpose. Climbing the career ladder takes over and suddenly 20 years later you have lost sight of what's important to you. The Alchemist emphasises that rather than building a career and delaying your plans, live your dreams today.
"When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery and put some money aside. When he’s an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” “He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said. “Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds. Bakers have homes, while shepherds sleep out in the open. Parents would rather see their children marry bakers than shepherds.” The old man continued, “In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”
The young boy in The Alchemist encounters many challenges. Everyone will face hurdles when they pursue their purpose. You'll only achieve your dreams if you remain consistent through the tough times.
The miner was about to give it all up, right at the point when, if he were to examine just one more stone—just one more—he would find his emerald.
There are always many competing priorities in life. Family, Work, Friends, Health, Hobbies. Balancing them can often feel challenging. The Alchemist shares this story which highlights the importance of keeping the right balance within your life.
“But before I go, I want to tell you a little story. “A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for forty days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived. “Rather than finding a saintly man, though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world. The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man’s attention. “The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come but told him that he didn’t have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours. “‘Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something,’ said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. ‘As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.’ “The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was. “‘Well,’ asked the wise man, ‘did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?’ “The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him. “‘Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,’ said the wise man. ‘You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house.’ “Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen. “‘But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?’ asked the wise man. “Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone. “‘Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,’ said the wisest of wise men. ‘The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.’”
The Aclehmist shares the primary reason people don't achieve their dreams is fear.
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
This fear is often driven by losing what we already have. Our possessions, social status, family, friends.
We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.
A key part of this fear is the fear of suffering:
“Why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the alchemist. “Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.”
The Alchemist shares one way to overcome this fear:
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.
The Alchemist main character, the young boy, shows the reader the importance of keeping a beginners mind:
Because my eyes are not yet accustomed to the desert,” the boy said. “I can see things that eyes habituated to the desert might not see.
It is this beginners luck that enables you to be successful at the start. Over time the challenges will come. This is when it's most important to stay consistent and fixed on your dreams.:
Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.
Regular readers of these book summaries will know I love to learn. One of the best quotes from The Alchemist shares an important learning principle
“There is only one way to learn,” the alchemist answered. “It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.
The alchemist summary is only useful if you put the learning into action.
Follow Your Heart
To find your dreams you must follow your heart.
“Why do we have to listen to our hearts?” the boy asked, when they had made camp that day. “Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”
The challenge is that our emotions can lead us to difficult places. The Alchemist highlights the importance of self-awareness. Instead of ignoring our emotions, becoming more aware of them. By becoming more self-aware we can use emotions to guide our actions and decisions.
“My heart is a traitor,” the boy said to the alchemist, when they had paused to rest the horses. “It doesn’t want me to go on.” “That makes sense,” the alchemist answered. “Naturally it’s afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you’ve won.” “Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?” “Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you’re thinking about life and about the world.” “You mean I should listen, even if it’s treasonous?” “Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because you’ll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them. “You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say. That way, you’ll never have to fear an unanticipated blow.”
The Alchemist Quotes
Here are 10 of my favourite quotes from The Alchemist:
"It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary."
"It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting."
"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
“If you start out by promising what you don’t even have yet, you’ll lose your desire to work toward getting it.”
“I’m like everyone else—I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does.”
“That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”
"Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are."
“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.:
"People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them."
"I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living."
The Alchemist Ending
The young shepherd travels the world in search of his treasure. To find his personal legend. This journey takes him all the way to Egypt. When he arrives in Egypt he meets a man who shares this:
Two years ago, right here on this spot, I had a recurrent dream, too. I dreamed that I should travel to the fields of Spain and look for a ruined church where shepherds and their sheep slept. In my dream, there was a sycamore growing out of the ruins of the sacristy, and I was told that, if I dug at the roots of the sycamore, I would find a hidden treasure. But I’m not so stupid as to cross an entire desert just because of a recurrent dream.
The moral of the story: To live life to its fullest you need to travel and experience it. Through that journey, you will learn where the real treasure is and often it's back where you started.