Biography of Author – Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janiero in 1947 and before his career as a best-selling author, he was a playwright, theatre director, hippie, and popular songwriter for some of Brazil’s leading pop artists. In 1986 he took a pilgrimage along that Road of Santiago and this would be the center of the plot of the book, The Pilgrimage, which was published in 1987. His second book was named The Alchemist and was published in 1988.
This book has gone to number one in 29 countries and Coelho has been regarded as the most widely read contemporary writers. The Alchemist was one of the top ten international best sellers of 1998. His work has been published in more than 100 countries and is translated into 42 different languages. He has been awarded a variety of prestigious awards from many different countries. He today lives in South America with his family.
The Shepherd – This was the boy through whose eyes the story was told. He followed his personal legend to the fullest and never let up with his dream. He went all over the land and was able to realize the treasure that he had been so close to in the beginning of the novel.
The King – He was the one that gave the shepherd the two stones that would supposedly help him whenever he had a rough time deciding about what to do. He made the boy give him ten percent of his flock, because you should never promise something that you don’t have.
The Englishmen – This was the man that the boy met on his trip to the pyramids. He was the one who turned the boy onto the idea of the alchemist and the masterwork. Before this he had never known of the alchemist and the great things that he could do in the world.
The Alchemist – This is the man that he met in the desert and he helped the shepherd to lead the people from the danger that was imminent from the war. He also allowed the boy to follow his legend and realize his dream.
Summary – The story begins when the shepherd boy stopped for the night in a church with a sycamore tree growing out of the middle. He told of the easy going life of the shepherd and how his parents had wanted to become a priest. He had attended all of the schooling, but had decided against it at the last minute. He had wanted to see the world and he felt that the best way to do this was to go and become a shepherd. He said that the life of a shepherd is easy and carefree and he felt like that this was the way that he wanted to spend his life.
He was anticipating seeing the daughter of a man who would buy the wool from his sheep when he arrived in the town that he would come to in another couple of days. He thought that he might actually settle down and get married to this girl if she would like to. He had been having a recurring dream about him at the pyramids in Egypt. There he would be able to find all of the treasure in the world and to realize what would come to be called his personal legend. So, the next town that he went to he went to a fortuneteller and asked her if she could help him out of his dilemma. She was unclear about what to do, but she made him promise to give him a percentage of his treasure if he ever found it. When he left the fortuneteller, he went and sat in the park where he would have been content to read his new book.
He was not in a good mood for talking with others when the old king approached him and tried to strike up a conversation with him. He told the boy that everyone has a personal legend that he has to fulfill at some time in his life. He tells him that his could be found at the pyramids because of the dreams that he has been having lately. He tells him that he will help him if he will give him ten percent of his herd, because you should never promise anything that you don’t have yet.
He sold all of his sheep and he was given ummim and thummim, the two rocks that would help him make any decisions that he was unable to make. He took to the road and traveled to the northern tip of Africa. There he was setting off with all of his money in his pocket and set to a bar where he didn’t speak the same language as any of the people there. He was taken for a fool and all of his money was taken in the first few hours. He stayed in the town for a while and he went into a shop that sold crystal. He helped the man to clean all of the crystal and while he was there, two people came in and bought crystal. The owner thought that this was a good omen and that he should try to keep the boy around. Since he didn’t have any money he stayed on for eleven months and greatly improved the man’s shop. When he finally left he had enough money to do with what he wanted and he set off to fulfill his personal legend.
He traveled to the pyramids by way of northern Africa. About half way through his trip he came onto an oasis that was in the middle of a war between two native tribes. The rules of war said that the oasis should be a safe haven for all of the people that were traveling through the desert. This is where he met the alchemist, the man that would help him to realize his personal legend. By going off into the desert at night, he learned all about the masterwork and the many things that he needed to do in order to become a true alchemist. He began to have a dream about a group of rebels attacking the oasis because they thought that the travelers would be taking up arms against them. The boy went to the men who were in charge of the oasis and told them of the impending doom that was coming onto the oasis. They didn’t believe that this dream was an omen but they gave him one shot. The rebels did attack and they were able to fend off all of the assailants. The boy was hailed as a hero and he went off into the desert to seek his personal legend. Here he was forced to make a decision about whether or not to leave behind the woman that he had met and had decided to marry. He said that he would return later and he did. This was after he found out about his treasure that he wanted for such a long time.
He finally figured out that his treasure was in the sycamore tree that was growing out of the middle of an old church. He returned to his homeland and had his treasure intact and was able to live happily ever after.
Theme – The main theme of this novel was that you should follow your personal legend to the fullest. Throughout his life the boy had been discouraged and could have given up on his dream. But, this would have caused a void in his life. This is sort of like the old man who owned the crystal shop, who would not take a pilgrimage because he would have nothing left to look forward to in his life. When the boy was leaving though, he did decide to take the pilgrimage and probably did not regret the fact that he had done something to prove his faith. The Boy faced many obstacles in his lifetime but stayed true to what the omens had told him and also what his personal legend had been. In the end he realized the legend and found what he thought to be true happiness.
Analysis – The thing that particularly annoyed me about this book was the fact that was that the theme was ever changing. Within the main theme there were many other small themes that helped to develop the main theme, but added to the confusion of the novel. The thing that I liked about this book was that it was very straightforward and left nothing up to the imagination. If I were to rewrite this book I would change it by adding in a little more bad things that happen to the main character to show the real hardships that he had faced while chasing his personal legend. If I would have had the opportunity to speak to the boy in the book I would have told him that he should have stayed on at the crystal shop because he had a good thing going and he could have made a lot of money and bought his own happiness and realized his personal legend in his own rite. One thing that reminded me of another book that I read was In the Lake of the Woods, because both of the main characters were trying to run away from what had been in their lives to find something better. I would recommend this book to anyone who was undecided about what their life was meaning to them. This book really gives them insight about their lives and that someone is worried about them and that there is something that they have to look forward to, like the crystal merchant.