The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

by Melanie

On my plane ride to Utah I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and found it really interesting. The book was first published 20 years ago, but I only became aware of it in the last couple of years, so sorry if all of you read this book a long time ago.

The book follows the adventures of Santiago, a Spanish shepherd who learns that his Personal Legend is to find a treasure near the pyramids. Even though he doesn’t even know where the pyramids are, he gives up everything to try to find the treasure. Along the way he meets other characters who either help him or try to harm him, but he learns something from everyone. At one points in the book Santiago has found moderate wealth and plans to give up on finding the treasure and return to being a shepherd. At the last minute he sees an omen and decides that he can always return home later, but this might be his last chance to follow his Personal Legend. Later in the book Santiago has found love and plans to give up on his treasure to stay with his love, but his love convinces him that he can return to her later, but he must continue to follow his Personal Legend now. I won’t tell you how it ends (hopefully I haven’t already given away too much) because you’ll probably enjoy the book more if you don’t know what happens. You can always wiki it if you really want to know how it ends…

The book describes a Personal Legend as being the “soul’s desire”- the thing which will make you most happy- and claims that everyone has a Personal Legend but for various reasons most people never follow their legends and find their soul’s desire. I found it interesting that Santiago was quite happy being a shepherd (he had been educated to become a priest, but decided that he would rather travel so he used his inheritance to buy a flock of sheep), but when he found out about the treasure he was willing to give up all he had to find it.

I thought the book was well written, easy to read (it took me less than 4 hours of reading!), and had some interesting concepts in it: Personal Legends, Omens, Love, and the Language of the World (that language which allows all things to communicate without needing words). It got me thinking about if I’m following my Personal Legend. I don’t think I am though since I’m not sure I know what my Personal Legend is. The book talks about needing to listen to your heart to learn what your Personal Legend is and I’d like to say I’ve followed my heart to get where I am now, but I know a lot of choices I’ve made have been with my brain and not my heart. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing though- in fact, I think a lot of people probably should use their brains more than hearts. However, part of me does think that I’m like Santiago at the begining of the book- I am happy with my flock, but perhaps there is an even greater treasure out there for me.
Has anyone out there read this book? What are your thoughts on the idea of a “Personal Legend”? If you believe they exist, do you know what yours is and are you following it?

7 comments to The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

  • I'm pretty sure my legend involves super-nachos and bicycles.

  • I also just discovered this book about a year ago, I really liked it. I guess I also don't know what my legend is, but I can't imagine it is so completely different than the path I already am on. Something to think about though…..

  • I agree… I love this book and have read it a few times since I first heard about it a couple years ago. I really do believe in personal legends, but like the last comment, I feel that it's generally not much different than what you're doing right now. Being LDS, I also think that our personal legends can linked to our patriarchal blessings. In there, many blessings are named that we have been given in this life. I think our personal legends involve using said blessings to improve yourself and further the lives of others. Good luck finding and living your personal legend! 🙂

    P.S. A suggested reading on a similar topic is The Celestial Prophecy.

  • Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Yes Reuben, I'm sure your legend does involve nachos and bicyles!

    I also noticed some similarities between the books ideas and LDS teachings. When I reread my post I realized that it sounded a little like I was like I was depressed or something (plus Reuben asked me if I was going to leave him to go search for treasure). That wasn't my intent at all- but sometimes I do wonder about the possibilities that are out there for me. If I ever do come across something that I believe is my personal legend I hope I have the guts to go after it.

  • Tara

    Great post!

    I also read this book this past year and really liked it too. In some ways I thought it was written similiar to "The Little Prince" in that you know there are important messages contained, but sometimes it takes some extra thought and re-reading it for some messages to stick or maybe I'm just thick… Anyway, like some of the other posters I don't know what my legend is either…and I'm sure for me it changes often. I guess I figure if I am at peace and feeling inspired at the end of the day, I was going in the right direction that day?

  • i still think this is your way of telling me that if someone cuter comes along, you're gonna leave me for them.

  • Lani

    It has been on my "to-read" list for a while, sounds interesting. How fun that you got to go see family!