The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is one of those simple, spiritual tales that captures modern-day imaginations and becomes a best-seller. As I read it on the beach, I felt the brush of Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s wings—or perhaps those were the wings of the laughing gull trying to steal my son’s peanut butter sandwich.
In this extended fable, the teenage shepherd Santiago has chosen his free and lonely life over a more respectable one that would have bound him tightly to his community and family. Content as he is with the wisdom he gained while wandering the Spanish hills, he is nonetheless being drawn to change his path. The dark-eyed daughter of a prosperous merchant awaits his marriage proposal, but Santiago’s prophetic dream in an abandoned and ruined church leads him further away from his homeland than he ever imagined.
Guided by a Gypsy fortune teller, a mysterious (and Biblical) king named Melchizedek, a Muslim camel driver and finally the Alchemist himself, Santiago learns that his decision to embrace his true destiny or “Personal Legend” often leads him away from the people he loves and the situations with which he is most comfortably familiar, forcing him to change and grow.
Coelho has used allegory and religious stories from different faiths to create a layered tale that is uplifting and manages to be both familiar in theme and exotic in locale and fantastic elements. Readers who enjoy meeting Santiago and his companions will be happy to learn that Portuguese writer Paulo Coelho has penned many books, including Warrior of the Light
, a companion volume to The Alchemist
This short book will entrance readers longing for some spiritual insight set down in a compact form. As for our laughing gull, his Personal Legend clearly focused on devouring the last, tasty crumbs on a day filled with sea breezes and sunshine.
For more on the author, check these Web sites:
Official Site: Paulo Coelho
Worldguide Interviews: Paulo Coelho