Personal Legend in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1819 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Words: 1819|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Personal Legend and Development in The Alchemist
  3. Santiago's Call to Adventure
  4. Challenges of Santiago's Personal Legend
  5. Conclusion
  6. References


The heroic journey appears in nearly every story ever written. Throughout the story, the main character is developed, faces diversity, and most of the time overcomes it. The character is always affected more by some of the steps than others. This is hard to comprehend, and people seem to understand character development but do not know how each step affects the character differently, and how much they change through the steps of their personal legend. The Alchemist shows the 12 steps of the heroic journey through the main character, Santiago, as he embarks on his personal legend. In the book, Santiago’s whole life is changed when he took 3 small steps in his journey of life.

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Personal Legend and Development in The Alchemist

Santiago's dream changed his life forever. He did not know it at the time, but that dream would affect him in many ways. The call to adventure in the story is quite possibly the step where he changed the most. He is a shepherd who is living out in a field with his sheep, when all of a sudden his word gets disrupted by a dream that he has. He wonders what this dream means and cannot stop thinking about it. When he dreams the same dream for the second time, he knows it is time to take action. Famous essayist Henry David Thoreau said, “You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one”(“Goodreads”). Santiago knew that in order to know what his dream was trying to tell him, he needed to take action. The dream was calling him to take his adventure. His heart knew what it wanted, but his brain had no clue what it was about. He wanted to know, and if he wanted to find it, he had to hammer himself into the person who his heart wanted him to. Budda once said, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may We ourselves must walk the path” (“BrainyQuote”). Santiago knows that he will have to take some kind of action to find out what his dream is about, but he does not expect what kind of adventure comes after it. The Gypsy woman helps him interpret it shocks him with the results, and tells him what he has to do. He has to go to the Pyramids to find his treasure. He does not like the idea of stopping his shepherding lifestyle and feels uncomfortable taking that journey because it flips his world upside down. Budda shows that if he ever wants to fulfill his life goal/ personal legend, he will have to go. There is just no other way. Author Jose N. Harris once said, “When you find your path, you must ignore fear. You need to have the courage to risk mistakes. But once you are on that road... run, run, run, and don't stop til you've reached its end” (“Goodreads”). When Santiago is informed that he has to go to the pyramids, he does not know how to react. He is very fearful of what could happen to him. He needs to just put this fear behind him and focus on achieving his personal legend. He found his path that he had to take, and wants to follow it all the way to the end. Santiago’s call to adventure is very impactful in his world, and he knows that he will be changed greatly by his next steps in life.

Santiago's Call to Adventure

Meeting the mentor changes Santiago in great ways along with the call to adventure. He is taught so much by the king, that he would not have any direction without him. The king talks with him about how he helps people with their personal legends, and helps them achieve their legend. Santiago is given the elements of Urim and Thummim to help guide him along the way. These elements help Santiago in a few important instances on his journey to the pyramids. They also help him remember all of the things that the king teaches him during their time together. The information that he is taught is more valuable than the guidance of the stones themselves, and he benefits greatly from the king's teachings. He is given guidance, wisdom, and confidence from the king during their short few days of conversation. He is given the proper advice on how to be successful on his journey. He is taught the ways of the world, and how to not get tricked by people like the gypsy. The most important aspect of meeting the mentor is he becomes confident in his decision, and is prepared to take his journey to the pyramids and find his goal. He is taught that even though he may not know it, he has full control of what he will end up doing. He has the option to not fulfill his personal legend, and the option to complete it, and the outcome is totally up to him.

The king of Persia told Santiago, “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’”(Coelho 18). The king helps teach him that he can control everything in his life. He gives him the confidence to fulfil is legend, and make his journey. Santiago is really unsure about himself and does not think that he wants to go on his trip to the pyramids. Meeting the king gave Santiago a whole new perspective on the situation. He was taught that his personal legend is to go to the pyramids, but he does not have to complete it if he chooses otherwise. His life is not controlled by fate and he can choose to do whatever he wants. This reassures him that if he makes good decisions he will be able to complete his personal legend. Santiago had been taught that his life was controlled by fate, and nothing happened on its own. Famous martial arts teacher Bruce Lee once stated,” If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow -- you are not understanding yourself”(“GoodReads”). Santiago wanted to follow the pattern, keep shepherding, and stay in his box, where he was comfortable. He does not yet understand his heart. He needs to see that his heart knows what it wants and will show him the way if he is willing to listen to it. The king really helps him understand this by giving him urim and Thummim because it makes him listen to his heart and see what it wants. It shows him that when he listens to his heart, he will be able to make decisions and go down the right path.

When he is able to come out of the shadow and truly listen to himself and only himself, that's when he finally understands himself. The king also teaches him that, ‘“The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and to never forget the drops of oil on the spoon’”(Choelo 32). When the king uses the story of the kid and the spoon of oil, Santiago is slightly confused at first. The kid-focused so much on the oil the first time around the castle that he did not see anything around him, but then the second time he focused too much on his surroundings and lost the oil. The king helps Santiago understand that he needs to be able to focus on his destination but also to never forget what his goal is. He learns that he needs to find a balance and to focus on both things at once. The destination may be important, but the journey is just as significant as the destination. If Santiago focuses too much on getting to the pyramids, he will never meet Fatima, or learn anything from the alchemist himself. Throughout The Alchemist he is reminded of the importance of this story and benefits greatly from its teachings.

Challenges of Santiago's Personal Legend

After Santiago leaves on his journey he is tested many many times. Right as he gets to Tangier he is robbed of all of his money and the Spanish coins that his dad left for him. This makes him want to turn around, quit, and go home. His heart, however, does not let him. He now finds the crystal merchant's shop and helps him for nearly a year. Santiago continually thinks about if he should complete his personal legend, or go back to his hometown and shepherd for the rest of his life. He makes allies during his trip to the pyramids first with the Englishman, who teaches him about alchemy. He and the Englishman talk a lot, and he learns a lot from him about alchemy. He then meets the Alchemist himself. He becomes close with the Alchemist, and they travel together to the pyramids. While with him, Santiago is taught how to listen to his heart and understand the world and all that is in it. During their trip, The Alchemist tells Santiago, ”You don't even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation”(Coelho 127). He helps Santiago realize that he just needs to understand small things about the earth to understand what is trying to tell him. He knows that if he listens, his heart and the world will help him achieve his personal legend. When he is tested at the Oasis, he figures out what the falcons are telling him, and he saves the whole village. This tests his ability to understand the world and it signs. In the book of 1 Peter, it says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”(1 Peter 5:8). This teaches Santiago that he always has to be careful to see who is good and evil. The devil is prowling around just waiting to capture him. He has to keep his judgments of people and not let anybody or anything tempt him into the wrong path. He is tested and finds who his enemies are on his journey. The Alchemist also teaches Santiago that, “‘There is only one way to learn...It’s through action’”(Coelho 125).

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Santiago is taught that he has to complete his trip if he wants to learn what his personal legend is in life. He has to take action if he wants to learn anything. Taking action, however, will require him to be tested. He makes some mistakes, but he learns to overcome them and continue on his path. He grows in multiple aspects while being tested. He finds out who he can trust, and who he can’t, and takes his journey to the next step. 


  1. Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. HarperOne, 2014.
  2. 'BrainyQuote.', Accessed 20 Aug. 2023.
  3. 'Goodreads.', Accessed 20 Aug. 2023.
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Personal Legend in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. (2023, August 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from
“Personal Legend in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.” GradesFixer, 31 Aug. 2023,
Personal Legend in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 Feb. 2024].
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