Study Guide

The Alchemist Part 2

By Paulo Coelho

Part 2

Paragraphs 1-88

  • Santiago works for the crystal merchant for about a month. It's not exactly his dream job, but he's making enough money to save up for his sheep.
  • He suggests building an outdoor display case to attract more customers, but the crystal merchant isn't buying it—so Santiago changes his tactics and argues that they should take advantage of his beginner's luck so he can achieve his Personal Legend. The merchant digs the cosmic talk and asks Santiago why he wants to get to the Pyramids.
  • Santiago doesn't want to tell the merchant about the treasure, especially since he's decided to give up on it.
  • A couple days later the merchant tells Santiago that his life dream is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in accordance with Muslim law. 
  • Except … he never goes to Mecca, because he always wants something to look forward to. The merchant says that he and Santiago are different because Santiago actually wants to realize his dreams.
  • Okay, okay, fine. The merchant gives in: Santiago can build the display.
  • Surprise! The plan works.
  • Okay, we totally saw that coming. But in any case, the plan works and they sell glass like hotcakes.
  • Then Santiago gets the bright idea to sell tea out of the glasses. Eek! But then the merchant would have to change his way of life!
  • Turns out that meeting Santiago has forced the merchant to look at his life. He doesn't like it too much: he realizes that he isn't reaching his possibilities and that he doesn't even want to.
  • The two smoke together, and finally the merchant says, "Maktub," which means something like "it is written" in Arabic. Translation: bring on the tea shop!
  • Now Santiago and the merchant are selling both tea and glass like hotcakes, and the merchant has to expand and hire more employees.
  • Almost a year after arriving in Africa, Santiago has saved enough to get back to Spain and buy double the sheep he'd had the year before.
  • He tells the merchant that he's leaving and gets his blessing. But the merchant says that even though he has enough money to get to Mecca he won't go, and he knows that Santiago won't buy his sheep.
  • As Santiago packs up his stuff, Urim and Thummim fall out of his pouch. He realizes he hasn't thought about the old king in a year, and leaves without saying goodbye because he doesn't want to cry.
  • Suddenly Santiago realizes that he can always go back to being a shepherd, but he has to keep chasing after his dream and learning new things. 
  • He decides to go see how much it would cost to get to the pyramids.

Paragraphs 89-215

  • An Englishman who is also following omens is sitting in the warehouse waiting for the caravan to leave Tangier, reading some books on alchemy. 
  • He is planning to go to the Al-Fayoum oasis and meet a 200-year-old alchemist there who can turn any metal into gold.
  • The Englishman's dream is to learn alchemy, so he can't wait to meet the old guy at the oasis.
  • Santiago shows up and asks the Englishman where he's going, but the Englishman isn't feeling too talkative, so they both just sit and read.
  • Unfortunately, Santiago still can't get past the first few pages of Dr. Zhivago. You and us both, Santiago.
  • He takes Urim and Thummim from his pocket, and the Englishman immediately recognizes them. He shows Santiago that he has two identical stones, and explains that in the Bible they were the only permitted form of divination, or telling the future.
  • Well, that's convenient.
  • The Englishman tells Santiago that he's off to find the alchemist, and they get to chatting about the universal language and omens. Just then an Arab tells them they're in luck: a caravan is leaving that day for Al-Fayoum, Egypt—where both of them are headed.
  • Santiago lets slip that he's hunting treasure, but the Englishman has got his own treasure to look out for.
  • The caravan leader gives everybody a pep talk before they take off, explaining how dangerous the desert is and how they have to swear to follow his orders no matter what, in order to stay alive. Fair enough.
  • Everyone climbs on their camels and….they're off.
  • Santiago learns a lot from watching the desert and thinking about the way the caravan moves. Naturally, he makes friends with a camel driver, and they hang out at night telling stories.
  • Sometimes Bedouin messengers come to tell the caravan the desert gossip, including rumors of tribal wars.
  • Santiago tells the Englishman he should pay more attention to the desert, and the Englishman tells him he should read more books.
  • Gee, sounds like they both have a lot to learn from each other.
  • While they're out walking one night, the Englishman tells Santiago about the Soul of the World, a force that governs everything. He says that when you want something with all your heart, you're close to the Soul of the World and the universe will help you get it.
  • So … if we want to be able to eat Oreo cream pie every night without gaining weight, will the Soul of the World take care of that, too? Sweet.
  • The two decide to swap, with the Englishman paying attention to the caravan and Santiago reading his books.
  • Hm, this sounds strangely familiar. Maybe like an old man's story about a boy trying to carry oil in a spoon around a city? Yeah. Kind of like that.
  • Santiago reads about a mysterious Emerald Tablet, which has the most important text in the literature of alchemy inscribed on it, just a few lines. He also learns about the lives of the famous alchemists, who dedicated their lives to purifying metals and purifying themselves.
  • He also learns about the Elixir of Life, which is the liquid part of the work of changing metal to gold, and the Philosopher's Stone, which is the solid part. They're both pretty special, and hard to find.
  • Unfortunately, Santiago doesn't understand any of the manuals that would tell him how to do alchemy.
  • The Englishman explains that the texts have to be difficult to understand so that only the most responsible people could read it and change things into gold. (Because only responsible people are able to read complicated texts, duh. That's why professors are so notoriously attentive.)
  • Eventually, both friends get sick of the others' learning materials and go back to their old ways.
  • The caravan starts to travel day and night because of the wars, and everyone seems to be pretty nervous. Santiago's camel driver friend tells him to live in the moment instead of fearing the future. Helpful.
  • They finally camp out within sight of the oasis, and everyone is pretty thrilled about this.

Paragraphs 216-464

  • The alchemist—who BTW is 200 years old—sees the caravan arriving and knows that one of the people in it has been sent there to learn his secrets.
  • He heard this from the omens. Convenient, those omens.
  • The oasis is gigantic, bigger than most of the towns that Santiago has seen. The people who live there are excited to see the newcomers, and Santiago learns that oases are considered neutral territory where fighting is prohibited.
  • The caravan leader explains that the group will stay at the oasis until the fighting stops, which could be years. He also collects everyone's weapons, because they're prohibited in the oasis.
  • Santiago tries not to be impatient, and moves into a tent with five roommates from the oasis.
  • The Englishman enlists Santiago to help him find the alchemist, which is not so easy considering that the oasis contains hundreds of tents.
  • When Santiago asks about him, people get all twitchy and say they've never heard of anyone like that. Finally, they decide to ask for a wise man who cures illnesses, because probably no one knows what an alchemist is.
  • Hm. No luck. People either accuse them of looking for witch doctors or tell them it's none of their business.
  • And then, Santiago sees a young woman and promptly falls in love with her. He finds out that her name is Fatima and then asks her about the alchemist. She tells him that he lives in the south, and then leaves.
  • The Englishman takes off to hunt the alchemist. When he finds him, he explains that he's there to learn. The alchemist tells him to go and try to turn lead into gold, and so he gets to work.
  • Santiago starts hanging out at the well, waiting for Fatima, and they talk every day. She says that she has always waited for the desert to bring her a present, and that it finally has. (It's Santiago.)
  • He tells her about his dreams, the old king, and the omens.
  • Fatima wants Santiago to go look for his treasure, even if he has to leave her. She knows that if they're destined to be together, he'll be back for her. She's a desert woman, so she knows all about waiting.
  • Santiago finds the Englishman, who tells him that he's finally learning about alchemy by doing it instead of just reading about it. Live yo' dreams, Englishman.
  • Out walking in the desert, Santiago sees a couple of hawks flying in the sky. He watches them in a trance, and suddenly one of them attacks the other. Just then, Santiago has a vision of an army invading the oasis.
  • This being an allegorical novel, Santiago knows he'd better listen to his visions. He heads back to the oasis to tell the camel driver about the vision, and his buddy encourages him to go tell the tribal chieftains about the armies that are coming.
  • Won't they laugh at him? Nah. The camel driver says that men of the desert are used to omens. Because he's worried about Fatima, Santiago decides to tell what he saw.
  • At the chiefs' tent, Santiago waits his turn for an audience with the leaders. Hours later, he presents his vision. The chiefs debate and argue in a dialect Santiago doesn't understand, but finally the elder ends the discussion.
  • The elder says that they have to listen to the messages of the desert, and that the next day everyone will be armed and on the lookout. 
  • For every ten dead enemies, they'll give Santiago a piece of gold. However, if there is no attack, Santiago will be the one who ends up dead. Gulp.
  • On his way back to his tent afterward, a stranger shows up on a white horse, with a falcon on his shoulder and a sword in his hand. He asks who dares to interpret the flight of the hawks, and Santiago answers that it's him. Why? It's what the birds wanted to tell him. Then the stranger asks him what he's doing there, and Santiago says he's following his Personal Legend.
  • The stranger says that he was testing Santiago's courage, because that's the most important quality for understanding the Language of the World. If he's still alive tomorrow night, Santiago should visit him.
  • Whoa!, Santiago realizes. That was the alchemist.
  • The next day the oasis is ready for the attack, and it's a good thing. The battle is over in a half hour, and every invader is killed. Santiago is promoted to counselor of the oasis.
  • He walks south toward the alchemist's tent, and sits down to wait for his new friend.
  • The alchemist rides up with two dead hawks and they eat them. Delicious. The alchemist has some advice: sleep well, sell his camel, and buy a horse. They're off to find the treasure!
  • The next night Santiago comes to the alchemist's tent with his horse, and they ride out into the desert. The alchemist tells him to show him life in the desert.
  • Santiago is nervous, because he doesn't know much about the desert yet. He lets the horse gallop until it finally stops, and the alchemist gets down and finds a hole in the ground. He sticks his arm into it all the way up to his shoulder, then pulls a poisonous cobra out.
  • The alchemist draws a circle in the sand and places the snake in it, who stays there. He says that Santiago's finding life in the desert was the omen he needed. He'll guide him to the pyramids.
  • Now Santiago says he wants to stay at the oasis because of Fatima, but the alchemist insists that she'll wait for him. If he stays in the oasis he'll lose everything, including his dream.
  • The alchemist frees the snake by erasing the circle in the sand, and they head back to the oasis, planning to leave before sunrise.
  • That night, Santiago says goodbye to Fatima, promising to come back.

Paragraphs 465-683

  • The alchemist and Santiago ride off into the desert. After a week the alchemist congratulates Santiago for coming so close to the end of his journey. He shows Santiago what is written on the Emerald Tablet, but Santiago can't understand it.
  • They keep riding, and the alchemist tells Santiago to listen to his heart. This is super difficult, because his heart seems to change its mind a lot. (We hear you.)
  • They keep passing armed tribesmen, and Santiago's heart starts to feel fear. The alchemist tells him that fear of suffering is worse than suffering itself, so his heart quiets down. He listens to it all the time. The alchemist tells him that his heart is returning to the Soul of the World. Kooky, right?
  • Time for the last lesson: before a dream is realized the Soul of the World throws out all its hardest tests, in a "darkest before the dawn" fashion.
  • The next day some tribesmen show up and search the alchemist and Santiago's belongings. They sees the Philosopher's Stone, which turns any metal into gold, and the Elixir of Life, which cures any sickness, but think the alchemist is joking when he tells them what they are and let them go on. Whew.
  • They travel on, with Santiago listening to his heart tell him of all the times it saved him from danger without him even realizing it.
  • The pair passes another camp. Some tribesmen stop them, telling them they can't go any farther because of the war. The alchemist uses his eagle-eye stare on them and they let them pass.
  • When they are only two days away from the pyramids, Santiago asks the alchemist to teach him about transforming lead into gold. The alchemist tells him that it's about evolution, and that gold is the most evolved metal. The alchemist must evolve along with the metal, or it won't work.
  • Suddenly Santiago gets a danger signal from his heart, and sure enough they're surrounded by a hundred tribesmen who capture them and take them to a camp.
  • They are accused of being spies, and the alchemist says that he is just Santiago's guide. He says that Santiago is an alchemist who understands the forces of nature and wants to show off his powers.
  • Thanks a lot, alchemist.
  • Then the alchemist gives all of Santiago's gold coins to the chief, too. Double thanks, alchemist.
  • The alchemist goes on to promise that Santiago can destroy the camp with the force of the wind, and that he needs three days in order to transform himself into the wind. He also handily offers up Santiago's life as a penalty if he isn't able to do the trick.
  • Santiago is, of course, terrified, until the alchemist pours some tea on his wrists and says some magic words to calm him down. He says that he knows everything he needs to transform into the wind; the only thing in his way is the fear of failure.
  • After the first day Santiago still has no idea how to achieve his goal, and on the second day he goes up on the top of a cliff to look at the desert. On the third day the chief and officers go with the alchemist to look at the boy who will turn himself into wind.
  • Santiago asks everyone to sit and wait, then he starts chatting with the desert. He tries to explain to the desert what love is, and says he needs the desert to turn him into wind so that he can get back to his love, Fatima.
  • Turns out the desert is no help—but it does put him in touch with the wind. Ooookay.
  • A breeze starts blowing, and Santiago asks the wind for help. The wind is curious, but doesn't know how to turn him into the wind. He tells him to ask heaven. Santiago asks him to blot out the sun with a sandstorm so that he can look to heaven without being blinded.
  • The wind obliges, blowing a terrifying storm into the camp. A couple of the commanders ask the chief to stop the experiment, but he won't do so.
  • Next up, Santiago chats with the sun, who says that he knows about the Soul of the World. The sun starts shining really bright and Santiago explains to the sun about alchemy and evolution. It's all pretty mystical and wacky. 
  • He asks the sun to help him to turn into the wind, but the sun doesn't know how. He tells him to ask the hand that wrote all, and he does so, without speaking. It's not really clear exactly how this is working, but we get the idea that Santiago's on the right track.
  • Santiago prays, reaching through to the Soul of the World. He realizes that his soul is the Soul of God and that he can do miracles. Once the storm dies the camp has almost been destroyed, and Santiago has been transported far to the other side of where it used to be.
  • Everyone is naturally terrified, and they let the alchemist and Santiago go, hooking them up with some armed guards to help them on their way.

Paragraphs 684-758

  • After riding for a day, the duo comes upon a Coptic monastery and lets the armed guards go on home.
  • The alchemist tells Santiago that he's on his own, and only three hours from the pyramids.
  • Santiago thanks the alchemist for teaching him the Language of the World. NBD, says the alchemist. He already knew it.
  • A monk comes to the gate and lets them use the kitchen for a bit.
  • The alchemist starts cooking up some gold using lead, and gossips about the war with the monk.
  • After the gold is cooked, the alchemist splits it into four parts. One for the monk, one for Santiago, one for himself, and the fourth one for the monk to keep safe for Santiago in case he ever needs it.
  • They get back on their horses and the alchemist tells Santiago a story about a Roman who had two sons, a poet and a military officer. 
  • The father dreams that one of his sons' words would be repeated throughout the world for generations to come. He dies, and when he gets to heaven is granted a wish. He wishes to see his poet son's words repeated in the future.
  • It turns out, though, that it's not the poet whose words are immortalized; it's the military officer. He was one of the first followers of Jesus Christ, and spoke one of the verses of the Bible, "My Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word and my servant will be healed." Moral: everyone plays a part in the history of the world.
  • With that, the two part ways.
  • Santiago rides to the pyramids, and his heart tells him that wherever he is brought to tears is the place where his treasure is.
  • He climbs a dune and sees the pyramids. He falls to his knees and cries, praying and thanking God for leading him on this journey.
  • He starts digging into the dune, but doesn't find anything. He finds some rocks, and some people come up to him, asking him what he's doing.
  • They're refugees from tribal wars and need money, and find his gold in the bag. They think that he must have more gold hidden in the ground, and make him dig all night, even though he doesn't find anything. They beat him up and he explains, finally, that he's digging for treasure.
  • The leader says that he must have stolen the gold and decides to leave. Before he goes though, he tells Santiago not to be so stupid, that he himself had dreamed of a treasure right on that spot. His dream told him to go to a ruined church in Spain and to dig at the roots of a sycamore tree. He says he's not as stupid as Santiago, crossing the desert just because of a dream.
  • Santiago laughs as they leave, because the guy just gave him the clue to where his treasure is.