The Alchemist — A Fable for Dreamers

My review of “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

Kayden Sung
4 min readMar 9, 2022

Just as I was finishing an article expressing my dislike of inspirational literature, I stumbled upon “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist tells the story of a young man going into the desert to find his treasure. It offers no fresh insights or evidence to back its advice. Yet, it left me thinking about my purpose in life and made me more determined to pursue my dream.

The Alchemist is one of the best inspirational fiction I have ever read. Its passionate critics often condemn it as a worthless self-help title, and I would agree if it were one. But The Alchemist is not a self-help book, it is a beautifully written fable that inspires you to follow your heart, in the best of times and in the worst of times.

A Fable for Adults

Fable has become such an unfamiliar word to me. I cannot remember reading any of them since childhood when Aesop’s Fables were a stable of my bedtime story. Alone with the pretty watercolor graphics, these simple stories taught me important moral and practical lessons. As a child, I would never question the “whys” or how absurd these stories are. For children, the purpose of fables is to demonstrate abstract concepts and make them memorable. But for adults, stories of a smart crow or a sly fox are just dumb. We want evidence and logic to believe in things.

Like any other fable, The Alchemist tells a fictional, even absurd, story. But unlike those for children, it is full of words of wisdom, and thought-provoking ideas. Unlike a children’s book, The Alchemist does not instruct the readers, but rather, it sparks ideas and instills passion. It works because we are more inspired by vivid tales and think more about interesting analogies. The Alchemist is the perfect fable for adults.

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

A Novel about Dreams

The Alchemist tells the story of a young shepherd that gave up a familiar life in search of his treasure. Personal legend, as described in the book, is the path for anyone to live a satisfying life. For the boy, his destiny lies under the great pyramids of Egypt. On his journey, the shepherd encounters difficulties and learned valuable lessons.

The road towards one’s personal legend is never easy. Anyone has a personal legend, but most of us have given it up along the way. Some of us gave in out of fear — like the crystal merchant in the story. The crystal merchant wanted to visit Mecca, but he is afraid of disappointment and that afterward he would have nothing to live for anymore. Some of us put our dream aside to deal with reality, and gradually, our dreams fade.

People who gave up on their dreams often try to stop the dreamers from their pursuit, because they became bitter that they couldn’t do it themselves. The Alchemist is a book for dreamers. It tells us not to be afraid and to never give up on our personal legends.

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

Reasons to Believe in Fate

Omen is a recurring theme in The Alchemist. On his journey, the boy learned to read omens and they guide him when he is often lost. I am a man of science and logic, but reading The Alchemist has given me two reasons to consider becoming just a little more superstitious.

  1. One’s fate can be his purpose in life. History is infinitely complex and everyone plays a part in it. Although most of us won’t be remembered a hundred years from now, our actions are what created the miracles of the world. That is our destiny and legacy.
  2. Omens guides one to take a leap of faith. A person does not give up his dream all at once. It is putting his dream aside out of fear time after time until one’s dream becomes a distant memory. In these times of uncertainty, follow your heart and believe in fate. As the Alchemist puts it:

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. … The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

The Alchemist is a short novel full of inspiration and wisdom. If you are a dreamer on the edge of giving up, the story of a boy looking for his treasure might rekindle that passion to find your personal legend.



Kayden Sung

Learner, Minimalist, Software Engineer. Writes about personal development.