The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This Book Summary Was Created In May 2011

Table Of Contents

Book Cover Inside Introduction Reviews Introduction
Prologue Part One Part Two Epilogue
A Reader's Guide Map Of Santiago's Journey Interview With
Paulo Coelho
Experience The Journey
About The Author Quotes From The Alchemist Summary

Book Cover

Author: Paulo Coelho

First Harper Collins Hardcover Edtion Published in 1993
International Best Selling Phenomenon

Booklist Review: "Beneath this novel's compelling story and the shimmering elegance with which it's told lies a bedrock of wisdom about following one's heart."

Inside Page Introduction

"To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation." - from The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.



All I know is that, like Santiago the shepherd boy, we al need to be aware of our personal calling.

What is a personal calling?
It is God's blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth.
Whenever we do someting that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend.
However, we don't all have the courage to confront our own dream.
There are four obstacles.
First: we are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible.
...the second obstacle: love.
We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream.
We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.
...the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path.
We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: "Oh, well, I didn't really want it anyway."

The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.
So, why is it so important to live our personal calling if we are only going to suffer more than other people?
Because, once we have overcome the defeats--and we always do--we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and confidence.
In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life.
Each day, each hour, is part of the good fight.
We start to live with enthusiasm and pleasure.
Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quicly that suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.

Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.
Oscar Wilde said: "Each man kills the thing he loves."
The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt.
This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest.
But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.

Paulo Coelho, Rio de Janeiro, November 2002


The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought.
Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus.
The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty.
He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned.
At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.
He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.
"But...was Narcissus beautiful?" the lake asked.

"Who better than you to know that?" the goddesses said in wonder. "After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!"
The lake was silent for some time.
Finally, it said: "I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful.
I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected."

Part One

The boy's name was Santiago.
Dusk was falling as the boy arrived with his herd at an abandoned church.

But for the past few days he had spoken to them about only one thing: the girl, the daughter of a merchant who lived in the village they would reach in about four days.

The girl was typical of the region of Andalusia, with flowing black hair, and eyes that vaguely recalled the Moorish conquerors.
He recognized that he was feeling something he had never experienced before: the desire to live in one place forever.
With the girl with the raven hair his days would never be the same again.

The only things that concerned the sheep were food and water.
As long as the boy knew how to find the best pastures in Andalusia, they would be his friends.
They trust me, and they've forgotten how to rely on their own instincts, because I lead them to nourishment.

We have to be prepared for change, he thought, and he was grateful for the jacket's weight and warmth.
The jacket had a purpose, and so did the boy.
His purpose in life was to travel,...
His parents had wanted him to become a priest, and thereby a source of pride for a simple farm family.

"The people who come here have a lot of money to spend, so they can afford to travel," his father said.
"Amongst us, the only ones who travel are the shapherds."
"Well, then I'll be a shepherd!"

I couldn't have found God in the seminary, he thought, as he looked at the sunrise.

It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, he thought.
He had suddenly rememberd that, in Tarifa, there was an old woman who interpreted dreams.

The old woman led the boy to a room at the back of her house...

"You came so that you could learn about your dreams," said the old woman.
"And dreams are the language of God.
When he speaks in our language, I can interpret what he has said.

But if he speaks in the language of the soul, it is only you who can understand.
But, whichever it is, I'm going to charge you for the consultation."
"I have had the same dream twice," he said.
"I dreamed that I was in a field with my sheep, when a child appeared and began to play with the animals."
"And suddenly, the child took me by both hands and transported me to the Egyptian pyramids."
"The child said to me, 'If you come here, you will find a hidden treasure.'
And just as she was about to show me the exact location, I woke up. Both times."

"I'm not going to charge you anything now," she said.
"But I want one-tenth of the treasure, if you find it."
"It's a dram in the language of the world," she said.
"And this is my interpretation: you must go to the Pyramids in Egypt.
There you will find a treasure that will make you a rich man."

So the boy was disappointed; he decided that he would never again believe in dreams.
The boy knew a lot of people in the city.
That was what made traveling appeal to him--he always made new friends, and he didn't need to spend all of his time with them.
When someone sees the same people every day, as had happened with im at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person's life.

And then they want the person to change.
If someone isn't what others want them to be, the others become angry.
Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.
As he read on, an old man sat down at his side and tried to strike up a conversation.

"Hmm..." said the old man, looking at all sides of the book, as if it were some strange object.
"This is an important book, but it's really irritating.

"It's a book that says the same thing almost all the other books in the world say," continued the old man.
"It describes people's inaability to choose their own Personal Legends.
And it ends up saing that everyone believes the world's gratest lie."
"What's the world's greatest lie?" the boy asked completely surprised.
"It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate."
"Where are you from?" the boy asked.

"From many places."
"Well then, we could say that I was born in Salem."
"And what do you do in Salem?" he insisted.
"What do I do in Salem?" The old man laughed. "Well, I'm the king of Salem!"
"My name is Melchizedek," said the old man. "How many sheep do you have?"

"Give me one-tenth of your sheep," said the old man, "and I'll tell you how to find the hidden trasure."
The old man was probably a Gypsy, too.
But before the boy could say anything, the old man leaned over, picked up a stick, and began to write in the sand of the plaza.

There, in the sand of the plaza of that small city, the boy read the names of his father and his mother and the name of the seminary he had attended.
He read the name of the merchant's daughter, which he hadn't even known, and he read things he had never told anyone.

"I'm the king of Salem," the old man had said.
"Why would a king be talking with a shepherd?" the boy asked, awed and embarrassed.
"For several reasons. But let's say that the most important is that you have succeeded in discovering your Personal Legend."
"It's what you have always wanted to accomplish.
Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is."
"At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible.
They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives.
But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend."
None of what the old man was saying made much sense to the boy.
But he wanted to know what the "mysterious force" was; the merchat's daugher would be impressed when he told her about that!

"It's a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend.
It prepares your spirit and your will, becaus ethere is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is tht you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the sould of the universe.
It's your mission on earth."
The Soul of the World is nourished by people's happiness.
And also by unhappiness, envy, and jealousy.
To realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation.
All things are one.
"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helpin you to achieve it."
He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.

The old man continued, "In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends."
"And that's when you always appear on the scene?"
"Not always in this way, but I always appear in one form or another.
Sometimes I appear in the form of a solution, or a good idea.
At other times, at a crucial moment, I make it easier for things to happen.
There are other things I do, too, but most of the time people don't realize I've done them."

"People learn, early in their loive, that is their reason for being," said the old man, with a certain bitterness.
"Maybe that's why they give up on it so early, too, But that's the way it is."
The boy reminded the old man that he had said something about hidden treasure.
"Treasure is uncovered by the force of flowing water, and it is buried by the same currents," said the old man.
"If you want to learn about your own treasure, you will have to give me one-tenth of your flock."

"What about one-tenth of my treasure?"
The old man looked disappointd. "If you start out by promising what you don't even have yet, you'll lose your desire to work toward getting it."
It's good that you've learned that everything in life has its price. This is what the Warriors of the Light try to teach."
"Tomorrow, at this same time, bring me a tenth of your flock.
And I will tell you how to find the hidden treasure."

There was a small building there, with a window at which people bought tickets to Africa. And he knew that Egypt was in Africa.
"Can I help you?" asked the man behind the window.
"Maybe tomorrow," said the boy, moving away.

Here I am, between my flock and my treasure, the boy thought.
He had to choose between something he had become accustomed to and something he wanted to have.
There was also the merchant's daughter, but she wasn't as important as his flock, because she didn't depend on him.
He was sure that it made no difference to her on which day he appeared: for her, every day was the same, and when each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.

The boy felt jealous of the freedom of the wind, and saw that he could have the same freedom.
There was nothing to hold him back except himself.
The sheep, the merchant's daughter, and the fields of Andalusia were only steps along the way to his Personal Legend.
The next day, the boy met the old man at noon. He brought six sheep with him.
"I'm surprised," the boy said. "My friend bought all the other sheep immediately.
He said that he had always dreamed of being a shepherd, and that it was a good omen."
"That's the way it always is," said the old man.

"It's called the principle of favorability.
When you play cards the first time, you are almost sure to win. Beginner's luck.
"Why is that?"
"Because there is a force that wants you to realize your Personal Legend; it whets your appetite with a taste of success."
"Where is the treasure?" he asked.
"It's in Egypt, near the Pyramids."
"In order to find the treaure, you will have to follow the omens.
God has prepared a path for everyone to follow.
The old man opened his cape, and the boy was struck by what he saw.
The old man wore a breastplate of heavy gold covered with precious stones.

"Take these," said the old man, holding out a white stone and a black stone that had been embedded at the center of the breastplate.
"They are called Urim and Thummim.
The black signifies 'yes', and the white 'no.'
When you are unable to read the omens, they will help you to do so.
Always ask an objective question.
The treasure is at the Pyriamids; that you already knew.
But I had to insist on the payment of six sheep because I helped you to make your decision."
"Don't forget that everything you deal with is only one thing and nothing else.
And, above all, don't forget to follow your Personal Legend through to its conclusion.
But before I go, I want to tell you a little story.
"A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world.

Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something,' said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil... "As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill."
After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was.
"Well," asked the wise man, "did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall?
Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create?
Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?"
"The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing.
His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

"Then to back and observe the marvels of my world," said the wise man.
You cannot trust a man if you don't know his house.
Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls.
"But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?" asked the wise man.
Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.
"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men.
"The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."
The shepherd said nothing. He had understood the story the old king had told him.
A shepherd may like to travel, but he should never forget about his sheep.

At the highest point in Tarifa there is an old fort, built by the Moors.
From atop its walls, one can catch a glimpse of Africa.
Melchizedek, the king of Salem, sat on the wall of the fort that afternoon, and felt the levanter blowing in his face.
He looked to the skies, feeling a bit abashed, and said, "I know it's the vanity of vanities, as you said, my Lord.
But an old king sometimes has to take some pride in himself.

How strange Africa is, thought the boy.

Besides this, in the rush of his travels he had forgotten a detail, just one detail, which could keep him from his treasure for a long time: only Arabic was spoken in this country.
The sale of his sheep had left him with enough money in his pouch, and the boy knew that in money there was magic; whoever has money is never really alone.

He had discovered that the presence of a certain bird meant that a snake was nearby, and that a certain shrub was a sign that there was water in the area. The sheep had taught him that.
If God leads the sheep so well, he will also lead a man, he thought, and that made him feel better.


The boy trusted his new friend. He had helped him out in a dangerous situation. He took out his money and counted it.
"We could get to the Pyramids by tomorrow," said the other, taking the money. "But I have to buy two camels."

Then he realized that he had been distracted for a few moments, looking at the sword.
All around him was the market, with people coming and going, shouting and buying, and the aroma of strange foods...but nowhere could he find his new companion.
But now, as the sun began to set, he was in a different country, a stranger in a strange land, where he couldn't even speak the language.

All this happened between sunrise and sunset, the boy thought.
He was feeling sorry for himself, and lamenting the fact that his life could have changed so suddenly and so drastically.
He wept because God was unfair, and because this was the way God repaid those who believed in their dreams.
I'm going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me.
I'm going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine.
And I'm going to hold on to what little I have, because I'm too insignificant to conquer the world.

He could sell the stones and buy a return ticket.
I'm like everyone else--I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does."
The boy put the stones back in the puch and decided to do an experiment.
The old man had said to ask very clear questioons, and to do that, the boy had to know what he wanted.

So, he asked if the old man's blessing was still with him.
He took out one of the stones. It was "yes."
"Am I going to find my treasure?" he asked.
He stuck his hand into the pouch, and felt around for one of the stones.
As he did so, both of them pushed through a hole in the pouch and fell to the ground.
He had learned that there were certain things one shouldn't ask about, so as not to flee from one's own Personal Legend.
He looked around at the empty plaza again, feeling less desperate than before.
This wasn't a strange place; it was a new one.

Even if he never got to the Pyramids, he had already traveled farther than any shepherd he knew.
As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.
"I'm an adventurer, looking for treasure," he said to himself.

He had not a cent in his pocket, but he had faith.
He had decided, the night before, that he would be as much an adventurer as the ones he had admired in books.

This candy merchant isn't making candy so that later he can travel or marry a shopkeeper's daughter. He's doing it because it's what he wants to do," thought the boy.
He realized that he could do the same thing the old man had done--sense whether a person was near to or far from his Personal Legend.
He was learning a lot of new things. Some of them were things that he had already experienced, and weren't really new, but that he had never perceived before.

And he hadn't perceived them because he had become accustomed to them.
If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.
Once again he saw that, in that strange land, he was applying the same lessons he had learned with his sheep.
"All things are one," the old man had said.

But the crystal merchant had no choice. He had lived thirty years of his life buying and selling crystal pieces, and now it was too late to do anything else.

"I can clean up those glasses in the window, if you want," said the boy.
In exchange, you could give me something to eat.

When he had completed the cleaning, he asked the man for something to eat.
"Let's go and have some lunch," said the crystal merchant.
"You didn't have to do any cleaning," he said. "The Koran requires me to feed a hungry person."
"Do you want to go to work for me?" the merchant asked.

"I can work for the rest of today," the boy answered. I'll work all night, until dawn, and I'll clean every piece of crystal in your shop. In return, I need money to get to Egypt tomorrow."
The merchant laughed. "Even if you cleaned my crystal for an entire year...even if you earned a good commission selling every piece, you would still have to borrow money to get to Egypt.
There was a moment of silence... No hope, no adventure, no old kings or Personal Legends, no treasure, and no Pyramids. It was as if the world had fallen silent because the boy's soul had.
"I can give you the money you need to get back to your country, my son," said the crystal merchant.
"I'll work for you, he said. And after another long silence, he added. "I need money to buy some sheep.

Part Two

The boy had been working for the crystal merchant for almost a month, and he could see that it wasn't exactly the kind of job that would make him happy.
If he continued to work every day as he had been, he would need a whole year to be able to buy some sheep.

I'd like to build a display case for the crystal," the boy said to the merchant.
"People will pass by and bump into it, and pieces will be broken."
"Well, when I took my sheep through the fields some of them might have died if we had come upon a snake. But that's the way life is with sheep and with shepherds."
"Business has really improved," he said to the boy, after the customer had left. "I'm doing much better, and soon you'll be able to return to your sheep. Why ask more out of life?"
"Because we have to respond to omens," the boy said...

Why did you want to get to the Pyramids?" he asked.
"Because I've always heard about them," the boy answered, saying nothing about his dream. The treasure was now nothing but a painful memory, and he tried to avoid thinking about it.

Why did you think we should have the display?
"I want to get back to my sheep faster. We have to take advantage when luck is on our side, and do as much to help it as it's doing to help us. It's called the principle of favorability. Or beginner's luck."
The merchant was silent for a few moments. Then he said, "The Prophet gave us the Koran, and left us just five obligagions to satisfy during our lives.
The most important is to believe in the one true God.
The others are to pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan, and be charitable to the poor.
"What's the fifth obligation?" the boy asked.
The fifth obligation of every Muslim is a pilgrimage. We are obliged , at least once in our lives, to visit the holy city of Mecca.

"Well, why don't you go to Mecca now?" asked the boy.
I'm afraid that if my dream is realized, I'll have no reason to go on living.
But I'm afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.

Two more months passed, and the shelf brought many customers into the crystal shop.
The boy estimated that, if he worked for six more months, he could return to Spain and buy sixty sheep, and yet another sixty. In less than a year, he would have doubled his flock, and he would be able to do business with the Arabs, because he was now able to speak their strange language.
Maybe it was his treasure to have wound up in that strange land, met up with a thief, and doubled the size of his flock without spending a cent.

"Let's sell tea to the people who climb the hill."
"Lots of places sell tea around here," the merchant said.
"But we could sell tea in crystal glasses. The people will enjoy the tea and want to buy the glasses. I have been told that beauty is the great seducer of men."

The shop is exactly the size I always wanted it to be. I don't want to change anything, because I don't know how to deal with change. I'm used to the way I am."
The old man continued, "You have been a real blessing to me. Today, I understand something I didn't see before: every blessing ignored becomes a curse. I don't want anything else in life. But you are forcing me to look at wealth and at horizons I have never known. Now that I have seen them, and now that I see how immense my possibilities are, I'm going to feel worse than I did before you arrived. Because I know the things I should be able to accomplish, and I don't want to do so."
There had been a time when he thought that his sheep could teach him everything he needed to know about the world.
And maybe it wasn't that they were teaching me, but that I was learning from them.

"Maktub," the merchant said, finally.
"What does that mean?"
"You would have to have been born an Arab to understand," he answered. "But in your language it would be something like 'It is written.'"
And, as he smothered the coals in the hookah, he told the boy that he could begin to sell tea in the crystal glasses. Sometimes, there's just no way to hold back the river.

Before long, the news spread, and a great many people began to climb the hill to see the shop that was doing something new in a trade that was so old.
Other shops were opened that served tea in crystal, but they weren't at the top of a hill, and they had little business.

Eventually, the merchant had to hire two more employees.

The boy awoke before dawn. It has been eleven months and nine days since he had first set foot on the African continent.
When he had finished his smoke, he reached into one of his pockets, and sat there for a few moments, regarding what he had withdrawn.
It was a bundle of money. Enough to buy himself a hundred and twenty sheep, a return ticket, and a license to import products from Africa into his own country.

He waited patiently for the merchant to awaken and open the shop. Then the two went off to have some more tea.
"I'm leaving today," said the boy. "I have the money I need to buy my sheep. And you have the money you need to go to Mecca."
"Will you give me your blessing?" asked the boy.
"I am proud of you," he said. "You brought a new feeling into my crystal shop. But you know that I'm not going to go to Mecca. Just as you know that you're not going to buy your sheep."
"Who told you that?" asked the boy, startled.
"Maktub," said the old crystal merchant. And he gave the boy his blessing.

The boy went to his room and packed his belongings. They filled three sacks. As he was leaving, he saw, in the corner of the room, his old shepherd's pouch. It was bunched up, and he had hardly thought of it for a long time. As he took his jacket out of the pouch, thinking to give it to someone in the street, the two stones fell to the floor. Urim and Thummim.

"Never stop dreaming," the old king had said. "Follow the omens."
He had worked hard for a year, and the omens were that it was time to go.
There was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time that he was trying to improve things at the shop. It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired. Tangier was no longer a strange city, and he felt that, just as he had conquered this place, he could conquer the world.
"When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it," the old king had said.
But the old king hadn't said anything about being robbed, or about endless deserts, or about people who know what their dreams are buy don't want to realize them.

He left without saying good-bye to the crystal merchant. He didn't want to cry with the other people there.

"But I'm going back to the fields that I know, to take care of my flock again." He said that to himself with certainty, but he was no longer happy with his decision. He had worked for an entire year to make a dream come true, and that dream, minute by minute, was becoming less important. Maybe because that wasn't really his dream.
Who knows...maybe it's better to be like the crystal merchant: never go to Mecca, and just go through life wanting to do so, he thought, again trying to convince himself. But as he held Urim and Thummim in his hand, they had transmitted to him the strength and will of the old king.

I know why I want to get back to my flock, he thought. I understand sheep; they're no longer a problem, and they can be good friends. On the other hand, I don't know if the desert can be a friend, and it's in the desert that I have to search for my treasure. If I don't find it, I can always go home. I finally have enough money, and all the time I need. Why not?
He suddenly felt tremendously happy. He could always go back to being a shepherd.
He was planning as he left the bar. He had remembered that one of the crystal merchant's suppliers transported his crystal by means of caravans that crossed the desert. He held Urim and Thummim in his hand; because of those two stones, he was once again on the way to his treasure.
"I am always nearby, when someone wants to realize their Personal Legend," the old king had told him.
What could it cost to go over to the supplier's warehouse and find out if the Pyramids were really that far away?

The Englishman was sitting on a bench in a structure that smelled of animals, sweat, and dust; it was part warehouse, part corral. I never thought I'd end up in a place like this, he thought, as he leafed through the pages of a chemical journal.

All his life and all his studies were aimed at finding the one true language of the universe.
First he had studied Esperanto, then the world's religions, and now it was alchemy. He knew how to speak Esperanto, he understood all the major religions well, but he wasn't yet an alchemist. He had unraveled the truths behind important questions, but his studies had taken him to a point beyond which he could not seem to go. He had tried in vain to establish a relationship with an alchemist. But the alchemists were strange people, who thought only about themselves, and almost always refused to help him. Who knows, maybe they had failed to discover the secret of the Master Work-the Philosopher's Stone--and for this reason kept their knowledge to themselves.
He had spent enormous amounts of time at the great libraries of the world, and had purchased all the rarest and most important volumes on alchemy. In one he had read that, many years ago, a famous Arabian alchemist had visited Europe. It was said that he was more than two hundred years old, and that he had discovered the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life. The Englishman had been profoundly impressed by the story. But he would never have thought it more than just a myth, had not a friend of his--returning from an archaeological expedition in the desert--told him about an Arab that was possessed of exceptional powers.

"He lives at the Al-Fayoum oasis," his friend had said. "And people say that he is two hundred years old, and is able to transform any metal into gold."
I'm going to find that damned alchemist, the Englishman thought.
A young Arab, also loaded down with baggage, entered, and greeted the Englishman.
That's good, thought the Englishman. He spoke Spanish better than Arabic, and, if this boy was going to Al-Fayoum, there would be someone to talk to when there were no other important things to do.

He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.
When I decided to seek out my treasure, I never imagined that I'd wind up working in a crystal shop, he thought. And joining this caravan may have been my decision, but where it goes is going to be a mystery to me.
Nearby was the Englishman, reading a book. He seemed unfriendly, and had looked irritated when the boy had entered. They might even have become friends, but the Englishman closed off the conversation.
He took Urim and Thurmmim from his pocket, and began playing with them.

The stranger shouted, "Urim and Thummim!"
In a flash the boy put them back in his pocket. "They're not for sale," he said.
"They';re only made of rock crystal, and there are millions of rock crystals in the earth. I didn't know that they had them in this part of the world."
"They were given to me as a present by a king," the boy said.
The stranger didn't answer instead, he put his hand in his pocket, and took out two stones that were the same as the boy's.
"Did you say a king?" he asked.
"I guess you don't believe that a king would talk to someone like me, a shepherd," he said, wanting to end the conversation.
"Not at all. It was shepherds who were the first to recognize a king that the rest of the world refused to acknowledge. So, it's not surprising that kings would talk to shepherds."
"It's in the Bible. The same book that taught me about Urim and Thummim. These stones were the only form of divination permitted by God. The priests carried them in a golden breastplate."
The boy was suddenly happy to be there at the warehouse.

"Maybe this is an omen," said the Englishman, half aloud.
"Who told you about omens?" The boy's interest was increasing by the moment.
"Everything in life is an omen," said the Englishman, now closing the journal he was reading. "There is a universal language, understood by everybody, but already forgotten. I am in search of that universal language, among other things. That's why I'm here. I have to find a man who knows that universal language. An alchemist."
The conversation was interrupted by the warehouse boss. "You're in luck, you two," the fat Arab said. "There's a caravan leaving today for Al-Fayoum."
"But I'm going to Egypt," the boy said.
"Al-Fayoum is in Egypt," said the Arab. "What kind of Arab are you?"
That's a good luck omen," the Englishman said, after the fat Arab had gone out. "If I could, I'd write a huge encyclopedia just about the words luck and coincidence. It's with those words that the universal language is written."
"I'm looking for a treasure," said the boy, and he immediately regretted having said it. But the Englishman appeared not to attach any importance to it.

"In a way, so am I," he said.
"I don't even know what alchemy is," the boy was saying, when the warehouse boss called to them to come outside.

"I'm the leader of the caravan," said a dark-eyed bearded man. I hold the power of life and death for every person I take with me.
There were almost two hundred people gathered there, and four hundred animals--camels, horses, mules, and fowl. In the crowd were women, children, and a number of men with swords at their belts and rifles slung on their shoulders.
"There are a lot of different people here, and each has his own God. But the only God I serve is Allah, and in his name I swear that I will do everything possible once again to win out over the desert. But I want each and every one of you to swear by the God you believe in that you will follow my orders no matter what. In the desert, disobedience means death."
Each was swearing quietly to his or her own God. The boy swore to Jesus Christ.

The Englishman said nothing. The people were also praying to heaven for protections.
The closer one gets to realizing his Personal Legend, the more that Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being, thought the boy.
The caravan moved toward the east. It traveled during the morning, halted when the sun was at its strongest, and resumed late in the afternoon.

I've learned things from the sheep, and I've learned things from crystal, he thought. I can learn something from the desert, too. It seems old and wise.

"Hunches," his mother used to call them. The boy was beginning to understand that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it's all written there.

But all this happened for one basic reason: no matter how may detours and adjustments it made, the caravan moved toward the same compass point. Once obstacles were overcome, it returned to its course, sighting on a star that indicated the location of the oasis. When the people saw that star shining in the morning sky, they knew they were on the right course toward water, palm trees, shelter, and other people.
Although the boy had developed a superstition that each time he opened the book he would learn something important, he decided it was an unnecessary burden.
He became friendly with the camel driver who traveled alongside him.

One day, the earth began to tremble, and the Nile overflowed its banks. The land was ruined, and I had to find some other way to earn a living. So now I'm a camel driver. But that disaster taught me to understand the word of Allah: people need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want.
We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it's our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.
Sometimes, their caravan met with another. One always had something that the other needed--as if everthing were indeed written by one hand.

At other times, mysterious, hooded men would appear; they were Bedouins who did surveillance along the caravan route. They provided warnings about thieves and barbarian tribes.
One night, a camel driver came to the fire where the Englishman and the boy were sitting. "There are rumors of tribal wars," he told them.
"Once you get into the desert, there's no going back," said the camel driver. And, when you can't go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward. The rest is up to Allah, including the danger.
"You should pay more attention to the caravan," the boy said to the Englishman, after the camel driver had left. "We make a lot of detours, but we're always heading for the same destination."

"And you ought to read more about the world," answered the Englishman. "Books are like caravans in that respect."
The Englishman was unable to sleep one night. He called to the boy, and they took a walk along the dunes surrounding the encampment. There was a full moon, and the boy told the Englishman the story of his life.
The Englishman was fascinated with the part about the progress achieved at the crystal shop after the boy began working there.
"That's the principle that governs all things," he said. "In alchemy, it's called the Soul of the World. When you want something with all your heart, that's when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It's always a positive force."

"Everything on earth is being continuously transformed, because the earth is alive...and it has a soul."
If either of us had joined this caravan based only on personal courage, but without understanding that language, this journey would have been much more difficult."
"That's the magic of omens," said the boy. "I've seen how the guides read the signs of the desert, and how the soul of the caravan speaks to the soul of the desert."

In one of the books he learned that the most important text in the literature of alchemy contained only a few lines, and had been inscribed on the surface of an emerald.
"It's the Emerald Tablet," said the Englishman, proud that he might teach something to the boy.
The book that most interested the boy told the stories of the famous alchemists. They were men who had dedicated their entire lives to the purification of metals in their laboratories; they believed that, if a metal were heated for many years, it would free itself of all its individual properties, and what was left would be the Soul of the World. This Soul of the World allowed them to understand anything on the face of the earth, because it was the language with which all things communicated. They called that discovery the Master Work--it was part liquied and part solid.

"Can't you just observe men and omens in order to understand the language?" the boy asked.
"You have a mania for simplifying everything," answered the Englishman, irritated. "Alchemy is a serious discipline. Every step has to be followed exactly as it was followed by the masters."
The boy learned that the liquid part of the Master Work was called the Elixir of Life, and that it cured all illnesses; it also kept the alchemist from growing old. And the solid part was called the Philosopher's Stone.
"Also," said the Englishman, "the Philosopher's Stone has a fascinating property. A small sliver of the stone can transform large quantities of metal into gold."
Having heard that, the boy became even more interested in alchemy. He thought that, with some patience, he'd be able to transform everything into gold.

He read the lives of the various people who had succeeded in doing so: Helvetius, Elias, Fulcanelli, and Geber. They were fascinating stories: each of them lived out his Personal Legend to the end. They traveled, spoke with wise men, performed miracles for the incredulous, and owned the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life.

"Why do they make things so complicated?" he asked the Englishman one night.
"So that those who have the responsibility for understanding can understand," he said. "Imagine if everyone went around transforming lead into gold. Gold would lose its value.

The only thing he (The Englishman) had noticed was that talk of war was becoming more and more frequent.

"I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their Personal Legends, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, and the Elixir of Life.
"But, above all, I learned that these things are all so simple that they could be written on the surface of an emerald."
The Englishman was disappointed. His soul must be too primitive to understand those things, he thought.

"Everyone has his or her own way of learning things," he said to himself.

The caravan began to travel day and night. The hooded Bedouins reappeared more and more frequently, and the camel driver--who had become a good friend of the boy's--explained that the war between the tribes had already begun. The caravan would be very lucky to reach the oasis.

If I have to fight, it will be just as good a day to die as any other.
Because I don't live in either my past or my future. I'm interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you'll be a happy man.
Two nights later, as he was getting ready to bed down, the boy looked for the star they followed every night. He thought that the horizon was a bit lower than it had been, because he seemed to see stars on the desert itself.
"It's the oasis," said the camel driver.

The boy awoke as the sun rose. There, in front of him, where the small stars had been the night before, was an endless row of date palms, stretching across the entire desert.
"We've done it!" said the Englishman, who had also awakened early.

He (the boy) still had a long way to go to reach the Pyramids, and someday this morning would just be a memory.
Yesterday, the camel's groan signaled danger, and now a row of date palms could herald a miracle.
The world speaks many languages, the boy thought.

The times rush past, and so do the caravans, thought the alchemist, as he watched the hundreds of people and animals arriving at the oasis.
But none of that mattered to the alchemist. He had already seen many people come and go, and the desert remained as it was.
He always enjoyed seeing the happiness that the travelers experienced when, after weeks of yellow sand and blue sky, they first saw the green of the date palms. Maybe God created the desert so that man could appreciate the date trees, he thought.

He decided to concentrate on more practical matters. He knew that in the caravan there was a man to whom he was to teach some of his secrets. The omens had told him so. He didn't know the man yet, but his practiced eye would recognize him when he appeared. He hoped that it would be someone as capable as his previous apprentice.
I don't know why these things have to be transmitted by word of mouth, he thought. It wasn't exactly that they were secrets; God revealed his secrets easily to all his creatures.
He had only one explanation for this fact: things have to be transmitted this way beause they were made up from the pure life, and this kind of life cannot be captured in pictures or words.
Because people become fascinated with pictures and words, and wind up forgetting the Language of the World.

The boy couldn't believe what he was seeing: the oasis, rather than being just a well surrounded by a few palm trees--as he had seen once in a geography book--was much larger than many towns back in Spain.

"It looks like A Thousand and One Nights," said the Englishman, impatient to meet with the alchemist.
They had been taking careful precautions in the desert, but the camel driver explained to the boy that oases were always considered to be neutral territories, because the majority of the inhabitants were women and children. There were oases throughout the desert, but the tribesmen fought in the desert, leaving the oases as places of refuge.
The group was to remain there at the oasis until the conflict between the tribes was over.
Then he asked that everyone, including his own sentinels, hand over their arms to the men appointed by the tribal chieftains.

"Those are the rules of war," the leader explained. "The oases may not shelter armies or troops."
To the boy's surprise, the Englishman took a chrome-plated revolver out of his bag and gave it to the men who were collecting the arms.
"Why a revolver?" he asked.
"It helped me to trust in people," the Englishman answered.
Meanwhile, the boy thought about his treasure. The closer he got to the realization of his dream, the more difficult things became.
If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.
God placed them along my path. He had surprised himself witth the thought. Until then, he had considereded the omens to be things of this world. Like eating or sleeping, or like seeking love or finding a job. He had never thought of them in terms of a language used by God to indicate what he should do.
"It's like the camel driver said: "Eat when it's time to eat. And move along when it's time to move along."

That first day, everyone slept from exhaustion, including the Englishman.
"I've been looking for you all morning," he said, as he led the boy outside. "I need you to help me find out where the alchemist lives."
First, they tried to find him on their own.
"We've wasted almost the entire day," said the Englishman, sitting down with the boy near one of the wells.

"Good afternoon, ma'am. I'm trying to find out where the alchemist lives here at the oasis."
The woman said she had never heard of such a person, and hurried away.
But before she fled, she advised the boy that he had better not try to converse with women who were dressed in black, becuase they were married women. He should respect tradition.
The Englishman was disappointed. It seemed he had made the long journey for nothing. The boy was also saddened; his friend was in pursuit of his Personal Legend. And, when someone was in such pursuit, the entire universe made an effor to help him succeed--that's what the old king had said. He couldn't have been wrong.
"I had never heard of alchemists before," the boy said. "Maybe no one here has, either."
"That's is! Find out who it is who cures the people's illnesses!"

The boy repeated his question.
"Why do you want to find that sort of person?" the Arab asked.
"Because my friend here has traveled for many months in order to meet with him," the boy said.
"If such a man is here at the oasis, he must be the very powerful one," said the old man after thinking for a few moments. "Not even the tribal chieftains are able to see him when they want to. Only when he consents.
"Wait for the end of the war. Then leave with the caravan. Don't try to enter into the life of the oasis," he said, and walked away.
Finally, a young woman approached who was not dressed in black.
The boy approached her to ask about the alchemist.
At that moment, it seemed to him that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him. When he looked into her dark eyes, and saw that her lips were poised between a laugh and silence, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke--the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their hearts. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert.

She smiled, and that was certainly an omen--the omen he had been awaiting, without even knowing he was, for all his life.
It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing.
He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming committed.
But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language.
There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one's dreams would have no meaning.
Maktub, thought the boy

The Englishman shook the boy: "Come on, ask her!"
The boy stepped closer to the girl, and when she smiled, he did the same.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Fatima," the girl said, averting her eyes. It's the name of the Prophet's daughter," Fatima said.
The Englishman prodded him, and the boy asked her about the man who cured people's illnesses.
"That's the man who know all the secrets of the world," she said. "He communicates with the genies of the desert."
And the girl pointed to the south, indicating that it was there the strange man lived. Then she filled her vessel with water and left.
And the boy sat there by the well for a long time, remembering that one day in Tarifa the levanter had brought to him the perfume of that woman, and realizing that he had loved her before he even knew she existed. He knew that his love for her would enable him to discover every treasure in the world.
The next day, the boy returned to the well, hoping to see the girl. To his surprise, the Englishman was there, looking out at the desert.

"I waited all afternoon and evening," he said. "He appeared with the first stars of evening. I told him what I was seeking, and he asked me if I had ever transformed lead into gold. I told him that was what I had come here to learn.
"He told me I should try to do so. That's all he said: 'Go and try.'"
"So, then try," he said to the Englishman.
"That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to start now."
As the Englishman left, Fatima arrived and filled her vessel with water.
"I came to tell you just one thing," the boy said. "I want you to be my wife. I love you."
The girl dropped the container, and the water spilled.
The boy looked around him at the date palms. He reminded himself that he had been a shepherd, and that he could be a shepherd again. Fatima was more important than his treasure.

"The tribesmen are always in search of treasure," the girl said, as if she had guessed what he was thinking. "And the women of the desert are proud of their tribesmen."
She refilled her vessel and left.
The boy went to the well every day to meet with Fatima.
When he had been at the oasis for almost a month, the leader of the caravan called a meeting of all of the people traveling with him.
"We don't know when the war will end, so we can't continue our journey," he said.
It's not a battle of good against evil. It's a war between forces that are fighting for the balance of power, and, when that type of battle begins, it lasts longer than others--because Allah is on both sides."
The boy went to meet with Fatima that afternoon.
"The day after we met," Fatima said, "you told me that you loved me. Then, you taught me something of the universal language and the Soul of the World. Because of that, I have become a part of you."
The boy listened to the sound of her voice, and thought it to be more beautiful than the sound of the wind in the date palms.

"I have been waiting for you here at this oasis for a long time. I have forgotten about my past, about my traditions, and the way in which men of the desert expect women to behave. Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed that the desert would bring me a wonderful present. Now, my present has arrived, and it's you."
"You have told me about your dreams, about the old king and your treasure. And you've told me about omens. So now, I fear nothing, because it was those omens that brought you to me. And I am a part of your dream, a part of your Personal Legend as you call it.
"That's why I want you to continue toward your goal. If you have to wait until the war is over, then wait. But if you have to go before then, go on in pursuit of your dream. The dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes. That's the way it will be with our love for each other.
Maktub," she said. "If I am really a part of your dream, you'll come back one day."
The boy was sad as he left her that day. He thought of all the married shepherds he had known. They had a difficult time convincing their wives that they had to go off into distant fields. Love required them to stay with the people they loved.

"The desert takes our men from us, and they don't always return," she said. "We know that, and we are used to it. Those who don't return become a part of the clouds, a part of the animals that hide in the ravines and of the water that comes from the earth. They become a part of everything...they become the Soul of the World.
"I'm a desert woman, and I'm proud of that. I want my husband to wander as free as the wind that shapes the dunes. And, if I have to, I will accept the fact that he has become a part of the clouds, and the animals, and the water of the desert."
The boy went to look for the Englishman. He wanted to tell him about Fatima. He was surprised when he saw that the Englishman had built himself a furnace outside his tent.
"I have to separate out the sulfur. To do that successfully, I must have no fear of failure. It was my fear of failure that first kept me from attempting the Master Work.

He felt the urge to go out into the desert, to see if its silence held the answers to his questions.
He tried to deal with the concept of love as distinct from possession, and couldn't separate them.
As he sat there thinking, he sensed movement above him. Looking up, he saw a pair of hawks flying high in the sky.

Suddenly, one of the hawks made a flashing dive through the sky, attacking the other. As it did so, a sudden, fleeting image came to the boy: an army, with its swords at the ready, riding into the oasis.
Always heed the omens," the old king had said.
Once again, he perceived the many languages in the things about him: this time, the desert was safe, and it was the oasis that had become dangerous.

"An army is coming," the boy said. "I had a vision."
"The desert fills men's hearts with visions," the camel driver answered.
He knew that any given thing on the face of the earth could reveal the history of all things.
Actually, it wasn't that those things, in themselves, revealed anything at all; it was just that people, looking at what was occurring around them, could find a means of penetration to the Soul of the World.
The desert was full of men who earned their living based on the ease with which they could penetrate to the Soul of the World. They were known as seers, and they were held in fear by women and the elderly. Tribesmen were also wary of consulting them, because it would be impossible to be effective in battle if one knew that he was fated to die.

The camel driver was not a fighter, and he had consulted with seers.
Then, one day, the oldest seer he had ever sought out (and the one most to be feared) had asked why the camel driver was so interested in the future.
" I can do things," he had responded. "And so I can change those things that I don't want to happen"
"Well, maybe I just want to know the future so I can prepare myself for what's coming."
"If good things are coming, they will be a pleasant surprise," said the seer. "If bad things are, and you know in advance, you will suffer greatly before they even occur."

When people consult me, it's not that I'm reading the future; I am guessing at the future. The future belongs to God, and it is only he who reveals it, under extraordinary circumstances. How do I guess at the future: Based on the omens of the present. The secret is here in the present.. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity."
And God only rarely reveals the future. When he does so, it is for only one reason: it's a future that was written so as to be altered."
God had shown the boy a part of the future, the camel driver thought.
Go and speak to the tribal chieftains," said the camel driver. "Tell them about the armies that are approaching."
"They'll laugh at me."

"They are men of the desert, and the men of the desert are used to dealing with omens."
"Well, then, they probably already know."
They believe that if they have to know about something Allah wants them to know, someone will tell them about it. It has happened many times before. But, this time, the person is you.
The boy thought of Fatima. And he decided he would go to see the chiefs of the tribes.

The boy approached the guard at the front of the huge white tent at the center of the oasis.
"I want to see the chieftains. I've brought omens from the desert."
Night fell, and an assortment of fighting men and merchants entered and exited the tent. One by one, the campfires were extinguished, and the oasis fell as quiet as the desert.

Finally, after hours of waiting, the guard bade the boy enter. The boy was astonished by what he saw inside.
The ground was covered with the most beautiful carpets he had ever walked upon, and from the top of the structure hung lamps of handwrought gold, each with a lighted candle.
There were eight chieftains, but the boy could see immediately which of them was the most important: an Arab dressed in white and gold, seated at the center of the semi-circle.
"Who is this stranger who speaks of omens?" asked one of the chieftains, eyeing the boy.
"It is I," the boy answered. And he told what he had seen.
"Why would the desert reveal such things to a stranger, when it knows that we have been here for generations?" said another of the chieftains.
"Because my eyes are not yet accustomed to the desert," the boy said. "I can see things that eyes habituated to the desert might not see."

"The oasis is neutral ground. No one attacks an oasis," said a third chieftain.
"I can only tell you what I saw. If you don't want to believe me, you don't have to do anything about it."
The men fell into an animated discussion. They spoke in an Arabic dialect that the boy didn't understand, but, when he made to leave, the guard told him to stay. The boy became fearful; the omens told him that something was wrong. He regretted having spoken to the camel driver about what he had seen in the desert.
The discussion ended. The chieftains were silent for a few moments as they listened to what the old man was saying.
"Two thousand years ago, in a distant land, a man who believed in dreams was thrown into a dungeon and then sold as a slave," the old man said, now in the dialect the boy understood.

Our merchants bought that man, and brought him to Egypt. All of us know that whoever believes in dreams also knows how to interpret them."
The elder continued, "When the pharaoh dreamed of cows that were thin and cows that were fat, this man I'm speaking of rescued Egypt from famine. His name was Joseph. He, too, was a stranger in a strange land, like you, and he was probably about your age."
"We always observe the Tradition. The Tradition saved Egypt from famine in those days, and made the Egyptians the wealthiest of peoples. The Tradition teaches men how to cross the desert, and how their children should marry. The Tradition says that an oasis is neutral territory, because both sides have oases, and so both are vulnerable."
"But the Tradition also says that we should believe the messages of the desert. Everything we know was taught to us by the desert."
The old man gave a signal, and everyone stood. The meeting was over.
"Tomorrow, we are going to break the agreement that says that no one at the oasis may carry arms. Throughout the entire day we will be on the lookout for our enemies.

When the sun sets, the men will once again surrender their arms to me. For every ten dead men among our enemies, you will receive a piece of gold.
"But arms cannot be drawn unless they also go into battle. Arms are as capricious as the desert, and, if they are not used, the next time they might not function. If at least one of them hasn't been used by the end of the day tomorrow, one will be used on you."
He was alarmed by what had happened. He had succeeded in reaching through to the Soul of the World, and now the price for having done so might be his life. It was a frightening bet. But he had been making risky bets ever since the day he had sold his sheep to pursue his Personal Legend. And, as the camel driver had said, to die tomorrow was no worse than dying on any other day. Every day was there to be lived or to mark one's departure from this world. Everything depended on one word: "Maktub."
Walking along in the silence, he had no regrets. If he died tomorrow, it would be because God was not willing to change the future.
He had lived every one of his days intensely since he had left home so long ago.

If he died tomorrow, he would already have seen more than other shepherds, and he was proud of that.
Suddenly he heard a thndering sound, and he was thrown to the ground by a wind such as he had never known.
When the blinding dust had settled a bit, the boy trembled at what he saw. Astride the animal was was a horseman dressed completely in black, with a falcon perched on his left shoulder. He appeared to be a messenger from the desert, but his presence was much more powerful than that of a mere messenger.
The strange horseman drew an enormous, curved sword from a scabbard mounted on his saddle.
"Who dares to read the meaning of the flight of the hawks?" he demanded, so loudly that his words seemed to echo through the fifty thousand palm trees of Al-Fayoum.
"It is I who dared to do so," said the boy. He was reminded of the image of Santiago Matamoros, mounted on his white horse, with the infidels beneath his hooves.

"It is I who dared to do so," he repeated, and he lowered his head to receive a blow from the sword. "Many lives will be saved, because I was able to see through to the Soul of the World."
The sword didn't fall. Instead, the stranger lowered it slowly, until the point touched the boy's forehead. It drew a droplet of blood.
It didn't even occur to the boy to flee. In his heart, he felt a strange sense of joy; he was about to die in pursuit of his Personal Legend.
Here he was, face-to-face with his enemy, but there was no need to be concerned about dying--the Soul of the World awaited him, and he would soon be a part of it. And, tomorrow, his enemy would also be a part of that Soul.
The stranger continued to hold the sword at the boy's forehead. "Why did you read the flight of the birds?"
"I read only what the birds wanted to tell me. They wanted to save the oasis. Tomorrow all of you will die, because there are more men at the oasis than you have."
The sword remained where it was. "Who are you to change what Allah has willed?"
"Allah created the armies, and he also created the hawks. Allah taught me the language of the birds. Everything has been written by the same hand," the boy said, remembering the camel driver's words.

The stranger withdrew the sword from the boy's forehead, and the boy felt immensely relieved. But he still couldn't flee.
"Be careful with your prognostications," said the stranger. "When something is written, there is no way to change it."
"All I saw was an army," said the boy. "I didn't see the outcome of the battle."
The stranger seemed satisfied with the answer. "What is a stranger doing in a strange land?"
"I am following my Personal Legend. It's not something you would understand.
The stranger placed his sword in its scabbard, and the boy relaxed.
"I had to test your courage," the stranger said. "Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World."
The boy was surprised. The stranger was speaking of things that very few people knew about.
"You must not let up, even after having come so far," he continued. "You must love the desert, but never trust it completely. Because the desert tests all men: it challenges every step, and kills those who become distracted."
What he said reminded the boy of the old king.
"If the warriors come here, and your head is still on your shoulders at sunset, come and find me," said the stranger.

The same hand that had brandished the sword now held a whip.
"Where do you live?" shouted the boy, as the horseman rode away.
The hand with the whip pointed to the south.
The boy had met the alchemist.

Next morning, there were two thousand armed men scattered throuout the palm trees at Al-Fayou. Before the sun had reached its high point, five hundred tribesmen appeared on the horizon. The mounted troops entered the oasis from the north; it appeared to be a peaceful expedition, but they all carried arms hidden in their robes. When they reached the white tent at the center of Al-Fayoum, they withdrew their scinitars and rifles. And they attacked an empty tent.
The men of the oasis surrounded the horsemen from the desert and within half an hour all but one of the intruders were dead.
The only tribesman spared was the commander of the battalion. That afternoon, he was brought before the tribal chiertain who asked him why he had violated the Tradition.

The commander said that his men had been starving and thirsty, exhausted from many days of battle, and had decided to take the oasis so as to be able to return to the war.
The tribal chieftain said that he felt sorry for the tribesmen, but that the Tradition was sacred. He condemned the commander to death without honor. Rather than being killed by a blade or a bullet, he was hanged from a dead palm tree, where his body twisted in the desert wind.
The tribal chieftain called for the boy, and presented him with fifty pieces of gold. He repeated his story about Joseph of Egypt, and asked the boy to become the counselor of the oasis.

When the sun had set, and the first stars made their appearance, the boy started to walk to the south. He eventually sighted a single tent, and a group of Arabs passing by told the boy that it was a place inhabited by genies. But the boy sat down and waited.
Not until the moon was high did the alchemist ride into view. He carried two dead hawks over his shoulder.
"I am here," the boy said.
"You shouldn't be here," the alchemist answered. "Or is it your Personal Legend that brings you here?"
"With the wars between the tribes, it's impossible to cross the desert. So I have come here."

The alchemist dismounted from his horse, and signaled that the boy should enter the tent with him.
It was a tent like many at the oasis. The boy looked around for the ovens and other apparatus used in alchemy, but saw none. There were only some books in a pile, a small cooking stove, and the carpets, covered with mysterious designs.
"Sit down. We'll have something to drink and eat these hawks," said the alchemist.
"Why did you want to see me?" the boy asked.
"Because of the omens," the alchemist answered. "The wind told me you would be coming, and that you would need help."
"It's not I the wind spoke about. It's the other foreigner, the Englishman. He's the one that's looking for you."
"He has other things to do first. But he's on the right track. He has begun to try to understand the desert."
"And what about me?"
"When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream," said the alchemist, echoing the words of the old king. The boy understood. Another person was there to help him toward his Personal Legend.

"So you are going to instruct me?"
"No. You already know all you need to know. I am only going to point you in the direction of your treasure."
"But there's a tribal war," the boy reiterated.
"I know what's happening in the desert."
"I have already found my treasure. I have a camel, I have my money from the crystal shop, and I have fifty gold pieces. In my own country; I would be a rich man.
"But none of that is from the Pyramids," said the alchemist.
"I also have Fatima. She is a treasure greater than anything else I have won."
"She wasn't found at the Pyramids either."
They ate in silence. The alchemist opened a bottle and poured a red liquid into the boy's cup. It was the most delicious wine he had ever tasted.
"Isn't wine prohibited here?" the boy asked.
"It's not what enters men's mouths that's evil," said the alchemist. "It's what comes out of their mouths that is."
"Drink and enjoy yourself," said the alchemist, noticing that the boy was feeling happier. "Rest well tonight, as if you were a warrior preparing for combat.

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You've got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense.
"Tomorrow, sell your camel and buy a horse. Camels are traitorous: they walk thousands of paces and never seem to tire. Then suddenly, they kneel and die. But horses tire bit by bit. You always know how much you can ask of them, and when it is that they are about to die."

The following night, the boy appeared at the alchemist's tent with a horse.
The alchemist was ready, and he mounted his own steed and placed the falcon on his left shoulder. He said to the boy, "Show me where there is life out in the desert. Only those who can see such signs of life are able to find treasure."
They began to ride out over the sands, with the moon lighting their way.
"I don't know how to find life in the desert," the boy said. "I know that there is life here, but I don't know where to look."

"Life attracts life," the alchemist answered.
And then the boy understood. He loosened the reins on his horse, who galloped forward over the rocks and sand. The Alchemist followed as the boy's horse ran for almost half an hour. They could no longer see the palms of the oasis--only the gigantic moon above them, and its silver reflections from the stones of the desert. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the boy's horse began to slow.
"There's life here," the boy said to the alchemist. "I don't know the language of the desert, but my horse knows the language of life."
They dismounted, and the alchemist said nothing. Advancing slowly, they searched among the stones. The alchemist stopped abruptly, and bent to the ground. There was a hole there among the stones. The alchemist put his hand into the hole, and then his entire arm, up to his shoulder. Something was moving there, and the alchemist's eyes--the boy could see only his eyes--squinted with his effort. His arm seemed to be battling with whatever was in the hole. Then, with a motion that startled the boy, he withdrew his arm and leaped to his feet. In his hand, he grasped a snake by the tail.
The snake fought frantically, making hissing sounds that shattered the silence of the desert. It was a cobra, whose venom could kill a person in minutes.

"Watch out for his venom," the boy said. But even though the alchemist had put his hand in the hole, and had surely already been bitten, his expression was calm. "The alchemist is two hundred years old," the Englishman had told him. He must know how to deal with the snakes of the desert.
The boy watched as his companion went to his horse and withdrew a scinitar. With its blade, he drew a circle in the sand, and then he placed the snake within it. The serpent relaxed immediately.
"Not to worry," said the alchemist. "He won't leave the circle. You found life in the desert, the omen that I needed."
"Whay was that so important?"
"Because the Pyramids are surrounded by the desert."
The boy didn't want to talk about the Pyramids. His heart was heavy, and he had been melancholy since the previous night. To continue his search for the treasure meant that he had to abandon Fatima.
"I'm going to guide you across the desert," the alchemist said.
"I want to stay at the oasis," the boy answered. "I've found Fatima, and, as far as I'm concerned, she's worth more than treasure.
"Fatima is a woman of the desert," said the alchemist. "She knows that men have to go away in order to return. And she already has her treasure: it's you. Now she expects that you will find what it is you're looking for."

"Well, what if I decide to stay?"
"Let me tell you what will happen. You'll be the counselor of the oasis. You have enough gold to buy many sheep and many camels. You'll marry Fatima, and you'll get to know every one of the fifty thousand palms. You'll watch them as they grow, demonstrating how the world is always changing. And you'll get better and better at understanding omens, because the desert is the best teacher there is.
"Sometime during the second year, you'll remember about the treasure. The omens will begin insistently to speak of it, and you'll try to ignore them. You'll use your knowledge for the welfare of the oasis and its inhabitants. The tribal chieftains will appreciate what you do. And your camels will bring you wealth and power.
"During the third year, the omens will continue to speak of your treasure and your Personal Legend. You'll walk around, night after night, at the oasis, and Fatima will be unhappy because she'll feel it was she who interrupted your quest. But you will love her, and she'll return your love. You'll remember that she never asked you to stay, because a woman of the desert knows that she must await her man. So you won't blame her. But many times you'll walk the sands of the desert, thinking that maybe you could have left... that you could have trusted more in your love for Fatima. Because what kept you at the oasis was your own fear that you might never come back.

At that point, the omens will tell you that your treasure is buried forever.
"Then, sometime during the fourth year, the omens will abandon you, because you've stopped listening to them. The tribal chieftains will see that, and you'll be dismissed from your position as counselor. But, by then, you'll be a rich merchant, with many camels and a great deal of merchandise. You'll spend the rest of your days knowing that you didn't pursue your Personal Legend, and that now it's too late.
"You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it's because it wasn't true love...the love that speaks the Language of the World.
The alchemist erased the circle in the sand, and the snake slithered way among the rocks. The boy remembered the crystal merchant who had always wanted to go to Mecca, and the Englishman in search of the alchemist. He thought of the woman who had trusted in the desert. And he looked out over the desert that had brought him to the woman he loved.
They mounted their horses, and this time it was the boy who followed the alchemist back to the oasis. The wind brought the sounds of the oasis to them, and the boy tried to hear Fatima's voice.
But that night, as he had watched the cobra within the circle, the strange horseman with the falcon on his shoulder had spoken of love and treasure, of the women of the desert and of his Personal Legend.

"I'm going with you," the boy said. And he immediately felt peace in his heart.
"We'll leave tomorrow before sunrise," was the alchemist's only response.

The boy spent a sleepless night. Two hours before dawn, he awoke one of the boys who slept in his tent, and asked him to show him where Fatima lived. They went to her tent, and the boy gave his friend enough gold to buy a sheep.
Then he asked his friend to go into the tent where Fatima was sleeping, and to awaken her and tell her that he was waiting outside. The young Arab did as he was asked, and was given enough gold to buy yet another sheep.
"Now leave us alone," said the boy to the young Arab.
Fatima appeared at the entrance to the tent. The two walked out among the palms. The boy knew that it was a violation of the Tradition, but that didn't matter to him now.
"I'm going away," he said. "And I want you to know that I"m coming back. I love you because..."

"Don't say anything," Fatima interrupted. "One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving."
But the boy continued, "I had a dream, and I met with a king, I sold crystal and crossed the desert. And because the tribes declared war, I went to the well, seeking the alchemist. So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you."
The two embraced. It was the first time either had touched the other.
"Before this, I always looked to the desert with longing," said Fatima. "Now it will be with hope."
They said nothing else. They walked a bit farther among the palms, and then the boy left her at the entrance to her tent.
"I'll return, just as your father came back to your mother," he said.
He saw that Fatima's eyes were filled with tears.
"You're crying?"
"I'm a woman of the desert," she said, averting her face. "But above all, I'm a woman."
Fatima went back to her tent, and, when daylight came, she went out to do the chores she had done for years. But everything had changed. The boy was no longer at the oasis, and the oasis would never again have the same meaning it had had only yesterday.

From that day on, the oasis would be an empty place for her.
From that day on, it was the desert that would be important. She would look to it every day, and would try to guess which star the boy was following in search of his treasure. She would have to send her kisses on the wind, hoping that the wind would touch the boy's face, and would tell him that she was alive. That she was waiting for him, a woman awaiting a courageous man in search of his treasure. From that day on, the desert would represent only one thing to her: the hope for his return.

"Don't think about what you've left behind," the alchemist said to the boy as they began to ride across the sands of the desert. "Everything is written in the Soul of the World, and there it will stay forever."
"Men dream more about coming home than about leaving," the boy said. He was already reaccustomed to the desert's silence.
"If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return."

The man was speaking the language of alchemy. But the boy knew that he was referring to Fatima.
It was difficult not to think about what he had left behind.
Maybe the alchemist has never been in love, the boy thought.
The alchemist rode in front, with the falcon on his shoulder. The bird knew the language of the desert well, and whenever they stopped, he flew off in search of game. On the first day he returned with a rabbit, and on the second with two birds.
They went on for a week, speaking only of the precautions they needed to follow in order to avoid the battles between the tribes. The war continued, and at times the wind carried the sweet, sickly smell of blood. Battles had been fought nearby, and the wind reminded the boy that there was the language of omens, always ready to show him what his eyes had failed to observe.
On the seventh day, the alchemist decided to make camp earlier than usual.

"You are almost at the end of your journey," said the alchemist. "I congratulate you for having pursued your Personal Legend."
"And you've told me nothing along the way," said the boy. "I thought you were going to teach me some of the things you know. A while ago, I rode through the desert with a man who had books on alchemy. But I wasn't able to learn anything from them."
"There is only one way to learn," the alchemist answered. "It's through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey. You need to learn only one thing more."
The boy wanted to know what that was, but the alchemist was searching the horizon, looking for the falcon.
"Why are you called the alchemist?"
"Because that's what I am."
"And what went wrong when other alchemists tried to make gold and were unable to do so?"
"They were looking only for gold," his companion answered. "They were seeking the treasure of their Personal Legend, without wanting actually to live out the Personal Legend."
"What is it that I still need to know?" the boy asked.

"I'm an alchemist simply because I'm an alchemist," he said, as he prepared the meal. I learned the science from my grandfather, who learned from his father, and so on, back to the creation of the world. In those times, the Master Work could be written simply on an emerald. But men began to reject simple things, and to write tracts, interpretations, and philosophical studies. They also began to feel that they knew a better way than others had. Yet the Emerald Tablet is still alive today."
"What was written on the Emerald Tablet?" the boy wanted to know.
The alchemist began to draw in the sand, and completed his drawing in less than five minutes. As he drew, the boy thought of the old king, and the plaza where they had met that day; it seemed as if it had taken place years and years ago.
"This is what was written on the Emerald Tablet," said the alchemist, when he had finished.
The boy tried to read what was written in the sand.
"It's a code," said the boy, a bit disappointed. "It looks like what I saw in the Englishman's books."
"No," the alchemist answered. "It's like the flight of those two hawks; it can't be understood by reason alone.

The Emerald Tablet is a direct passage to the Soul of the World.
"The wise men understood that this natural world is only an image and a copy of paradise. The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect. God created the world so that, through its visible objects, men could understand his spiritual teachings and the marvels of his wisdom. That's what I mean by action."
"Should I understand the Emerald Tablet?" the boy asked.
"Perhaps, if you were in a laboratory of alchemy, this would be the right time to study the best way to understand the Emerald Tablet. But you are in the desert. So immerse yourself in it. The desert will give you an understanding of the world; in fact, anything on the face of the earth will do that. 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."
"How do I immerse myself in the desert?"
"Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there."

They crossed the desert for another two days in silence. The alchemist had become much more cautious, because they were approaching the area where the most violent battles were being waged. As they moved along, the boy tried to listen to his heart.

It was not easy to do; in earlier times, his heart had always been ready to tell its story, but lately that wasn't true. There had been times when his heart spent hours telling of its sadness, and at other times it became so emotional over the desert sunrise that the boy had to hide his tears. His heart beat fastest when it spoke to the boy of treasure, and more slowly when the boy stared entranced at the endless horizons of the desert. But his heart was never quiet, even when the boy and the alchemist had fallen into silence.
"Why do we have to listen to our hearts?" the boy asked, when they had made camp that day.
"Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you'll find your treasure."
"But my heart is agitated," the boy said. "It has its dreams, it gets emotional, and it's become passionate over a woman of the desert. It asks things of me, and it keeps me from sleeping many nights, when I'm thinking about her."
"Well, that's good. Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say."
During the next three days, the two travelers passed by a number of armed tribesmen, and saw others on the horizon. The boy's heart began to speak of fear. It told him stories it had heard from the Soul of the World, stories of men who sought to find their treasure and never succeeded.

Sometimes it frightened the boy with the idea that he might not find his treasure, or that he might die there in the desert. At other times, it told the boy that it was satisfied: it had found love and riches.
"My heart is a traitor," the boy said to the alchemist, when they had paused to rest the horses. "It doesn't want me to go on."
"That makes sense," the alchemist answered. "Naturally it's afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you've won."
"Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?"
"Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you're thinking about life and about the world.
"You mean I should listen, even if it's treasonous?"
"Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because you'll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them.
"You will never be able to escape from your heart. "So it's better to listen to what it has to say. That way, you'll never have to fear an unanticipated blow."
The boy continued to listen to his heart as they crossed the desert. He came to understand its dodges and tricks, and to accept it as it was. He lost his fear, and forgot about his need to go back to the oasis, because, one afternoon, his heart told him that it was happy.

"Even though I complain sometimes," it said, "it's because I'm the heart of a person, and people's hearts are that way. People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don't deserve them, or that they'll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren't, or of treasure that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands. Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly."
"My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.
"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."
"Every second of the search is an encounter with God," the boy told his heart. "When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I've known that every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I've discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve."
So his heart was quiet for an entire afternoon.

That night, the boy slept deeply, and, when he awoke, his heart began to tell him things that came from the Soul of the World. It said that all people who are happy have God within them. And that happiness could be found in a grain of sand from the desert, as the alchemist had said. Because a grain of sand is a moment of creation, and the universe has taken millions of years to create it. "Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him," his heart said. "We, people's hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them--the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.
"So, we, their hearts, speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won't be heard: we don't want people to suffer because they don't follow their hearts."
"Why don't people's hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?" the boy asked the alchemist.
"Because that's what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don't like to suffer."
From then on, the boy understood his heart. He asked it, please, never to stop speaking to him. He asked that, when he wandered far from his dreams, his heart press him and sound the alarm.

The boy swore that, every time he heard the alarm, he would heed its message.
That night, he told all of this to the alchemist. And the alchemist understood that the boy's heart had returned to the Soul of the World.
"So what should I do now?" the boy asked.
"Continue in the direction of the Pyramids," said the alchemist. "And continue to pay heed to the omens. Your heart is still capable of showing you where the treasure is."
"Is that the one thing I still needed to know?"
"No," the alchemist answered. "What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved toward that dream. That's the point at which most people give up. It's the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one 'dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.'
"Every search begins with beginner's luck. And every search ends with the victor's being severely tested."
The boy remembered an old proverb from his country. It is said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn.

On the following day, the first clear sign of danger appeared. Three armed tribesmen approached, and asked what the boy and the alchemist were doing there.
"I'm hunting with my falcon," the alchemist answered.
"We're going to have to search you to see whether you're armed," one of the tribesmen said.
The alchemist dismounted slowly, and the boy did the same.
"Why are you carrying money?" asked the tribesman, when he had searched the boy's bag.
"I need it to get to the Pyramids," he said.
The tribesman who was searching the alchemist's belongings found a small crystal flask filled with a liquid, and a yellow glass egg that was slightly larger than a chicken's egg.
"What are these things?" he asked.
"That's the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life. It's the Master Work of the alchemists. Whoever swallows that elixir will never be sick again, and a fragment from that stone turns any metal into gold."
The Arabs laughed at him, and the alchemist laughed along. They thought his answer was amusing, and they allowed the boy and the alchemist to proceed with all of their belongings.

"Are you crazy?" the boy asked the alchemist, when they had moved on. "What did you do that for?"
"To show you one of life's simple lessons," the alchemist answered. "When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed."
They continued across the desert. With every day that passed, the boy's heart became more and more silent. It no longer wanted to know about things of the past or future; it was content simply to contemplate the desert, and to drink with the boy from the Soul of the World. The boy and his heart had become friends, and neither was capable now of betraying the other.
His heart told the boy what his strongest qualities were: his courage in having given up his sheep and in trying to live out his Personal Legend, and his enthusiasm during the time he had worked at the crystal shop.
And his heart told him something else that the boy had never noticed: it told the boy of dangers that had threatened him, but that he had never perceived. His heart said that one time it had hidden the rifle the boy had taken from his father, because of the possibility that the boy might wound himself. And it reminded the boy of the day when he had been ill and vomiting out in the fields, after which he had fallen into a deep sleep. There had been two thieves farther ahead who were planning to steal the boy's sheep and murder him.

But, since the boy hadn't passed by, they had decided to move on, thinking that he had changed his route.
"Does a man's heart always help him?" the boy asked the alchemist.
"Mostly just the hearts of those who are trying to realize their Personal Legends. But they do help children, drunkards, and the elderly, too."
"Does that mean that I'll never run into danger?"
"It means only that the heart does what it can," the alchemist said.
One afternoon, they passed by the encampment of one of the tribes.
No one paid any attention to the two travelers.
"There's no danger," the boy said, when they had moved on past the encampment.
The alchemist sounded angry: "Trust in your heart, but never forget that you're in the desert. When men are at war with one another, the Soul of the World can hear the screams of battle. No one fails to suffer the consequences of everything under the sun."
All things are one, the boy thought. And then, as if the desert wanted to demonstrate that the alchemist was right, two horsemen appeared from behind the travelers.

"You can't go any farther," one of them said. "You're in the area where the tribes are at war."
"I'm not going very far," the alchemist answered, looking straight into the eyes of the horsemen. They were silent for a moment, and then agreed that the boy and the alchemist could move along.
"The boy watched the exchange with fascination. "You dominated those horsemen with the way you looked at them," he said.
"Your eyes show the strength of your soul," answered the alchemist.
Finally, when they had crossed the mountain range that extended along the entire horizon, the alchemist said that they were only two days from the Pyramids.
"If we're going to go our separate ways soon," the boy said, "then teach me about alchemy."
"You already know about alchemy. It is about penetrating to the Soul of the World, and discovering the treasure that has been reserved for you."
"No, that's not what I mean. I'm talking about transforming lead into gold."

"Everything in the universe evolved," he said. "And, for wise men, gold is the metal that evolved the furthest. Don't ask me why; I don't know why. I just know that the Tradition is always right.
"Men have never understood the words of the wise. So gold, instead of being seen as a symbol of evolution, became the basis for conflict."
"There are many languages spoken by things," the boy said.
"I have known true alchemists," the alchemist continued. "They locked themselves in their laboratories, and tried to evolve, as gold had. And they found the Philosopher's Stone, because they understood that when something evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well.
"Others stumbled upon the stone by accident. They already had the gift, and their souls were readier for such things than the souls of others. But they don't count. They're quite rare.
"And then there were the others, who were interested only in gold. They never found the secret. They forget that lead, copper, and iron have their own Personal Legends to fulfill.

And anyone who interferes with the Personal Legend of another thing never will discover his own."
The alchemist's words echoed out like a curse. He reached over and picked up a shell from the ground.
"This desert was once a sea," he said.
"I noticed that," the boy answered.
The alchemist told the boy to place the shell over his ear. He had done that many times when he was a child, and had heard the sound of the sea.
"The sea has lived on in this shell, because that's its Personal Legend. And it will never cease doing so until the desert is once again covered by water."
They mounted their horses, and rode out in the direction of the Pyramids of Egypt.

The sun was setting when the boy's heart sounded a danger signal. They were surrounded by gigantic dunes, and the boy looked at the alchemist to see whether he had sensed anything. But he appeared to be unaware of any danger. Five minutes later, the boy saw two horsemen waiting ahead of them. Before he could say anything to the alchemist, the two horsemen had become ten, and then a hundred. And then they were everywhere in the dunes.
They were tribesmen dressed in blue, with black rings surrounding their turbans.

Their faces were hidden behind blue veils, with only their eyes showing.
Even from a distance, their eyes conveyed the strength of their souls. And their eyes spoke of death.

The two were taken to a nearby military camp. A soldier showed the boy and the alchemist into a tent where the chief was holding a meeting with his staff.
"These are the spies," said one of the men.
"We're just travelers," the alchemist answered.
"You were seen at the enemy camp three days ago. And you were talking with one of the troops there."
"I'm just a man who wanders the desert and knows the stars," said the alchemist. "I have no information about troops or about the movement of the tribes. I was simply acting as a guide for my friend here."
"Who is your friend?" the chief asked.
"An alchemist," said the alchemist. "He understands the forces of nature. And he wants to show you his extraordinary powers."
The boy listened quietly. And fearfully.
"What is a foreigner doing here?" asked another of the men.
"He has brought money to give to your tribe," said the alchemist, before the boy could say a word. And seizing the boy's bag, the alchemist gave the gold coins to the chief.

The Arab accepted them without a word. There was enough there to buy a lot of weapons.
"What is an alchemist?" he asked, finally.
"It's a man who understands nature and the world. If he wanted to, he could destroy this camp just with the force of the wind."
The men laughed. They were used to the ravages of war, and knew that the wind could not deliver them a fatal blow. Yet each felt his heart beat a bit faster. They were men of the desert, and they were fearful of sorcerers.
"I want to see him do it," said the chief.
"He needs three days," answered the alchemist. "He is going to transform himself into the wind, just to demonstrate his powers. If he can't do so, we humbly offer you our lives, for the honor of your tribe."
"You can't offer me something that is already mine," the chief said, arrogantly. But he granted the travelers three days.
The boy was shaking with fear, but the alchemist helped him out of the tent.
"Don't let them see that you're afraid," the alchemist said. "They are brave men, and they despise cowards."
But the boy couldn't even speak. He was able to do so only after they had walked through the center of the camp. There was no need to imprison them: the Arabs simply confiscated their horses. So, once again, the world had demonstrated its many languages: the desert only moments ago had been endless and free, and now it was an impenetrable wall.

"You gave them everyting I had!" the boy said. "Everything I've saved in my entire life!"
"Well, what good would it be to you if you had to die?" the alchemist answered. "Your money saved us for three days. It's not often that money saves a person's life."
But the boy was too frightened to listen to words of wisdom. He had no idea how he was going to transform himself into the wind. He wasn't an alchemist!
The alchemist asked one of the soldiers for some tea, and poured some on the boy's wrists. A wave of relief washed over him, and the alchemist muttered some words that the boy didn't understand.
"Don't give in to your fears," said the alchemist, in a strangely gentle voice. "If you do, you won't be able to talk to your heart."
"But I have no idea how to turn myself into the wind."
"If a person is living out his Personal Legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure."
"I'm not afraid of failing. It's just that I don't know how to turn myself into the wind."
"Well, you'll have to learn; your life depends on it."
"But what if I can't?"

"Then you'll die in the midst of trying to realize your Personal Legend. That's a lot better than dying like millions of other people, who never even knew what their Personal Legends were.
"But don't worry," the alchemist continued. "Usually the threat of death makes people a lot more aware of their lives."

The first day passed. There was a major battle nearby, and a number of wounded were brought back to the camp. The dead soldiers were replaced by others, and life went on. Death doesn't change anything, the boy thought.
"You could have died later on," a soldier said to the body of one of his companions. "You could have died after peace had been declared. But, in any case, you were going to die."
At the end of the day, the boy went looking for the alchemist, who had taken his falcon out into the desert.
"I still have no idea how to turn myself into the wind," the boy repeated.
"Remember what I told you: the world is only the visible aspect of God. And that what alchemy does is to bring spiritual perfection into contact with the material plane."
"What are you doing?"
"Feeding my falcon."

"If I'm not able to turn myself into the wind, we're going to die," the boy said. "Why feed your falcon?"
"You're the one who may die," the alchemist said. "I already know how to turn mself into the wind."

On the second day, the boy climbed to the top of a cliff near the camp. The sentinels allowed him to go; they had already heard about the sorcerer who could turn himself into the wind, and they didn't want to go near him. In any case, the desert was impassable.
He spent the entire afternoon of the second day looking out over the desert, and listening to his heart. The boy knew the desert sensed his fear.
They both spoke the same language.

On the third day, the chief met with his officers. He called the alchemist to the meeting and said, "Let's go see the boy who turns himself into the wind."
"Let's," the alchemist answered.
The boy took them to the cliff where he had been on the previous day. He told them all to be seated. "It's going to take awhile," the boy said.
"We're in no hurry," the chief answered. "We are men of the desert."

The boy looked out at the horizon. There were mountains in the distance. And there were dunes, rocks, and plants that insisted on living where survival seemed impossible. There was the desert that he had wandered for so many months; despite all that time, he knew only a small part of it. Within that small part, he had found an Englishman, caravans, tribal wars, and an oasis with fifty thousand palm trees and three hundred wells.
"What do you want here today?" the desert asked him. "Didn't you spend enough time looking at me yesterday?"
"Somewhere you are holding the person I love," the boy said. "So, when I look out over your sands, I am also looking at her. I want to return to her, and I need your help so that I can turn myself into the wind."
"What is love?" the desert asked.
"Love is the falcon's flight over your sands. Because for him, you are a green field, from which he always returns with game. He knows your rocks, your dunes, and your mountains, and you are generous to him."
"The falcon's beak carries bits of me, myself," the desert said. "For years, I care for his game, feeding it with the little water that I have, and then I show him where the game is. And, one day, as I enjoy the fact that his game thrives on my surface, the falcon dives out of the sky, and takes away what I've created."
"But that's why you created the game in the first place," the boy answered.

"To nourish the falcon. And the falcon then nourishes man. And, eventually, man will nourish your sands, where the game will once again flourish. That's how the world goes."
"So is that what love is?"
"Yes, that's what love is. It's what makes the game become the falcon, the falcon become man, and man, in his turn, the desert. It's what turns lead into gold, and makes the gold return to the earth.
"I don't understand what you're talking about," the desert said.
"But you can at least understand that somewhere in your sands there is a woman waiting for me. And that's why I have to turn myself into the wind."
The desert didn't answer him for a few moments.
Then it told him, "I'll give you my sands to help the wind to blow, but, alone, I can't do anything. You have to ask for help from the wind."
A breeze began to blow. The tribesmen watched the boy from a distance, talking among themselves in a language that the boy couldn't understand.
The alchemist smiled.
The wind approached the boy and touched his face. It knew of the boy's talk with the desert, because the winds know everything. They blow across the world without a birthplace, and with no place to die.

"Help me," the boy said. "One day you carried the voice of my loved one to me."
"Who taught you to speak the language of the desert and the wind?"
"My heart," the boy answered.
The wind has many names. In that part of the world, it was called the sirocco, because it brought moisture from the oceans to the east. In the distant land the boy came from, they called it the levanter, because they believed that it brought with it the sands of the desert, and the screams of the Moorish wars. Perhaps, in the places beyond the pastures where his sheep lived, men thought that the wind came from Andalusia. But, actually, the wind came from no place at all, nor did it go to any place; that's why it was stronger than the desert. Someone might one day plant trees in the desert, and even raise sheep there, but never would they harness the wind.
"You can't be the wind," the wind said. "We're two very different things."
"That's not true," the boy said. "I learned the alchemist's secrets in my travels. I have inside me the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the stars, and everything created in the universe. We were all made by the same hand, and we have the same soul. I want to be like you, able to reach every corner of the world, cross the seas, blow away the sands that cover my treasure, and carry the voice of the woman I love."

"I heard what you were talking about the other day with the alchemist," the wind said. "He said that everything has its own Personal Legend. But people can't turn themselves into the wind."
"Just teach me to be the wind for a few moments," the boy said. "So you and I can talk about the limitless possibilities of people and the winds."
The wind's curiosity was aroused, something that had never happened before. It wanted to talk about those things, but it didn't know how to turn a man into the wind. And look how many things the wind already knew how to do! It created deserts, sank ships, felled entire forests, and blew through cities filled with music and strange noises. It felt that it had no limits, yet here was a boy saying that there were other things the wind should be able to do.
"This is what we call love," the boy said, seeing that the wind was close to granting what he requested. "When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there's no need at all to understand what's happening, because everything happens within you, and even men can turn themselves into the wind. As long as the wind helps, of course."
The wind was a proud being, and it was becoming irritated with what the boy was saying. It commenced to blow harder, raising the desert sands. But finally it had to recongnize that, even making its way around the world, it didn't know how to turn a man into the wind.

And it knew nothing about love.
"In my travels around the world, I've often seen people speaking of love and looking toward the heavens," the wind said, furious at having to acknowledge its own limitations. "Maybe it's better to ask heaven."
"Well then, help me do that," the boy said. "Fill this place with a sandstorm so strong that it blots out the sun. Then I can look to heaven without blinding myself."
So the wind blew with all its strength, and the sky was filled with sand. The sun was turned into a golden disk.
At the camp, it was difficult to see anything. The men of the desert were already familiar with that wind. They called it the simum, and it was worse than a storm at sea. Their horses cried out, and all their weapons were filled with sand.
On the heights, one of the commanders turned to the chief and said, "Maybe we had better end this!"
They could barely see the boy. Their faces were covered with the blue cloths, and their eyes showed fear.
"Let's stop this," another commander said.
"I want to see the greatness of Allah," the chief said, with respect. "I want to see how a man turns himself into the wind."
But he made a mental note of the names of the two men who had expressed their fear. As soon as the wind stopped, he was going to remove them from their commands, because true men of the desert are not afraid

"The wind told me that you know about love," the boy said to the sun. "If you know about love, you must also know about the Soul of the World, because it's made of love."
"From where I am," the sun said, "I can see the Soul of the World. It communicates with my soul, and together we cause the plants to grow and the sheep to seek out shade. From where I am--and I'm a long way from the earth--I learned how to love. I know that if I came even a little bit closer to the earth, everything there would die, and the Soul of the World would no longer exist. So we contemplate each other, and we want each other, and I give it life and warmth, and it gives me my reason for living."
"So you know about love," the boy said.
"And I know the Soul of the World, because we have talked at great length to each other during this endless trip through the universe. It tells me that its greatest problem is that, up until now, only the minerals and vegetables understand that all things are one. That there's no need for iron to be the same as copper, or copper the same as gold. Each performs its own exact function as a unique being, and everything would be a symphony of peace if the hand that wrote all this had stopped on the fifth day of creation.
"But there was a sixth day," the sun went on.

"You are wise, because you observe everything from a distance," the boy said. "But you don't know about love. If there hadn't been a sixth day, man would not exist; copper would always be just copper, and lead just lead. It's true that everything has its Personal Legend, but one day that Personal Legend will be realized. So each thing has to transform itself into something better, and to acquire a new Personal Legend, until, someday, the Soul of the World becomes one thing only."
The sun thought about that, and decided to shine more brightly. The wind, which was enjoying the conversation, started to blow with greater force, so that the sun would not blind the boy.
"This is why alchemy exists," the boy said. "So that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life. Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead; and then lead will have to turn itself into gold.
"That's what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too."
"Well, why did you say that I don't know about love?" the sun asked the boy.
"Because it's not love to be static like the desert, nor is it love to roam the world like the wind. And it's not love to see everything from a distance, like you do. Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World

When I first reached through to it, I thought the Soul of the World was perfect. But later, I could see that it was like other aspects of creation, and had its own passions and wars. It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that's where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are."
"So what do you want of me?" the sun asked.
"I want you to help me turn myself into the wind," the boy answered.
"Nature knows me as the wisest being in creation," the sun said. "But I don't know how to turn you into the wind."
"Then, whom should I ask?"
The sun thought for a minute. The wind was listening closely, and wanted to tell every corner of the world that the sun's wisdom had its limitations. That it was unable to deal with this boy who spoke the Language of the World.
"Speak to the hand that wrote all," said the sun.
The wind screamed with delight, and blew harder than ever.
The tents werre being blown from their ties to the earth, and the animals were being freed from their tethers. On the cliff, the men clutched at each other as they sought to keep from being blown away.
The boy turned to the hand that wrote all. As he did so, he sensed that the universe had fallen silent, and he decided not to speak.

A current of love rushed from his heart, and the boy began to pray. It was a prayer that he had never said before, because it was a prayer without words or pleas. His prayer didn't give thanks for his sheep having found new pastures; it didn't ask that the boy be able to sell more crystal; and it didn't beseech that the woman he had met continue to await his return. In the silence, the boy understood that the desert, the wind, and the sun were also trying to understand the signs written by the hand, and were seeking to follow their paths, and to understand what had been written on a single emerald. He saw that omens were scattered throughout the earth and in space, and that there was no reason or significance attached to their appearance; he could see that not the deserts, nor the winds, nor the sun, nor people knew why they had been created. But that the hand had a reason for all of this, and that only the hand could perfom miracles, or transform the sea into a desert...or a man into the wind. Because only the hand understood that it was a larger design that had moved the universe to the point at which six days of creation had evolved into a Master Work.
The boy reached through to the Soul of the World, and saw that it was a part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perfom miracles.

The simum blew that day as it had never blown before. For generations thereafter, the Arabs recounted the legend of a boy who had turned himself into the wind, almost destroying a military camp, in defiance of the most powerful chief in the desert.
When the simum ceased to blow, everyone looked to the place where the boy had been. But he was no longer there; he was standing next to a sand-covered sentinel, on the far side of the camp.
The men were terrified at his sorcery. But there were two people who were smiling; the alchemist, because he had found his perfect disciple, and the chief, because that disciple had understood the glory of God.
The following day, the general bade the boy and the alchemist farewell, and provided them with an escort party to accompany them as far as they chose.

They rode for the entire day. Toward the end of the afternoon, they came upon a Coptic monastery. The alchemist dismounted, and told the escorts they could return to the camp.
"From here on, you will be alone," the alchemist said.
"You are only three hours from the Pyramids."
"Thank you," said the boy. "You taught me the Language of the World."

"I only invoked what you already knew."
The alchemist knocked on the gate of the monastery. A monk dressed in black came to the gates. They spoke for a few minutes in the Coptic tongue, and the alchemist bade the boy enter.
"I asked him to let me use the kitchen for a while," the alchemist smiled.
They went to the kitchen at the back of the monastery. The alchemist lighted the fire, and the monk brought him some lead, which the alchemist placed in an iron pan. When the lead had become liquid, the alchemist took from his pouch the strange yellow egg. He scraped from it a sliver as thin as a hair, wrapped it in wax, and added it to the pan in which the lead had melted.
The mixture took on a reddish color, almost the color of blood. The alchemist removed the pan from the fire, and set it aside to cool. As he did so, he talked with the monk about the tribal wars.
"I think they're going to last for a long time," he said to the monk.
The monk was irritated. The caravans had been stopped at Giza for some time, waiting for the wars to end. "But God's will be done," the monk said.
Exactly," answered the alchemist.
When the pan had cooled, the monk and the boy looked at it, dazzled.

The lead had dried into the shape of the pan, but it was no longer lead. It was gold.
"Will I learn to do that someday?" the boy asked.
"This was my Personal Legend, not yours," the alchemist answered. But I wanted to show you that it was possible."
They returned to the gates of the monastery. There, the alchemist separated the disk into four parts.
"But this payment goes well beyond my generosity," the monk responded.
"Don't say that again. Life might be listening, and give you less the next time."
The alchemist turned to the boy. "This is for you. To make up for what you gave to the general."
The boy was about to say that it was much more than he had given the general. But he kept quiet, because he had heard what the alchemist said to the monk.
"And this is for me," said the alchemist, keeping one of the parts. "Because I have to return to the desert, where there are tribal wars."
He took the fourth part and handed it to the monk.
"This is for the boy. If he ever needs it."
"But I'm going in search of my treasure," the boy said. I'm very close to it now."

"And I'm certain you'll find it," the alchemist said.
"Then why this?"
"Because you have already lost your savings twice. Once to the thief, and once to the general. I'm an old, superstitious Arab, and I believe in our proverbs. There's one that says, 'Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time'" They mounted their horses.

"I want to tell you a story about dreams," said the alchemist.
The boy brought his horse closer.
"In ancient Rome, at the time of Emperor Tiberius, there lived a good man who had two sons. One was in the military, and had been sent to the most distant regions of the empire. The other son was a poet, and delighted all of Rome with his beautiful verses.
"One night, the father had a dream. An angel appeared to him, and told him that the words of one of his sons would be learned and repeated throuhout the world for all generations to come. The father woke from his dream grateful and crying, because life was generous, and had revealed to him something any father would be proud to know.
"Shorthly thereafter, the father died as he tried to save a child who was about to be crushed by the wheels of a chariot.

Since he had lived his entire life in a manner that was correct and fair, he went directly to heaven, where he met the angel that had appeared in his dream.
"You were always a good man," the angel said to him. "You lived your life in a loving way, and died with dignity. I can now grant you any wish you desire."
"Life was good to me," the man said. "When you appeared in my dream, I felt that all my efforts had been rewarded because my son's poems will be read by men for generations to come. I don't want anything for myself. But any father would be proud of the fame achieved by one whom he had cared for as a child, and educated as he grew up. Sometime in the distant future, I would like to see my son's words.
The angel touched the man's shoulder, and they were both projected far into the future. They were in an immense setting, surrounded by thousands of people speaking a strange language.
The man wept with happiness.
I knew that my son's poems were immortal," he said to the angel through his tears. "Can you please tell me which of my son's poems these people are repeating?"
The angel came closer to the man, and, with tenderness, led him to a bench nearby, where they sat down.
"The verses of your son who was the poet were very popular in Rome," the angel said. "Everyone loved them and enjoyed them.

But when the reign of Tiberius ended, his poems were forgotten. The words you're hearing now are those of your son in the military."
The man looked at the angel in surprise.
"Your son went to serve at a distant place, and became a centurion. He was just and good. One afternoon, one of his servants fell ill, and it appeared that he would die. Your son had heard of a rabbi who was able to cure illnesses, and he rode out for days and days in search of this man. Along the way, he learned that the man he was seeking was the Son of God. He met others who had been cured by him, and they instructed your son in the man's teachings. And so, despite the fact that he was a Roman centurion, he converted to their faith. Shortly thereafter, he reached the place where the man he was looking for was visiting."
"He told the man that one of his servants was gravely ill, and the rabbi made ready to go to his house with him. But the centurion was a man of faith, and, looking into the eyes of the rabbi, he knew that he was surely in the presence of the Son of God."
"And this is what your son said," the angel told the man. "These are the words he said to the rabbi at that point, and they have never been forgotten: 'My Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word and my servant will be healed.'"
The alchemist said, "No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn't know it."

The boy smiled. He had never imagined that questions about life would be of such importance to a shepherd.
"Good-bye," the alchemist said.
"Good-bye," said the boy.

The boy rode along through the desert for several hours, listening avidly to what his heart had to say. It was his heart that would tell him where his treasure was hidden.
"Where your treasure is, there also will be your heart," the alchemist had told him.
But his heart was speaking of other things. With pride, it told the story of a shepherd who had left his flock to follow a dream he had on two different occasions. It told of Personal Legend, and of the many men who had wandered in search of distant lands or beautiful women, confronting the people of their times with their preconceived notions. It spoke of journeys, discoveries, books, and change.
As he was about to climb yet another dune, his heart whispered, "Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears. That's where I am, and that's where your treasure is."
The boy climbed the dune slowly. A full moon rose again in the starry sky: it had been a month since he had set forth from the oasis. The moonlight cast shadows through the dunes, creating the appearance of a rolling sea; it reminded the boy of the day when that horse had reared in the desert, and he had come to know the alchemist.

And the moon fell on the desert's silence, and on a man's journey in search of treasure.
When he reached the top of the dune, his heart leapt. There, illuminated by the light of the moon and the brightness of the desert, stood the solemn and majestic Pyramids of Egypt.
The boy fell to his knees and wept. He thanked God for making him believe in his Personal Legend, and for leading him to meet a king, a merchant, and Englishman, and an alchemist. And above all for his having met a woman of the desert who had told him that love would never keep a man from his Personal Legend.
If he wanted to, he could now return to the oasis, go back to Fatima, and live his life as a simple shepherd. After all, the alchemist continued to live in the desert, even though he understood the Language of the World, and knew how to transform lead into gold. He didn't need to demonstrate his science and art to anyone. The boy told himself that, on the way toward realizing his own Personal Legend, he had learned all he needed to know, and had experienced everything he might have dreamed of.
But here he was, at the point of finding his treasure, and he remined himself that no project is completed until its objective has been achieved.

The boy looked at the sands around him, and saw that, where his tears had fallen, a scarab beetle was scuttling through the sand. During his time in the desert, he had learned that, in Egypt, the scarab beetles are a symbol of God.
Another omen! The boy began to dig into the dune. As he did so, he thought of what the crystal merchant had once said: that anyone could build a pyramid in his backyard. The boy could see now that he couldn't do so if he placed stone upon stone for the rest of his life.
Throughout the night, the boy dug at the place he had chosen, but found nothing. He felt weighted down by the centureis of time since the Pyramids had been built. But he didn't stop. He struggled to continue digging as he fought the wind, which often blew the sand back into the excavation. His hands were abraded and exhausted, but he listened to his heart. It had told him to dig where his tears fell.
As he was attempting to pull out the rocks he encountered, he heard footsteps. Several figures approached him. Their backs were to the moonlight, and the boy could see neither their eyes nor their faces.
"What are you doing here?" one of the figures demanded.
Because he was terrified, the boy didn't answer. He had found where his treasure was, and was frightened at what might happen.

"We're refugees from the tribal wars, and we need money," the other figure said. "What are you hiding there?"
"I'm not hiding anything," the boy answered.
But one of them seized the boy and yanked him back out of the hole. Another, who was searching the boy's bags, found the piece of gold.
"There's gold here," he said.
The moon shone on the face of the Arab who had seized him, and in the man's eyes the boy saw death.
"He's probably got more gold hidden in the ground."
They made the boy continue digging, but he found nothing. As the sun rose, the men began to beat the boy. He was bruised and bleeding, his clothing was torn to shreds, and he felt that death was near.
"What good is money to you if you're going to die? It's not often that money can save someone's life," the alchemist had said. Finally, the boy screamed at the men, "I'm digging for treasure!" And, although his mouth was bleeding and swollen, he told his attackers that he had twice dreamed of a treasure hidden near the Pyramids of Egypt.
The man who appeared to be the leader of the group spoke to one of the others: "Leave him. He doesn't have anything else. He must have stolen this gold."
The boy fell to the sand, nearly unconscious. The leader shook him and said, "We're leaving."
But before they left, he came back to the boy and said, "You're not going to die.

You'll live, and you'll learn that a man shouldn't be so stupid. Two years ago, right here on this spot, I had a recurrent dream, too. I dreamed that I should travel to the fields of Spain and look for a ruined church where shepherds and their sheep slept. In my dream, there was a sycamore growing out of the ruins of the sacristy, and I was told that, if I dug at the roots of the sycamore, I would find a hidden treasure. But I'm not so stupid as to cross an entire desert just because of a recurrent dream."
And they disappeared.
The boy stood up shakily, and looked once more at the Pyramids. They seemed to laugh at him, and he laughed back, his heart bursting with joy.
Because now he knew where his treasure was.


The boy reached the small, abandoned church just as night was falling. The sycamore was still there in the sacristy, and the stars could still be seen through the half-destroyed roof. He remembered the time he had been there with his sheep; it had been a peaceful night...except for the dream.
Now he was here not with his flock, but with a shovel. He sat looking at the sky for a long time. Then he took from his knapsack a bottle of wine, and drank some. He remembered the night in the desert when he had sat with the alchemist, as they looked at the stars and drank wine together. He thought of the many roads he had traveled, and of the strange way God had chosen to show him his treasure. If he hadn't believed in the significance of recurrent dreams, he would not have met the Gypsy woman, the king, the thief, or...
"Well, it's a long list. But the path was written in the omens, and there was no way I could go wrong., he said to himself.
He fell asleep, and when he awoke the sun was already high. He began to dig at the base of the sycamore.
"You old sorcerer," the boy shouted up to the sky. "You knew the whole story. You even left a bit of gold at the monastery so I could get back to this church.

The monk laughed when he saw me come back in tatters. Couldn't you have saved me from that?"
"No," he heard a voice on the wind say. "If I had told you, you wouldn't have seen the Pyramids. They're beautiful aren't they?"
The boy smiled, and continued digging. Half an hour later, his shovel hit something solid. An hour later, he had before him a chest of Spanish gold coins. There were also precious stones, gold masks adorned with red and white feathers, and stone statues embedded with jewels. The spoils of a conquest that the country had long ago forgotten, and that some conquistador had failed to tell his children about.
The boy took out Urim and Thummim from his bag. He had used the two stones only once, one morning when he was at a marketplace. His life and his path had always provided him with enough omens.
He placed Urim and Thummim in the chest. They were also a part of his new treasure, because they were a reminder of the old king, whom he would never see again.
It's true; life really is generous to those who pursue their Personal Legend, the boy thought. Then he remembered that he had to get to Tarifa so he could give one-tenth of his treasure to the Gypsy woman, as he had promised. Those Gypsies are really smart, he thought. Maybe it was because they moved around so much.

The wind began to blow again. It was the levanter, the wind that came from Africa. It didn't bring with it the smell of the desert, nor the threat of Moorish invasion. Instead, it brought the scent of a perfume he knew well, and the touch of a kiss--a kiss that came from far away, slowly, slowly, until it rested on his lips.
The boy smiled. It was the first time she had done that.
"I'm coming, Fatima," he said.

A Reader's Guide

Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, has a dream about finding a treasure in the Pyramids of Egypt. A gypsy woman and an old man claiming to be a mysterious king advise him to pursue it. "To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation," the old man tells him. "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
With the courage of an adventurer, Santiago sells his sheep and travels to Tangier in Africa. After a thief steals his money, Santiago takes a job with a crystal merchant who unwittingly teaches Santiago important lessons for his long journey ahead. After working at the crystal shop for a year, Santiago earns enough money to cover his losses and return home. But then something unexpected happens. On a desert caravan, Santiago meets an intriguing Englishman. The Englishman's passion for knowledge and his relentless quest to uncover the secrets of alchemy inspire Santiago to pursue his own dream of finding the treasure. As the Englishman searches for the two-hundred-year-old alchemist who resides in the desert oasis, Santiago falls in love with a young woman, Fatima. Exposed to the greatest and eternal alchemy of all--love--Santiago thinks he has found the treasure. But the greatest test of all is yet to come. With the help of the alchemist, Santiago completes the last leg of his journey--dangerous and infused with discoveries of the most profound kind--to find that the treasure he was looking for was waiting for him in the place where he least expected.

This story, timeless and entertaining, exotic yet simple, breaks down the journey we all take to find the most meaningful treasures in our lives into steps that are at once natural and magical. It is about the faith, power, and courage we all have within us to pursue the intricate path of a Personal Legend, a path charted by the mysterious magnet of destiny but obscured by distractions. Santiago shows how along the way we learn to trust our hearts, read the seemingly inconspicuous signs, and understand that as we look to fulfill a dream, it looks to find us just the same, if we let it.


1. In the Prologue, the alchemist reads a version of the story of the death of Narcissus that has a somewhat different ending from the traditional telling, one that emphasizes the grief of the lake into which Narcissus will no longer be looking at his reflection. In beginning the book with this story, what themes and relationships is Coelho telling us to watch for throughout Santiago's story? Do you think there may be an element of "narcissism" in the pursuit of one's Personal Legend?

2. Just as, in the Prologue story, the lake grieves for the dead Narcissus, the wind and the sun talk with Santiago about love, about their relationship to the Soul of the World, and about how he can turn himself into wind. Do you have a personal relationship with any part of the natural world? Have you ever had an experience that you would describe as a "conversation" with some part of nature, such as a river or a sunset or a field of flowers?

3. At the start of his journey, when Santiago asks a gypsy woman to interpret his dream about a treasure in the Egyptian pyramids, she asks for one-tenth of the treasure in return. When Santiago asks the old man to show him the path to the treasure, the old man requests one-tenth of his flock as "payment." Both payments represent a different price we have to pay to fulfill a dream; however, only one will yield a true result. Which payment represents false hope? Can you think of examples from your own life when you had to give up something to meet a goal and found the price too high?

4. The old man who reveals himslf to be "the king of Salem" tells Santiago that the new book he's just acquired is about the same thing almost all other books are about: "people's inability to choose their own Personal Legends." This story is so common, he suggests, because people come to believe "the world's greatest lie"--that we all lose control of our own lives and must let them be controlled by fate. When is Santiago tempted to let his life be controlled by fate? The elder chieftain of the oasis tells Santiago the story of Joseph of Egypt, who became an important counselor to the pharaoh. In what ways would this Personal Legend have suited Santiago's own life? Why does he not choose it"

5. Paulo Coelho once said that alchemy is all about pursuing our spiritual quest in the physical world as it was given to us. It is the art of transmuting the reality into something sacred, of mixing the sacred and the profane. With this in mind, can you define your Personal Legend? At what time in your life were you first able to act on it? What was your "beginner's luck"? Did anything prevent you from following it to conclusion?

Having read The Alchemist, do you know what inner resources you need to continue the journey?

6.One of the first major diversions from Santiago's journey was the theft of his money in Tangier, which forced him into taking a menial job with the crystal merchant. There, Santiago learned many lessons on everything from the art of business to the art of patience. Of all these, which lessons were the most crucial to the pursuit of his Personal Legend?

7. When he talked about the pilgrimage to Mecca, the crystal merchant argued that having a dream is more important than fulfilling it, which is what Santiago was trying to do. Do you agree with Santiago's rationale or the crystal merchant's?

8. The Englishman, whom Santiago meets when he joins the caravan to the Egyptian pyramids, is searching for "a universal language, understood by everybody." What is that language? According to the Englishman, what are the parallels between reading and alchemy? How does the Englishman's search for the alchemist compare to Santiago's search for a treasure? How did the Englishman and Santiago feel about each other?

9. Santiago and the Englishman are curt and distant with each other when they first meet, but warm up when they discover that they are both carrying two divination stones called Urim and Thummim. Indeed, when the Englishman reveals a knowledge of the provenance of Santiago's stones, the boy feels "suddenly happy to be there at the warehouse" and is excited by the Englishman's recognition of their encounter as an omen. The Englishman comments that he'd like to "write a huge encyclopedia just about the words luck and coincidence.

It's with those words that the universal language is written." Do all of the characters in The Alchemist experience omens as coincidences? What other kinds of omens occur in the book? If the universal language, in the Englishman's words, is "understood by everybody, but already forgotten," in what sense do omens remind us of what we've forgotten? How is the Englishman himself both a link to Santiago's past and an omen about his future?

10. The boy and his traveling companions are overjoyed when they reach the oasis in the desert, with its fifty thousand date palm trees and innumerable colored tents, a place larger than the average Spanish town, filled with men, women, and children all eagerly greeting the travelers, who just as eagerly have abandoned the silence of the desert and are "talking incessantly, laughing and shouting, as if they had emerged from the spirtual world and found themselves once again in the world of people." According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, an oasis is "something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast." Here Coelho seems to be suggesting a reversal in our perceptions of the spiritual and material worlds--that the spiritual experience is the arduous journey of discovery and the "world of people" is where we go to rest and be rejuvenated. What oases have you experienced in your life? Did your oasis seem "of this world," or was it a spiritual experience.?

11.Santiago conveys one of the lessons of the alchemist when he tells the desert that love is "what makes the game become the falcon, the falcon become man, and man, in his turn, the desert. It's what turns lead into gold, and makes the gold return to the earth."

The desert replies: "I don't understand what you're talking about." Is the desert simply being obtuse, or is this a lesson about intimacy between the spiritual and material worlds that only humans need to understand?" What is the connection that the alchemist makes between alchemy and evolution? Between evolution and love?

12. The alchemist tells Santiago "you don't 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." With this in mind, why do you think the alchemist chose to befriend Santiago, though he knew that the Englishman was the one looking for him? What is the meaning of two dead hawks and the falcon in the oasis? At one point the alchemist explains to Santiago the secret of successfully turning metal into gold. How does this process compare to finding a Personal Legend?

13. When the boy asks the alchemist why so few alchemists have succeeded in turning lead into gold, the alchemist explains that "they were looking only for gold... They were seeking the treasure of their Personal Legend, without wanting actually to live out the Personal Legend." Can you think of events in your own life that made you wonder, as Santiago does when he meets Fatima, whether you had finally attained your treasure? Do you think it's possible to attain more than one treasure in your Personal Legend? Have there been times in your life when you felt resistant to living out your Personal Legend?

14.Why did Santiago have to go through the dangers of tribal wars on the outskirts of the oasis in order to reach the Pyramids?

At the very end of the journey, why did the alchemist leave Santiago alone to complete it?

15. Toward the end of their journey together, the alchemist tells Santiago a story about a Roman citizen who was visited in a dream by an angel telling him that his son's words would be remembered for generations to come. After the Roman dies and goes to heaven, he speaks again with the angel and is astonished to learn that those words would come not from his son who is a well-known poet but from his son who is in the military. That son, a Roman centurion, encountered a rabbi whom he saw to be the Son of God and uttered the words immortalized in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 7): "My Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof... "What lesson did the alchemist wish to convey by telling the boy this story about a dream? Does the New Testament version of this story (Luke 7) seem to be related to this lesson?

16. Earlier in the story, the alchemist told Santiago "when you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed." At the end of the story, how did this simple lesson save Santiago's life? How did it lead him back to the treasure he was looking for?

Map Of Santiago's Journey Across Northern Africa


An Interview With Paulo Coelho

by Laura Sheahen, for Beliefnet

This article appeared originally on, the leading multifaith Web site for religion, spirituality, inspiration and more. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
With several bestselling novels translated into dozens of languages, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho is one of the world's most popular spiritual writers. His books--including The Alchemist, The Manual of the Warrior of Light, and Veronikka Decides to Die--tackle everything from love to magic to suicide to the meaning of life. In a phone interview from France, Coelho spoke with Beliefnet recently about the spirtual search--his own and his readers'.

In The Alchemist, you refer to Soul of the World. What exactly is this? How is it tied to religion or spirituality?
Well, let's distinguish religion from spirituality. I am Catholic, so religion for me is a way of having discipline and collective worship with persons who share the same mystery.
But in the end all religions tend to point to the same light. In between the light and us, sometimes there are too many rules. The light is here and there are no rules to follow this light.

The alchemist charater says that "everything has a soul"--including inanimate objests like rocks and water. Do you believe that?


I do believe that everything we see, everything that is in front of us is just the visible part of reality. We have the invisible part of reality, like emotions for example, like feelings. This is our perception of the world, but God is--as William Blake said--in a grain of sand and in a flower. This energy is everywhere.

Are all souls the same? Or are human souls in any way different?
I believe everything is one thing only. That said, there are some questions in my life that I don't know... I've stopped asking. At the very beginning of my life, I wanted to have answers for everything. And now I respect the fact that I can't have answers for everything.
So for this question I go to the mystery of it and say I don't know. I only know that I am alive and there is something that manifests in my life, that it is God and one day I am going to understand my life, probably in the day that I die, or afterward. But I try to find good questions and not good answers.

You say we might know more "afterward." You're saying you think certain things might happen in the afterlife?"
We cannot know anything for sure. But I don't believe in time either. You say "when we die," but time is another of these things that we need to help ourselves to go through life, but it does not exist. I am talking to you, but the moment that I am talking to you, the universe is being created and destroyed. I am living out my past and future lives. Whatever I do now, even in this conversation, can affect all my past and future lives.
I do believe in life after death, but I also don't think that it's that important. What is important is to understand that we are also living this life after death now.


So we have to get rid of the notion of time?
We have to try to get rid of the notion of time. And when you have an intense contact of love with nature or another human being, like a spark, then you understand that there is no time and that everything is eternal.

It sounds like this idea probably helped you overcome your fear of not existing, which you describe in the introduction to The Alchemist.
Yes, of course there was this fear of death. And one day when I was made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, I had to go through an exercise and I had to face my death.
Since then, I realize that death is not the end of life, but it is also my best friend. She is always sitting by my side, even while I am talking to you, looking to the mountains here with snow.

Your death is always sitting by your side?
By my side, sitting in the chair right in front of me. I see death as a beautiful woman.

What is she saying?
She is saying, "I am going to kiss you," and I say to her, "Not now, please." But she says, "OK, not now--but pay attention and try to get the best of every moment because I am going to take you." And I say, "OK, thank you for giving me the most important advice in life--to live your moment fully.

You mentioned that you're Catholic, but you've said elsewhere that your Jesuit upbringing was painful in some ways. What do you see as the value of, and problems with, organized religion?


The value is that they give you discipline and they give you collective worship and they give you humbleness toward the mysteries.
The danger is that every religion, including the Catholic one, says, "I have the ultimate truth." Then you start to rely on the priest, the mullah, the rabbi, or whoever, to be responsible for your acts. In fact, you are the only one who is responsible.

In your book Veronika Decides to Die, Veronika is bored with the sameness of every day. How can people break out of the sameness?
Once someone asked me, "What do you want to be your epitaph?" [on your tombstone]. So I said, "Paul Coelho died while he was alive." The person said, "Why this epitaph? Everybody dies when he or she is alive." I said, "No, this is not true." The same pattern repeating and over again, you are not alive anymore.
To die alive is to take risks. To pay your price. To do something that sometimes scares you but you should do because you may like or you may not like.

You also say people should watch for omens. Can you describe what you mean by omens?
Omens are the individual language in which God talks to you. My omens are not your omens.
They are this strange, but very individual language that guides you toward your own destiny. They are not logical. They talk to your heart directly.
The only way that you can learn any language is by making mistakes. I made my mistakes, but then I started to connect with the signs that guide me.


This silent voice of God that leads me to the places where I should be.

The Alchemist talks about the principle of favorability, which is sort of like "beginner's luck." What would you say to people who feel they have never experienced beginner's luck? People who feel that every time they try to move toward a dream, they're blocked?
Try again. [laughs] Because when you're really close to what God meant to you to be here, you are going to experience beginner's luck.

Are there any thoughts for a film production of your books?
Larence Fishburne is now going to be producing The Alchemist for Warner Brothers. It is the only book that I sold the rights to and I have no intention to sell [more]. It was the very beginning of my international career and of course, you think that it's so important to have a book as a movie. But then I realized that this is not very important. What is very important is that the reader is the director and the person who does the casting and everything.
The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader. That's why we go to movies and say, "Oh, the book is better." So since then I forbade the selling of the rights. No books of mine. Unless, of course, I fall in love with an idea.

Eleven Minutes wants to bring sexuality and spirituality to a healtheir place. How can this happen?
Well, by accepting that sex is a physical manifestation of God, and that is not a sin--it is a blessing. And then by understanding that except for two things that I consider to be really sick--rape and pedophilia--you are free to be creative. It's up to you, how you do this.
Sex was always surrounded by taboos, and I don't see it necessarily as a manifestaion of evil. I think that sexuality is first and foremost the way that God chooses for us to be here on earth, to enjoy this energy of love in the physical plane.

So with a healthy understanding of sexuality you're helping God manifest himself in the world?
Absolutely. Not only understanding, but practicing.

Experience The Journey - Live The Books By Paulo Coelho

Experience The Journey
Live the Books by Paulo Coelho

The Devil And Miss Prym

The Zahir

The Alchemist

The Fifth Mountain

The Valkyries

Warrior Of The Light

Eleven Minutes

Veronika Decides To Die

By The River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept

About The Author - Paulo Coelho


Quotes from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Quotes Web Site

“Every search begins with beginners luck and ends with the victor’s being severely tested.” By Paulo Coelho

“The Boy didn’t know what a person’s ‘destiny’ was… It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young knows what their destiny is.” page 22

“The boy and his heart had become friends, and neither was capable now of betraying the other.” The Alchemist

“Treasure is uncovered by the force of the flowing water, and it is buried by the same currents” page 25

“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.” page 28

“In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left you.” page 30

“Don’t forget that everything you deal with is only one thing and nothing else. And don’t forget the language of omens. And, above all, don’t forget to follow your destiny through to its conclusion.” The Alchemist page 32

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision. “ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World. “ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” The Alchemist, page 23, by Paulo Coelho

“When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It’s always a positive force.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” Page 11

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“When you are in love, things make even more sense, he thought.”

“The soul of the world is nourished by people’s happiness. And also by unhappiness, envy, and jealousy. To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation. All things are one.” The Alchemist p. 23 by Paulo Coelho

“I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s happening, because everything happens within you.”

“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.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense. “

“All you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation. Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage. So he could not be hasty, nor impatient. If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“The alchemists spent years in their laboratories, observing the fire that purified the metals. They spent so much time close to the fire that gradually they gave up the vanities of the world. They discovered that the purification of the metals had led to a purification of themselves.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But above all, I learned that these things are all so simple they could be written on the surface of an emerald.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“The boy reached through to the Soul of the World, and saw that it was part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles.” The Alchemist page 160


The book title, The Alchemist, is where the focus is for the analogy of the story plot.

The premise is that there are people in the world who know The Language of the World and have the ability to change lead into gold. This may or may not be true, but the story uses this analogy to present the concept that we all have the power to change ourselves and others by the language we use. This language can be spoken or displayed by our actions and mannerisms.

If we transform ourselves into being better than what we are, the consequences may help to change others around us. They may also see the transformation within us and choose to increase their own personal worth. It takes one individual willing to use their abilities and make the choice to change themselves.

Our spirit is connected with everything around us, and who we are reaches beyond our own self. We indeed have the power to transform ourselves into something of more worth, and in turn help others to achieve the same within themselves.

The dare is to be willing to change, to believe that we can change, and the decision to begin the journey towards changing ourselves within.

Another Perspective
From: The Introduction


However, we don't all have the courage to confront our own dream.
There are four obstacles.

First: we are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible.

...the second obstacle: love.
We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream.
We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.

...the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path.
We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: "Oh, well, I didn't really want it anyway."

The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.
So, why is it so important to live our personal calling if we are only going to suffer more than other people?
Because, once we have overcome the defeats--and we always do--we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and confidence.
In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life.
Each day, each hour, is part of the good fight.
We start to live with enthusiasm and pleasure.
Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quicly that suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.


Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.
Oscar Wilde said: "Each man kills the thing he loves."
The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt.
This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest.
But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.

Paulo Coelho, Rio de Janeiro, November 2002 Book Review