The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist summary

The Alchemist is a lush and beautiful tale about a shepherd boy on the oldest and most magical of journeys: pursuing one’s dreams in search of worldly goods only to find the treasure sought was within us all along.

The Alchemist notes & quotes

Here is my book summary of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. My summaries are casual and include what I believe are the essential concepts, ideas, and insights from the book, along with direct quotes from the author.


  • “We all need to be aware of our personal calling.”
  • “Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our Legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream.”
  • Four obstacles obstruct our dream: it’s impossible; hurting others in pursuit of it; fear of failure; guilt over realizing our dream when others haven’t.
  • “Once we 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.”
  • “We suddenly notice that what we always wanted is there, waiting for us.”
  • “Each man kills the thing he loves.” - Oscar Wilde

Part One

  • “It was if some mysterious energy bound his life to that of the sheep…”
  • “Well, usually I learn more from my sheep than from books.”
  • We always find someone who can make us forget the joys of carefree wandering.
  • “They [sheep] were content with just food and water.”
  • “We have to be prepared for change.”
  • “Ever since he was a child, he wanted to know the world.”
  • “They come in search of new things, but when they leave they are basically the same people they were when they arrived. They climb the mountain to see the castle, and they wind up thinking that the past was better than what they have now.”
  • “Whenever he could, he sought out a new road to travel.”
  • “The problem is that they don’t even realize that they’re walking a new road every day. They don't see that the fields are new and the seasons change.”
  • “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
  • “If you come here, you will find a hidden treasure.”
  • “It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.”
  • “When someone sees the same people every day…they wind up becoming a part of that person’s life. And then they want that person to change.”
  • “What’s the world’s greatest lie? 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. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”
  • “Everyone knows, when they are young, what their Personal Legend is…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.”
  • “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.”
  • “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
  • “Treasure is uncovered by the force of flowing water, and it is buried by the same currents.”
  • “This is what the Warriors of Light try to teach.”
  • “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.”
  • “There was nothing to hold him back except himself.”
  • “…there is a force that wants you to realize your Personal Legend.”
  • “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.”
  • “…the boy knew that in money there was magic; whoever has money is never really alone.”
  • “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.”
  • “I’m like everyone else—I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does.”
  • “After all, what he had always wanted was just that: to know new places.”
  • “There must be a language that doesn’t depend on words, the boy thought. I’ve always had that experience with my sheep, and now it’s happening with people.”
“He was learning a lot of new things. Some of them were things he had already experienced, and weren’t really new, but that he had never perceived them before. And he hadn’t perceived them because he had become accustomed to them. He realized: If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.”

Part Two

  • “I don’t much like change.”
  • “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.”
  • “Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive…if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”
  • “You must always know what it is that you want.”
  • “…beauty is the great seducer of men.”
  • “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.”
  • “And maybe it wasn’t that they were teaching me, but that I was learning from them.”
  • “But the sheep taught him something even more important: that 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 the search for something believed in and desired.”
  • “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.”
  • “There’s no such thing as coincidence…the mysterious chain that links one thing to another.”
  • “…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.”
  • “The boy, too, had his book, and he had tried to read it during the first few days of the journey. But he found it much more interesting to observe the caravan and listen to the wind.”
  • “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.”
  • “Once you get out 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.”
  • “We make a lot of detours, but we’re always heading for the same destination.”
  • “The caravan and the desert speak the same language, and it’s for that reason that the desert allows the crossing.”
  • “It’s only those who are persistent, and willing to study things deeply, who achieve the Master Work.”
  • “When I’m eating, that’s all I think about. If I’m on the march, I just concentrate on marching.”
  • “Because I don’t live in either my past or my future, I’m interested only in the present.”
  • “…life is the moment we’re living now.”
  • “The closer he got to the realization of his dreams, the more difficult things became.”
  • “In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage.”
  • “…the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love.”
  • “The dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes.”
  • “I want my husband to wander as free as the wind that shapes the dunes.”
  • “…whatever the thing observed, one could find a connection with his experience of the moment.”
  • “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.”
  • “Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World.”
  • “Because the desert tests all men: it challenges every step, and kills those who become distracted.”
  • “You already know all you need to know. I am only going to point you in the direction of your treasure.”
  • “Remember that wherever your heart is, there is where you will find your treasure.”
  • “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.”
  • “…contemplate a single grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.”
  • “Listen to your heart. It knows all things…”

  • “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.”
  • “…fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.”
  • “Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him…”
  • “And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”
  • “When you possess great treasures within you, and you try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.”
  • “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.”
  • “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
  • “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.”
  • “Usually the threat of death makes people a lot more aware of their lives.”
  • “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.”
  • “…the wind came from no place at all, nor did it go to any place; that’s why it was stronger than the desert.”
  • “I only invoked what you already knew.”
  • “…every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
  • “Where your treasure is, there also will be your heart…”
  • “Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears. That’s where I am, and that’s where your treasure is.”
  • “It’s true; life really is generous to those who pursue their Personal Legend.”

Related Resources

Here is a list of resources, including authors, books, websites, podcasts, and concepts mentioned in The Alchemist, which might be helpful for further learning.