Characters make up the main story of a literary work. They convey the author’s ideas, beliefs, and relationships of the world as well as of the human beings around them. Major characters in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho are interesting and very impactful for the readers due to the depth of meanings they convey through their ideals and dreams. Some of the major characters of the novel have been discussed below.
Characters in The Alchemist
Santigo was born and raised in Andalusia. He is shepherd by profession. By nature, he is curious, stubborn as well as determined to learn new things. H disobeys his parents’ dream of making him a priest and become a shepherd instead to travel countrywide. However, Santiago remains conservative and orthodox in his thinking until he starts dreaming about a hidden treasure. He is encouraged by the dream reader, a gypsy woman, who urges him to visit Egypt. Santiago also meets the king of Salem, Melchizedek, who encourages him to find more about the powers of nature. His teachings help Santiago to fulfill his Personal Legend.
During his journey, Santiago learns about nature and human relations, the power of nature, and the mystical force of the Soul of the World. He also meets the alchemist who teaches him good and bad omens and ways of reading different signs and symbols. Finally, he comes close to the Hand-That-Wrote-All and comes to know that the treasure he is looking for is not in the Egyptian pyramid, but under the church tree, he had left behind.
The Crystal Merchant
The crystal merchant teaches Santiago about the Personal Legend. Ironically he had given it up on his Personal Legend. In return, Santiago teaches him tricks of the trade for his crystal business, which makes him a prosperous merchant of Tangier, the desert port. A devoutly religious and orthodox, the crystal merchant also harbors a dream of his pilgrimage to Mecca. However, he has no heart to realize this dream as he fears that it make him poor. Later, the merchant realizes, if he does not muster up the courage to fulfill his dream over his business, he will always be miserable. With Santiago’s guidance, the Crystal Merchant meets someone and gets his Personal Legend.
Melchizedek plays a significant role in the story. He introduces key concepts to Santiago, showing the way to fulfill the visionary dream. He claims to be the king of Salem. His conceptual visions about the Soul of the World and Personal Legends inspire Santiago. He gives two stones, Urim and Thummim, to Santiago, who uses them to know good or bad omens. After displaying magical powers, he convinces Santiago to pursue his dream and go on the expedition to find the treasure in Egypt. Though Melchizedek is not present at some points with Santiago, his teachings and magical stones go with him until the end.
The anonymous Englishman appears when Santiago is en route to Egypt. He is a well-educated person with an ambition to become an alchemist. However, he proves somewhat anti-social and prefers reading books instead of interacting with his fellow travelers. He becomes Santiago’s friend because of the similarity in their ambition; they wanted to get after their Personal Legends. The Englishman lacks observation and experience that Santiago has. That is why the alchemist thinks that the Englishman is not really an intellectual.
A very old and mysterious character, The Alchemist, enters when Santiago reaches the Al-Fayoum oasis. He appears arrogant and doesn’t mingle with the people. He meets them if requested in advance. He possesses magical objects to influence his audiences, the alchemist also claims to have Master Work, comprising different formulas such as making of the gold and the Elixir of Life to cure everything. He encourages Santiago to learn through experience instead of reading. He often speaks in a brief language, comprising riddles and anecdotes. As the alchemist has supernatural powers and mystical connection with the Soul of the World, he answers Santiago’s every question.
Fatima is a modest, kind and beautiful woman. She lives in the oasis of Al-Fayoum in the desert. She proves her loyalty and love to Santiago by encouraging him to pursue his Personal Legend. She asks him to go to Egypt and finding the treasure. She demonstrates trust, loyalty, and love.
The Old Woman
The old woman is a dream reader. Her role spans over the introduction and the conclusion of the novel. By profession, she is a gypsy and fortune teller whose job is to interpret riddles of dreams and guide people. She is a straightforward and simple person. At first, Santiago asks her to interpret his dreams but doubts her abilities. Later, he admits that the gypsies are well-versed people because they experience traveling around the world.
The Camel Man
The camel man lives in the desert. He accompanies the caravan and engages in conversation with Santiago about desert life. Though he lived in the desert and gone with various caravans among the war-torn tribal regions, the camel driver’s philosophy hinges on the life in the present moment. He says that “to die one day is no worse than dying on any other.”
The chief appears in the novel when Santiago reaches the oasis of the Al-Fayoum. He tells the chief that a war is imminent with an enemy tribe. The old chief arms his tribesmen Santiago’s advice but on the condition that they would kill Santiago if his prediction is false. However, Santiago is right, and the invaders are dealt with firmly.
The Young Thief
The young thief speaks Spanish and meets Santiago in Tangier. They meet at a bar where Santiago asks the young man to be his guide. However, the thief flees taking away Santiago’s money.