In this article you will learn about the archetypes in The Alchemist, the novel by Paulo Coelho, which contains examples of various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.
What are the Archetypes in The Alchemist?
Santiago is the protagonist of the story and an archetypal hero.
He possesses heroic qualities of courage, determination, physical strength and endurance which he uses in order to go on his archetypal journey through the world and to complete the archetypal quest of seeking treasure.
However, he also lacks wisdom and experience of the world, something which he must acquire through the support of others as he travels through the world, another common trope of heroes in literature.
In the character of the King of Salem Coelho has created the archetypal wise old man, a person with much wisdom gained through experience of the world developed because of their old age.
The King is generous in sharing his wisdom with young Santiago, acting as a teacher and mentor who passes on what they have learned for the benefit of others.
In the alchemist we see the archetypal mentor figure, similar to the wise old men but with less life experience, who uses his intelligence, skill and physical prowess to guide and mentor young Santiago on his journey.
A key archetype in The Alchemist is that of the hero’s journey, a journey which Santiago as the hero of the story must go on to find that which he seeks – in this instance, treasure.
The hero must successfully complete their journey in order to fulfill their quest or mission, and often as a result they are able to win the heart of the woman they love or to save their life.
The Alchemist Book Summary
- Andalusian shepherd boy Santiago has a dream he believes to be prophetic and asks a fortune teller it’s meaning.
- She tells him he will find treasure at the pyramids of Giza.
- Old King Melchizedek tells him to sell his sheep and travel to Egypt, introducing him to the concept of ‘personal legend’, something that the young know they always want to accomplish.
- On arriving in Africa Santiago is robbed of his money and begins working for a crystal merchant to earn back enough to complete his dream of travelling to the pyramids.
- He meets an Englishman searching for an alchemist and they travel together.
- Santiago meets and falls in love with Fatima, proposing marriage. She agrees, but only when he completes his journey.
- He next encounters a wise alchemist who helps him realise his true self.
- Together they travel through warring tribes where he must transform himself into a simoom (a strong, dusty, dry wind) before being allowed to continue.
- He begins digging near the Pyramids but is again robbed.
- However, he learns from the leader of the thieves that the treasure he seeks was in the church where he had his original dream all along.
The Alchemist Archetype Examples
- Wise old man
Want more literary archetypes?
Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.