Authors: Paulo Coelho
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.”
The old man said nothing.
“Will you give me your blessing?” asked the boy. “You have helped me.” The man continued to prepare his tea, saying nothing. Then he turned to 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.
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.
It made the boy think of the old king, and it startled him to realize how long it had been since he had thought of him. For nearly a year, he had been working incessantly, thinking only of putting aside enough money so that he could return to Spain with pride.
“Never stop dreaming,” the old king had said. “Follow the omens.”
The boy picked up Urim and Thummim, and, once again, had the strange sensation that the old king was nearby. He had worked hard for a year, and the omens were that it was time to go.
I'm going to go back to doing just what I did before, the boy thought. Even though the sheep didn't teach me to speak Arabic.
But the sheep had 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 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 but don't want to realize them. The old king hadn't told him that the Pyramids were just a pile of stones, or that anyone could build one in his backyard. And he had forgotten to mention that, when you have enough money to buy a flock larger than the one you had before, you should buy it.
The boy picked up his pouch and put it with his other things. He went down the stairs and found the merchant waiting on a foreign couple, while two other customers walked about the shop, drinking tea from crystal glasses. It was more activity than usual for this time of the morning. From where he stood, he saw for the first time that the old merchant's hair was very much like the hair of the old king. He remembered the smile of the candy seller, on his first day in Tangier, when he had nothing to eat and nowhere to goâthat smile had also been like the old king's smile.
It's almost as if he had been here and left his mark, he thought. And yet, none of these people has ever met the old king. On the other hand, he said that he always appeared to help those who are trying to realize their Personal Legend.
He left without saying good-bye to the crystal merchant. He didn't want to cry with the other people there. He was going to miss the place and all the good things he had learned. He was more confident in himself, though, and felt as though he could conquer the world.
“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 .Â .Â . 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. By coincidenceâor maybe it was an omen, the boy thoughtâhe came to the bar he had entered on his first day there. The thief wasn't there, and the owner brought him a cup of tea.
I can always go back to being a shepherd, the boy thought. I learned how to care for sheep, and I haven't forgotten how that's done. But maybe I'll never have another chance to get to the Pyramids in Egypt. The old man wore a breastplate of gold, and he knew about my past. He really was a king, a wise king.
The hills of Andalusia were only two hours away, but there was an entire desert between him and the Pyramids. Yet the boy felt that there was another way to regard his situation: he was actually two hours closer to his treasure .Â .Â . the fact that the two hours had stretched into an entire year didn't matter.
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 could always become a crystal salesman again. Maybe the world had other hidden treasures, but he had a dream, and he had met with a king. That doesn't happen to just anyone!
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. Ten years at the university, and here I am in a corral.
But he had to move on. He believed in omens. 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 Workâthe Philosopher's Stoneâand for this reason kept their knowledge to themselves.
He had already spent much of the fortune left to him by his father, fruitlessly seeking the Philosopher's Stone. 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 hisâreturning from an archaeological expedition in the desertâtold 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.”
The Englishman could not contain his excitement. He canceled all his commitments and pulled together the most important of his books, and now here he was, sitting inside a dusty, smelly warehouse. Outside, a huge caravan was being prepared for a crossing of the Sahara, and was scheduled to pass through Al-Fayoum.
I'm going to find that damned alchemist, the Englishman thought. And the odor of the animals became a bit more tolerable.
A young Arab, also loaded down with baggage, entered, and greeted the Englishman.
“Where are you bound?” asked the young Arab.
“I'm going into the desert,” the man answered, turning back to his reading. He didn't want any conversation at this point. What he needed to do was review all he had learned over the years, because the alchemist would certainly put him to the test.
The young Arab took out a book and began to read. The book was written in Spanish. 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.