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Alchemist, The

By: Paulo Coelho   Level: High School


Teaching The Alchemist

On the surface, this is a good story. But, if you have your students look beyond the story into the underlying truths and principles, The Alchemist is a great book. Teaching students to read and write is very important, but so is teaching students life lessons--and The Alchemist allows you to do both as you follow Santiago on his quest.

Your students can explore questions of right/wrong and morality as well as the purposes of going on a quest, the importance of dreams, the idea that what we seek is not always what we find, the idea that sometimes what we seek is in our own back yard, and much more. This is a thought-provoking book that will give your students plenty of ideas to explore in discussion as well as in written work.

The teacher guides and resources below will give you many activities and materials to use while you guide your students through The Alchemist.

Summary of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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.

A Brief Biography of Paulo Coelho

The Brazilian author Paulo Coelho was born in 1947 in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Before dedicating his life completely to literature, he worked as theater director, actor, lyricist, and journalist.

Coelho wrote song lyrics for many famous performers in Brazilian music, such as Elis Regina and Rita Lee, yet he is best known for his work with Raul Seixas. Together they wrote such successes as “Eu nasci há dez mil anos atrás” (“I Was Born Ten Thousand Years Ago”), “Gita,” and “Al Capone.”

His fascination with the spiritual quest dates back to his hippie days, when he travelled the world learning about secret societies, oriental religions, etc. In 1982, Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives, which failed to make any kind of impact. In 1985, he contributed to the Practical Manual of Vampirism, although he later tried to take it off the shelves, since he considered it “of bad quality.” In 1986, Paulo Coelho did the pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella, an experience later to be documented in his book The Pilgrimage.

In the following year, Coelho published The Alchemist. Slow initial sales convinced his first publisher to drop the novel, but it went on to become one of the bestselling Brazilian books of all time. The Alchemist has sold 40 Million copies worldwide in 71 languages and more than 115 million copies of Paulo Coelho's works have been sold in more than 160 countries.


Available Teacher Guides, Lesson Plans, Novel Units, & More For The Alchemist: