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In Coelho's The Alchemist, what payment does the interpreter request to interpret...

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egghead2 | Salutatorian

Posted June 23, 2013 at 12:44 AM via web

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In Coelho's The Alchemist, what payment does the interpreter request to interpret Santiago's dream?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 23, 2013 at 5:42 AM (Answer #1)

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In Coelho's The Alchemist, Santiago has had the same dream twice. He happens to be heading to a village where he has traveled once before, hoping to see a raven-haired girl that he has been thinking of for the previous year. To prepare for their meeting, he enters the town of Tarifa in the area of Andalusia, planning first to get cleaned up, and he has errands to attend to.

But it also occurs to the young shepherd that there is an old woman in town who can interpret dreams. So Santiago goes to this Gypsy woman to see if he can discover what his recurring dream means. He has a great many prejudices against the Gypsies based upon stories he has heard. People say that they make pacts with the devil, kidnap children and make them the Gypsies' slaves, and steal. Santiago grew up fearing that the Gypsies would kidnap him, and he is still fearful. 

He enters the woman's home and sees a religious picture: the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is encouraging. Then they sit and she takes his hands to pray, but it sounds like a Gypsy prayer, and all of Santiago's fears descend upon him, as if he were still a child afraid of being taken. As he silently prays to defend himself against the Gypsy, she obviously sees or senses something while holding his hands.

Santiago starts to tell her he doesn't want her to read his palm, but she knows already what he wants:

You came so that you could learn about your dreams...And dreams are the language of God.

She tells him that she will be able to interpret the dream if God speaks in their language, but if He speaks in "the language of the soul," only Santiago will "understand." Either way, whether she can translate the dream or not, the Gypsy tells Santiago he will still have to pay.

Santiago is sure this is a trick, inferring that she will tell him whatever she wants and still charge her fee, even if he isn't satisfied. But Santiago acknowledges that shepherds take risks....

...with wolves and drought...that's what makes a shepherd's life exciting.

So Santiago decides to tell the old woman of the dream he has had twice. At first, she doesn't seem interested, saying she only has a little time before she has to return to her housework—and she knows he doesn't have much money anyway. He speaks first of a child playing with his sheep. However, the reader senses a change when Santiago gets to the end of his dream:

...suddenly, the child took me by both hands and transported me to the Egyptian pyramids [...] Then at the Egyptian pyramids...the child said to me, "If you come here, you will find a hidden treasure."

The Gypsy does not speak for a while. She takes Santiago's hands a second time and looks at them closely. Perhaps she is searching for something. Finally she announces that she will not charge him any money now. However, if he finds the treasure, he must return and give her one-tenth of it. The boy is delighted: he is delighted that he just saved himself some money. However, the woman asks him again to swear, and when he does, then she translates the dream for him.

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